BEIJING — Vin Diesel said Friday that the latest "Fast & Furious" film deserves a best picture Oscar but has two strikes against it when it comes to the Academy — it's an action flick and it's a sequel.
"Do I shy away from aiming high? No, I don't," said the 47-year-old actor, who has appeared in virtually all of the "Fast & Furious" action films based around fast cars. He spoke to The Associated Press while in Beijing to promote the new film.
"And yet we all know that there's a little stigma towards action films, we know it, we've heard people complain about it, we've heard Marvel complain about it, we've heard DC complain about it, and now Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Batman has never gotten a shot at that," he said.
Alluding to the fact that many of the recent Oscar best picture winners haven't fared well at the box office, Diesel said: "The Oscars have been somewhat criticized in the last couple of years for maybe not being as populist as they could be, but we have a very powerful movie here."
He said that "Fast & Furious 7" has an "emotional toll," which may make people argue that it is more directed toward women. "We're actually responding to the fact that our woman audience has just increased and has either eclipsed or threatening to eclipse our male audience, we've seen that across the board," said Diesel, who also produces the Universal Pictures' movie.
Diesel said that the Academy hasn't given a best picture Oscar to a sequel since a 1974 movie — "The Godfather: Part II." However, the nod has gone more recently to the final film in a trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in 2004.
In "Fast & Furious 7," Diesel plays street racer Dominic Toretto, whose family is threatened by Jason Statham's character, who is out for revenge for the death of his brother. Statham said audiences will be able to relate to the fact that both men are standing up for their family.
"All cultures around the world, wherever you go, everyone knows what family means," said Statham. He was also in Beijing to promote the movie and attend the China premiere, along with Michelle Rodriguez, who plays racer Letty Ortiz.
The film is one of the last movies starring Paul Walker, who died in a car crash during a break in the filming of "Fast & Furious 7" in November 2013. Walker was a passenger in the car, and investigators cited unsafe speed as a cause of the accident.
The movie was completed with help from Walker's brothers and is a tribute to him.
Rodriguez said Walker loved the world of racing and adrenaline sports.
"I'm going to celebrate him, and I'm going to celebrate everything that he represented about the celebration of life and the love of pushing life to its edge because there are individuals on this planet that can't live otherwise, they can't live ordinary lives cooped up hiding from danger and I'm one of those people and he was one of those people," she said.
"Fast & Furious 7," also known as "Furious 7," opens in the United States on April 3 and in China on April 12.