Christchurch actor Vinnie Bennett, who has a key role in the latest Fast & Furious movie, says there is no way to prepare for how much publicity this franchise generates.
Bennett landed the role of a lifetime to star as a young Dominic Toretto in the ninth edition of the blockbuster Fast & Furious franchise.
It premiered in theatres across New Zealand last month and had the highest-grossing opening weekend of any movie in the country over the past 18 months.
It also made an estimated US$70 million during its first weekend release in the US and Canada, making it the most successful film to be released since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Previously, Bennett has had well-regarded performances in the film Human Traces, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, appearing in the TV drama The Bad Seed, as well as being in Filthy Rich and Ghost in the Shell.
The 28-year-old is currently in Los Angeles after attending the official premiere.
Fast & Furious is Universal studios' biggest franchise and it has brought in $6 billion at the box office and counting.
American actor Vin Diesel has been an anchoring presence through the films, playing the character Dominic Toretto, who presides over a family of likable car thieves.
In the latest instalment there are flashbacks, and Bennett plays the young Dominic Toretto.
Bennett told Sunday Morning attending the official premiere was truly surreal, with Hollywood Boulevard back in action after being under lockdown for so long.
"To see all the fans out and to walk the carpet with some of the stars that I hadn't even met yet, it was amazing."
Bennett said there was no way to prepare for the amount of publicity that something like this film generated.
"I feel like I'm still not very good at that, cameras and even interviews really, especially over here, I always find that I'm trying to make my words very clear for the American audience, just because I understand that they might hear the Kiwi accent and be like 'what did he say?'"
He said it was a nervous wait to find out whether or not he had got the role and he did not find out until two weeks after his final audition.
"I had lost my cellphone which was even more frustrating, you know communicating through other people's phones, logging into my email."
Bennett said there was an email from his agent asking him to call.
"And if it was good news maybe he would have just told me instead of just saying call me, so I started overthinking it and like 'oh it's going to be bad news'."
Bennett finally got the good news during a conference call with a number of agents.
"I shouted quite a lot, I kind of stood up and like ran around my hotel room, just kind of freaking out ah, I called my grandma, my mum, my friends who I watched these movies with as a kid."
Bennett said it all happened a couple of years ago, since the film was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. He was told to keep it under wraps at that stage but said he had to tell his family and friends.
He said the franchise had a very loyal fanbase and he was happy to interact with fans.
"I know that there is a lot of fans at this franchise and they're so passionate, you know they've been with this franchise for 20 years now."
Bennett said he started acting as a teenager because he found it fun, but his drama teachers encouraged him to take it further.
It feels like a big jump to go from smaller projects to the top of the action world with this franchise, he said.
Bennett said he was feeling quite optimistic and he usually found it hard to watch himself on screen.
"I'm quite critical and I can be quite harsh on some of the decisions I might have made on screen, I feel like a lot of actors kind of do the same but with this one I was quite surprised there wasn't a lot self-critiquing that came from my end on this one. I was quite chuffed with my performance."
'Full of action and explosions'
The film was released in Australia and New Zealand on June 17.
Bennett said he was thrilled to hear that it was New Zealand's highest-grossing opening weekend of any movie in the past 18 months.
"It's so full of action and explosions and all of that and it's really best experienced in a movie theatre I think."
Bennett said he was not that similar to the character Dom Toretto.
"I feel like I can be quite a goofball, I don't know I feel like I like to joke around a bit more than he does, but when it's necessary I feel like I can portray those kinds of characters."
He said he was nervous when he watched the film for the first time at its New Zealand premiere.
Bennett said until then, he had not seen how his parts would fit in with the rest of the main story.
"I was flown to London for a day, I actually spent a week there but it was a day shoot and literally all I had to do was walk out of a jail cell and then walk forward about 10 metres and that was it and then we moved, the company shipped it over to LA where we finished the remainder of the film."
Bennett said he was "not too much of a car guy" and had a stunt double who was the driver in the racing scenes.
He said the stunt drivers were amazing and put their necks on the line for their career, and were great at what they do.
"I don't know how you train for that you know, how do you train to run a car off a huge building into some kind of safety thing below and get out before it explodes?"
At the moment, he is driving around in his friend's Dodge, he said.
"But being a part of this franchise I've obviously learnt more about cars myself, so I don't know maybe soon I'll end up getting something, something a little bit nice. But I don't think it'll be anything ridiculous like a Lamborghini or something - I don't need that."
Bennett said it was quite heartbreaking seeing a lot of beautiful vehicles going up in flames in the film, but said "I'd say the action is worth it".
Bennett said it seemed that the Fast & Furious 10 might be the final instalment of the storyline that has been running.