In an interview with CNN, published Wednesday, the “Jungle Cruise” star, 49, was asked about an open Instagram letter directed to him from Diesel, in which the 54-year-old cajoled Johnson to rejoin the franchise for part 1 of the finale due out in 2023.
The two actors have had well-documented tension that boiled over while making 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious” and that has deprived fans of Johnson’s Luke Hobbs in the main franchise ever since.
“I was very surprised by Vin’s recent post,” Johnson told CNN. “This past June, when Vin and I actually connected not over social media, I told him directly – and privately – that I would not be returning to the franchise. I was firm yet cordial with my words and said that I would always be supportive of the cast and always root for the franchise to be successful, but that there was no chance I would return.”
But Johnson added that Diesel’s November post was “an example of his manipulation.”
“I didn’t like that he brought up his children in the post, as well as Paul Walker’s death,” Johnson continued. “Leave them out of it. We had spoken months ago about this and came to a clear understanding. My goal all along was to end my amazing journey with this incredible ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise with gratitude and grace.”
Though Johnson said it’s “unfortunate that this public dialogue has muddied the waters,” he is still “confident in the ‘Fast’ universe and its ability to consistently deliver for the audience.”
“I truly wish my former co-stars and crew members the best of luck and success in the next chapter,” he added.
Johnson joined the “Fast & Furious” franchise as Agent Hobbs in 2011’s “Fast Five,” which was released 10 years after the first installment spawned the franchise led by Diesel as Dom Toretto.
“As you know, my children refer to you as Uncle Dwayne in my house,” Diesel wrote in his November social media post. “There is not a holiday that goes by that they and you don’t send well wishes.”
Diesel also wrote that he planned to fulfill his promise to the late Paul Walker (whom he calls “Pablo”) to land the perfect franchise ending.
“I swore that we would reach and manifest the best Fast in the finale that is 10! I say this out of love… but you must show up,” Diesel wrote. “Do not leave the franchise idle you have a very important role to play. Hobbs can’t be played by no other. I hope that you rise to the occasion and fulfill your destiny.”
Diesel and Johnson’s feud erupted in the final weeks of filming 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious” when The Rock took to Facebook to slam unnamed male co-stars in a now-deleted post. “Some conduct themselves as stand up men and true professionals, while others don’t,” Johnson wrote then. “When you watch this movie next April and it seems like I’m not acting in some of these scenes and my blood is legit boiling — you’re right.”
At the time, Diesel responded on Instagram telling fans: “I will tell you everything, everything.”
But as the action movie hit screens, Diesel tried to calm the situation.
“I don’t think the world really realizes how close we are, in a weird way,” Diesel told USA TODAY in 2017 of his relationship to Johnson. “I think some things may be blown out of proportion.”
Nonetheless, Johnson moved on to the spin-off franchise “Hobbs & Shaw” with Jason Statham.
In June, the feud resurfaced when producer Diesel said in an interview with Men’s Health that “tough love” was at the root of his dispute with Johnson, suggesting the tension was enhanced to help their performances.
“We had to get there and sometimes, at that time, I could give a lot of tough love,” Diesel explained. “Not Felliniesque, but I would do anything I’d have to do in order to get performances in anything I’m producing.”
While promoting “Jungle Cruise,” Johnson told USA Today that Diesel’s response was “very Fellini-esque.”
Contributing: Bryan Alexander
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Dwayne Johnson slams Vin Diesel’s invite to return to ‘Fast & Furious’