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Everything we know about Vin Diesel’s ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’

Vin Diesel assembles his crew in the new trailer for 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage'

It’s been more than a decade since Vin Diesel made his debut as Xander Cage, the extreme-sports enthusiast who became a reluctant superspy in the 2002 film xXx (commonly referred to as “Triple X”) from The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen. After years of teasing a return to the role, and an Ice Cube-starring sequel, Diesel confirmed development on xXx: Return of Xander Cage in August 2015. The film is scheduled to hit theaters on January 20.

Here is everything we know about xXx: Return of Xander Cage so far.

Related: Vin Diesel teases Samuel L. Jackson’s return to the xXx franchise on social media

Lights, camera, extreme-sports action

Cameras began rolling on Return of Xander Cage in January 2016, with shooting in Canada, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines.

The first trailer for the film was released October 4.

A second trailer for the film was released a month later on November 2, with the new trailer offering an introduction to many of the new characters — and a few familiar faces — that will join in the action when Return of Xander Cage hits theaters.

Bringing back Xander

Reports of a third film in the franchise — after the original xXx and the 2005 sequel xXx: State of the Union — date all the way back to 2006, with Diesel indicating plans to return to the role he played in the 2002 film despite his character’s “death” in the sequel. (Xander Cage was said to have been killed in Bora Bora by the villains in the second film.)

After several years when the project was stuck in development limbo, Diesel confirmed his return to the role of Xander Cage in an August 2015 update on Instagram.

“The time to return has come,” he wrote. “Filming starts December in the Philippines.”

Although original xXx director Rob Cohen was initially expected to helm Return of Xander Cage, he later dropped out of the project while it was stalled in development. When the project was moved back into active development in 2015, Disturbia and Eagle Eye filmmaker D.J. Caruso was attached to it shortly after Diesel confirmed his involvement. The film is based on a script by Chad St. John (London Has Fallen) and F. Scott Frazier (Collide).

Early reports on the film’s plot have Xander — who was thought to be dead — coming out of self-imposed exile to stop a deadly operative named Xiang from taking possession of a devastating weapon known as “Pandora’s Box.” Xander must recruit his own team of agents to stop Xiang and his crew, but soon finds himself caught up in a vast conspiracy involving many of the world’s governments.

Casting for the film followed after Caruso’s attachment, and in February 2016, Paramount Pictures announced the January 20, 2017 release date.

Actors, fighters, and athletes

From November 2015 to January 2016, there was a flurry of casting announcements for Return of Xander Cage, with a long list of actors, athletes, and professional fighters all joining the project (and some leaving it).

UFC Champion Conor McGregorMcGregor was one of the first major names to join the film, with Diesel announcing his involvement on Instagram (in much the same way many of the major announcements regarding the film were made).

The only time I was at the UFC in ten years…

A photo posted by Vin Diesel (@vindiesel) on

The news of McGregor’s involvement in an unidentified role was followed by confirmation (this time via Diesel’s Facebook page) of the return of Samuel L. Jackson to the franchise. Jackson’s character — an NSA operative who serves as Cage’s handler and then serves the same role for his replacement in the 2005 sequel — was one of the only recurring figures in both the 2002 film and its 2005 sequel.

“Welcome to the Xander Zone!” wrote Diesel.

Excited to work with Sam again… his portrayal of Gibbons was so good… timeless.Welcome to the Xander Zone!

Posted by Vin Diesel on Monday, December 14, 2015

More casting news soon followed, with an unconfirmed report indicating that Ong-bak: Muay Thai Warrior actor Tony Jaa and The Expendables actor Jet Li had also joined the cast. Li was expected to play the primary villain for the film — a character named Xiang — but exited the project a month later for unknown reasons. He was replaced in February 2016 by Ip Man and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor Donnie Yen.

Also joining the cast during those months were Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, Vampire Diaries actress Nina Dobrev, and Orange is the New Black actress Ruby Rose. Padukone is expected to play a hunter and former romantic partner of Xander Cage, Dobrev is expected to play a hacker, and Rose plays a skilled sniper.

Additional casting reports included the addition of Game of Thrones actor Rory McCann in an unidentified role, as well as Emmy-winning actress Toni Collette, House of Cards actor Al Sapienza, Andrey Ivchenko, Kris Wu, and former Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutiérrez. Brazilian professional soccer player Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (aka Neymar) also joined the cast for an unspecified role in June 2016, along with retired NFL player Tony Gonzalez.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is scheduled to hit theaters January 20.

Updated on 11-2-2016 by Rick Marshall: Added the second trailer for the film.