HBO/Universal

Facts first: Vin Diesel and Paul Giamatti are the same age. Did you know that? I imagine you did not, unless you have had even a single second of contact with me since I found out a few months ago, because it is all I talk about now. I can’t help it. It’s crazy to me. I’m not sure what I expected, to be honest. The rational part of my brain can process and it make sense of it it and say “Well, their careers did start around the same time,” but the rest of me remains flabbergasted. They were born 12 days apart in June of 1967. Twelve days! They could have gone to kindergarten together.

I’ve been thinking about it so much that I think it broke my brain a little. Like, if they’re the same age, then their career paths run on the same timeline. And if they run on the same timeline, then that means, conceivably, there’s an alternate universe out there where everything is the same as it is here, but Vin Diesel and Paul Giamatti swapped careers.

What if Vin Diesel and Paul Giamatti switched careers?

It’s a simple question. And a fair one, I think. Definitely a normal one. Almost extremely normal, to be honest. And it’s a blast to think about, which, again, I have done, a lot. The key is to keep everything else exactly the same. Vin Diesel has Paul Giamatti’s career now and Paul Giamatti has Vin Diesel’s career. Nothing else in the world changes. Let your mind run with that a bit.

In fact, you know what? Let me help you out with it. Let’s do this together. It’ll be fun.

1967-2000: Vin Diesel Is Pig Vomit Now

Paramount

We fast forward to 1997, past the small roles in small movies and self-made indies. We also skip over the thing where Vin Diesel was a bouncer in New York City for a while, because as much as I want to write multi-volume fan fiction about a young Paul Giamatti bouncing at Manhattan nightclubs, there’s just no time. We have business to get to. Vin Diesel is Pig Vomit now.

That’s the first major domino to fall in our little experiment. The role of Kenny in Private Parts, the radio producer Howard Stern tormented by calling “Pig Vomit,” the man who tried to teach Stern the correct way to say “double-u ENNNNNNN bee cee,” is now played by Vin Diesel. I have this picture in my head of Howard Stern ranting and raving about some punishment he’s receiving while Vin Diesel just stands there like a statue making the patented Serious Vin Diesel Face. Again, the movie is the same. Vin doesn’t, like, bounce Stern’s head of the desk or anything. We just replace the perpetually exasperated Giamatti with the stoic Diesel. We are already having so much fun.

Elsewhere, on the flip side of this coin, Paul Giamatti is now the star of Pitch Black. That’s great and a lot of fun to think about, too, but not nearly as fun as this: He is also the voice of the Iron Giant in Iron Giant. Go pull up a clip from the movie and make that swap mentally as you listen. It’s a totally different movie. I want to see it so bad I might die.

Also of note: In 1998, Giamatti and Diesel both appeared in Saving Private Ryan, so the only change is that we have to swap their roles. It is the only movie they appeared in together. So far. Fingers crossed for Face/Off 2.

2001-2004: The Golden Years

Universal

This is the best era in our experiment. It’s not even close. I’m so happy just thinking about it. We’ve got:

  • Vin Diesel as the star of Sideways. Vin Diesel as the star of Sideways! My word, what a world that would have been. Vin Diesel drinking wine with Thomas Haden Church, Vin Diesel insulting merlot, Vin Diesel possibly sitting down at a fancy California wine bar and ordering a Corona, I don’t know, maybe. It kind of breaks our rule about changing nothing else in the situation, but it just feels right, doesn’t it?
  • Paul Giamatti as the star of both The Fast and the Furious and xXx. This is the good stuff right here, people. This is what it’s all about. Paul Giamatti racing for pink slips and jumping out of airplanes, wrenching on muscle cars and snowboarding down the face of a mountain. I can see it crystal-clear in my mind right now. I bet you can see it right now, too. It’s beautiful. And now I’m honestly curious what Paul Giamatti would do with the lead in an action movie. I want to see him pump a shotgun and storm a warehouse filled with goons. It’s madness Hollywood hasn’t given this to me yet. I really don’t ask much.

Come on.

2005-2008: Vin Diesel Wins An Emmy

HBO

Lean years for Vin Diesel. His only major roles in this period, post xXx, pre-Fast and Furious return were in The Pacifier and Find Me Guilty. This is a shame for our purposes here, especially after that last chunk of time. Luckily…

At the same time Vin’s career hits a speed bump, Paul Giamatti’s takes off. What this means for us is:

  • Vin Diesel co-stars alongside Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man, a role for which he is nominated for an Oscar
  • Vin Diesel stars as John Adams in the HBO miniseries of the same name, a role for which he wins both a Golden Globe and an Emmy, and which makes Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary move to cast a diverse set of actors as our Founding Fathers in Hamilton now seem like a total ripoff. Imagine Lin-Manuel Miranda in an interview to promote the musical and then, like, Terry Gross is all “Was this decision inspired by Vin Diesel’s performance in John Adams?” A butterfly flaps its wings, etc. etc. etc.

Also, Vin Diesel now plays Santa Claus in Fred Claus. Remember what I said about wanting an action movie starring Paul Giamatti? Yeah. Same for a movie starring Vin Diesel as Santa. Put NOS in the sleigh. Give one of the reindeer a dozen tattoos. Really explore the possibilities here.

2009-present: Paul Giamatti Is The World’s Biggest Action Star

Universal

The big thing here is obviously Vin Diesel’s return to the Fast & Furious franchise. Which means Paul Giamatti is back in our dumb little funhouse universe. There is a ton of good stuff in here, from Paul Giamatti parachuting out of jumbo jet inside a car, to Paul Giamatti soaring through the Abu Dhabi sky in a million-dollar sports car as Jason Statham fires a bazooka at him, to Paul Giamatti crying a single testosterone-filled tear as a cyberterrorist played by Charlize Theron rips apart both his biological family and his “family” family. But my favorite part about it all, by a lot, is that now Fast Five features Paul Giamatti facing down The Rock. I believe video will help me make this point.

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Hell yes.

Speaking of The Rock, Vin Diesel still gets to make a movie with The Rock, because Paul Giamatti was the seismologist in San Andreas. Personally, I am extremely here for Vin Diesel playing a nerdy scientist. I want to see him stare at printouts in disbelief, take off his glasses to clean them as though that was the problem, then mutter “But… it’s impossible.” No fights, no cars. We can tear the sleeves off of his lab coat if it helps.

The other important development is that now Vin Diesel stars as cutthroat U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades on Billions. It’s a good role and I actually think it would be kind of fun to see Vin play it. And The Rock is on Ballers, so it’s not like “world-famous action star takes role in cable series” is a huge leap. The real reason I want this to happen, though, and apologies to anyone who has yet to see Billions, is that the very first moments of the very first episode feature Chuck Rhoades getting urinated on by a dominatrix. That was weird enough to see with Paul Giamatti on the screen. Now put Vin Diesel in there. Chaos. Screaming. People running naked in the streets. Probably. Maybe just me. I don’t know.

Like I said, this is all very normal.

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