Hunky Vin Diesel says dressing up like a superhero in the new sci-fi thriller Pitch Black was a childhood dream come true ? except for the painful costume contact lenses and occasional punch from co-star Cole Hauser.

"They found a 1960 Plymouth, took the hubcaps off it, painted them blue, stuck them in my eyes, and said 'Deal with it,'" Diesel jokes about the lenses he had to wear during shooting. "The contacts were prototypes. At the end of the day, we had to fly out an optometrist from three hours away to take them out because no one could take them out. And we kept the optometrist there the whole shoot so that I wouldn't damage my eyes too much."

Diesel also tells TV Guide Online that he tried to "center" himself and prepare for the movie's intricate fight scenes by practicing yoga and pilates, but the buff actor still wasn't quite prepared for a real hit or two from equally buff co-star Hauser. "That's just like Cole: 'Oh, Vin can take this! I can be a little loose with my movement,'" says Diesel. "We wanted to create fight scenes that were original and less like the traditional two-people-going-at-it constantly. More like two cobras fighting, where you dance around each other, strike and then pull back again."

The actor, who was a big-time comic book collector as a kid, says he lobbied hard to win the role of antihero Riddick in the new sci-fi film. "I had to screen-test a zillion times for it," he recalls. "For a film the size [of Pitch Black] you're supposed to cast it with a bankable name. They all kind of took a chance on casting somebody that was a no-name to helm the film." ? Jeanne Wolf