As psycho killer Riddick in the thriller Pitch Black, Vin Diesel wore hard, reflective blue contact lenses—an experience he likens to "going to your father's 1960 Plymouth, popping off the hubcaps and shoving them in your eyes." As if that weren't enough, his character had to cope with shackles, a blindfold and a horse's bit in his mouth. That, notes Diesel, 32, "didn't feel good at all."
But success feels fine. The Manhattan native—who got his break when Steven Spielberg saw him in a 1995 short film and then cast him as Private Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan—is also starring as a shady stockbroker in the drama Boiler Room and working on a screenplay about his stint as a nightclub bouncer. The unmarried Diesel, who once sold tools over the phone to support himself after dropping out of Hunter College and recently bought a Hollywood Hills home, calls himself lucky. After all, the twin son (brother Paul is a film editor) of an astrologer mom and teacher dad has wanted to act all his life, even trying to run onto, a circus stage at age 3. "I was talking to my mother last night and I said, 'Mom, make sure you enjoy all this wonderful success—just in case I forget to.' "