Mercs and Necromongers: Assembling the Cast
Having full creative control of the property enabled
the filmmakers to go not only against predictable
choices, but also to take risks on undiscovered talent.
Explains Diesel: "We were able to be more liberal in
our casting to find the perfect actor for each role, which was not unlike Pitch Black. We were able to cast to the
character, as opposed to the bankability of the name."
What interested Jordi Molla, one of Spain's most
recognizable actors, to become attached to the role
of Santana -- the volatile leader of the first ship of
mercenaries to respond to Riddick's beacon -- was
exploring the backstory that could explain Santana's
cruelty. It didn't hurt that, even though the film is a
sci-fi thriller with creatures, it has an ensemble of
performers and all of Santana's scenes are with other
cast. "This is an actor's film," offers Molla. "All the
conflict, everything I do, is between human beings."
Diesel could not have been happier with Molla's
work, commending, "Jordi's portrayal of Santana brings
so much to the picture. He's our nefarious tax collector.
He provides levity for the picture, and Santana is going
to be a very memorable character. I can't say enough
good things about Jordi."
The casting of the role of Boss Johns, the leader
of the second ship of mercs, was challenging because
the character carried a secret: He was related to one
of the characters whom Riddick bested in Pitch
Black. What Boss Johns wants more than the bounty
is answers, and he knows he must find Riddick alive
to get them.
Twohy discovered Matt Nable
after watching an episode of an
Australian television show. Recalls
the writer/director: "I was taken by
the type of granite-faced stoicism
this actor had. He reminded me
of Charles Bronson; he had that
coolness. The character of Boss
Johns has pain in his background
and Matt's face, especially those
eyes, conveyed the pain of some-
one with something traumatic in
For the performer, it was not
just the opportunity to play this
hard-as-nails character that appealed to him. It was
the chance to be a part of the Riddick franchise. "I saw
Pitch Black when it came out because it was shot on
the Gold Coast of Australia," recalls Nable. "It was
thrilling." Once on the job, Nable was impressed by
Diesel's dedication to the project and his fellow actors.
"Vin was so overwhelmingly passionate about this
story and his character. He made it clear that he was
there for everyone if they wanted to discuss any topic,
their character or scenes within the film."
Katee Sackhoff is well known to television fans
from her role as Captain Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on
the hugely popular series Battlestar Galactica. Much
like Nable, Sackhoff was a fan of the franchise even
before she read the script. "I grew up on science-fiction
with my dad. In fact, the first movie my dad showed me
was Predator when I was about five," Sackhoff laughs.
"I love movies with strong female characters, and the
Riddick series has had them the entire time."
What attracted the performer to the role of Dahl,
Boss Johns' second-in-command and the sniper on the
crew, was that Dahl was the "toughest person I've ever
played," reflects Sackhoff. "I was looking forward to
taking all of the strengths of all the roles I've played on
TV and putting them into this one character on film."
For Twohy, Sackhoff was an ideal fit for the part
from the beginning. He recounts: "Katee was the first
person to come in the door and read for Dahl. I probably
read 100 other actresses after her. But I never forgot
her, even though she was the first one in. I just couldn't
imagine anybody else playing Dahl."
When casting the role of Diaz, a brutal mercenary
who serves as Santana's second-in-command, the
filmmakers favored former WWE star Dave Bautista,
who will soon star as Drax the Destroyer in the much-
anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy. With his incredible
timing, tight delivery and terrific sense of humor,
Bautista was a natural fit. The actor notes: "I wanted
to do this type of movie. Sci-fi, superheroes, that's my
genre and what I love. So when I found out that they
were casting Riddick, I shoved everything aside and
went and auditioned. I crossed my fingers and sat there
for months waiting. When I got the part, I flipped out."
Bokeem Woodbine was a performer with whom
Diesel had wanted to work for many years, and he was
pleased to secure him for the role of highly trained soldier
and mechanic Moss, also one of Boss Johns' men. Being
a fan of the franchise, Woodbine was very pleased to
be involved. He says: "I've been waiting a long time to
see this third installment because the second was such a
cliffhanger. When the opportunity came
along to be in the movie, I jumped at it."
Twohy relays that the handling of
Woodbine's character is an example
of how all decisions came down to
Riddick's code. Twohy explains: "In
an earlier version of the script, we had
Riddick killing Moss indiscriminately.
Vin reminded me that Riddick kills for
one reason: because people won't stop
hunting him. The way I'd structured the
scene, Moss wasn't a threat to Riddick,
so Vin reminded me that Riddick
wouldn't kill that way. We decided to
have them encounter each other and for
Riddick to choose not to kill Moss at that moment...
even though he's got him dead in sight."
For the role of Lockspur, the final member of
Boss Johns' highly trained soldiers and a keen tracker,
Twohy chose Raoul Trujillo, known for his standout
roles in such actioners as Apocalypto and Cowboys &
Aliens. What made the production a wild card for the
performer was that he wasn't sure who he was playing
until shortly before the film commenced principal
photography. Trujillo remembers: "I got an email from
David that read, 'It would have been obvious to put you
with the ragtag mercenaries, but you brought a bit more
sophistication and poise to the read...' I was flattered
that he wanted me to join the group of highly trained
military mercs led by Boss Johns."
For Diesel and Twohy, it was crucial to continue to
weave the mythology of the Riddick universe throughout
the picture. The return of Karl Urban in his memorable
role of Vaako, the Necromonger warrior from whom
Riddick takes the title of Lord Marshal in the second
film, will have fans of the series excited. Urban states:
"It was a privilege to be able to revisit this character
and this world again."
What was interesting for Urban to discover was
how Vaako has evolved since his failed attempt to assassinate the Lord Marshal in the The Chronicles of
Riddick. He felt strongly that Vaako would have turned
away from the materialism that had been a priority
for his wife, Dame Vaako, and would have become
stronger internally and more focused. Notes Urban:
"This time around, Vaako is a lot less impulsive than he
was before. He's a lot shrewder and more calculating.
Rather than try and figure some brutal way to dispatch
Riddick, he has a formal, cunning plan."
Urban feels the reason the fans are so devoted
to the series is not only Twohy's dialogue and vivid
images, but what Diesel has done with his character.
Says the performer: "What I find riveting with
Riddick is that Vin brings an old-school steel to
the role. I've worked with a lot of leading men, but
there's something undeniably street about Vin and
he brings that to the role. I truly believe that comes
Riddick also sees the addition of new talent, such as
popular R&B singer Keri Lynn Hilson. Hilson came in
to audition for the role of Dahl, and though the part went
to Sackhoff, Twohy and Diesel were so impressed that
they created a role for her. Offers Twohy: "You could
tell there was something cool happening there, and we
thought we should write a part for her in the movie.
Now, I've only got 12 people on a planet. So there's
not much wiggle room there. But I created this part of
Santana's prisoner -- the only prisoner on his ship when
it arrives to find Riddick -- for Keri."
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