Wheelman fueled by Vin Diesel

[UPDATE] Gamer-actor will star in "entertainment property" that will manifest itself as an MTV/Paramount film and a next-gen Midway game in Q4 2007.

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Unlike many celebrities who give games lip service to appeal to youthful fans, Vin Diesel really is a gamer. The beefy action star upped his nerd acumen exponentially when he wrote the introduction to Thirty Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons, a retrospective of the groundbreaking pencil-and-paper role-playing game. Allegedly, his character in the films Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick was based on his favorite D&D character, a Dark Elf, or Drow.

For years, Diesel has publicly professed his love of video games. In 2003, He literally put his money where his mouth was by forming Tigon Studios, a game-production-company sibling to his film-production shingle, OneRace Films. The first Tigon project to hit the market, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay for the PC and Xbox, was a tie-in with the eponymous Diesel sci-fi film. But while the movie bombed at the box office, the VU Games-published and Starbreeze-developed stealth-action game was a hit, and went on to be one of 2004's most acclaimed titles. (Tigon is currently working with X-Men director Bryan Singer on an all-original next-gen game, Secret Service.)

Diesel brought the game and film worlds closer together in 2005, when he agreed to star in an upcoming film adaptation of Eidos' popular Hitman series. But while that project lingers in development limbo, the actor today announced he will star in another film-game crossover. In a joint statement, Diesel, Midway Games, MTV Films, and Paramount Pictures announced The Wheelman, "a groundbreaking action-entertainment property" that will be simultaneously developed as a film and as a game. "With The Wheelman we have created the first integrated franchise being launched for both the gaming and film industries," said Diesel in a statement.

The Wheelman the film will (obviously) star Diesel, and is being written by Rich Wilkes, who penned the script to XXX, the Columbia Pictures action blockbuster in which the actor headlined. No director, release date, or plot details for Wheelman have yet been announced. "That's all still pretty high-level," said a rep. The film is being financed and distributed by Paramount and MTV Films, which are both owned by multimedia giant Viacom.

Viacom's CEO, Sumner Redstone, owns more than 80 percent of Midway Games, which is not-so-coincidentally publishing the Wheelman game. [UPDATE] A Midway rep told GameSpot that the title will hit "next-generation systems" in Q4 2007 and will be developed internally at Midway Newcastle, the studio formerly known as Pitbull Syndicate. As Pitbull was the developer of last year's L.A. RUSH, it is likely that Wheelman will be a driving-action title of some sort. Diesel's likeness and voice will be featured prominently in the game.

While short on details about The Wheelman, Midway was long on hype. "We believe The Wheelman is a groundbreaking new model for our industry," said Midway president and CEO David F. Zucker in a statement. "We intend to create a broad-arcing experience, simultaneously developing entertainment properties across a number of mediums, with Vin Diesel right at the center of it all."

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