Vin Diesel talks about his new role in Guardians Of The Galaxy and how fans & family caused him to get it
Vin Diesel has been afforded a lot of opportunities thanks to his smart use of social media, and his devout following of 46 million + fans on his social networks. It is their clamouring that not only helped motivate him to complete Riddick, despite all of the production turmoil, but also that made Marvel Studios consider him for a possible franchise in the future.
As most of you know by now, Marvel is playing the long game right now and has two movies a year planned out for the foreseeable future. Just two months before Riddick was set to debut in theatres, Diesel informed his followers that Marvel had requested a meeting with him. This was met with a large amount of enthusiasm, something that Diesel and Marvel took very seriously.
Immediately, the rumours started flying thick and fast, a lot of them centred on Diesel’s own public love of The Vision.
A couple of years ago now, Diesel uploaded a picture of his face pasted over The Vision’s and cited him as his favourite comic book character. This of course, started wild speculation that he had been cast in an upcoming Marvel movie as the character. Diesel later removed the photo and just stated that he “loved the character”.
Anyway, this meeting with Marvel was supposedly for a movie later down the line in 2016/7 and would feature a unique and weird type of love story. Everyone was incredibly excited, including Diesel, so much so that he’s mentioned it in almost every interview during his Riddick press tour. In fact, conversation about Diesel became so high, that Marvel called him back to offer him a second part in the more immediate, Guardians Of The Galaxy, which is essentially Star Wars of the Marvel universe.
In Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vin Diesel will take on the role of Groot, a large walking, talking alien tree. He’s essentially one of two muscle characters that make up the five core members of The Guardians and in the comics he only ever speaks one line “I am Groot”, but with various different inflections to denote his mood. It’s a strange role for someone as high profile as Diesel to take on, as it would limit what he could do in the film considerably, especially seeing as he is best known for his voice. At the same time though, Diesel has experience adding emotion into a large creature’s limited vocabulary (see: The Iron Giant), to previously massively successful results, so maybe this is another hit on his hands. Either way, it seemed strange for such an actor to take on that one limited role, and it didn’t align with Kevin Feige‘s previous statement that “the Vin Diesel announcement won’t be for another year or so, there’s nothing in the immediate future”. Considering that Diesel was still talking up his involvement with Marvel heavily, it turns out he played a shrewd game to become the first actor to be cast in the Marvel movie universe twice.
Recently, Diesel sat down with his friend and interviewer Maria Menounos and explained how Marvel sold him on the idea of playing Groot in Guardians Of The Galaxy and his future with the studio. He said:
“My daughter said ‘yes’ to Groot… I came home and I had a giant… Marvel, they’re so shrewd. You have to understand, when I met with Marvel it wasn’t for anything immediate. It was to talk about a film that would be introduced in the Phase Three part of Marvel – So, not for a few years. You wouldn’t be able to see it for a few years, and in my mind Marvel was doing it right. They were enrolling me at the ground level which is the best way to enroll me.
I had heard over the last year people on the social media page saying ‘what’s up Vin? Why aren’t you going to Marvel? Why aren’t you doing anything with Marvel? It would be a crime of cinematic history for you not to be.’ So I’m thinking this Marvel thing is becoming really, really important to these people. Okay, what can I do? What should I think?
I get the call, I go down to meet with Marvel – a great meeting. I mean it was just… it was even talking about something so big I can’t even talk about because it’s like a merging of brands in a way which I won’t get into, but that was way, way, way, way down the road.”
Diesel claims that his “slip” of “an announcement is coming soon” was because he was at Comic Con promoting Riddick and was caught “like a deer in headlights” when asked a question about his involvement with Marvel. While that’s certainly possible, it seems more likely that the actor has been seeing how far he can push the studio, and with good reason, seeing as they are keen to appease his rapturous online fanbase.
After that “slip”, the internet exploded and everyone was shocked at the response. Despite his packed schedule, director James Gunn and Feige reached out to the actor with a different idea on the Monday after Comic-Con. They stated that they still want to focus on the future, but they were going to send him a package in two weeks to see if they can “if possible, answer this growing request for something now”.
“I don’t have six months to play a character in the immediate future. It’s all booked… There was no way I was going to be able to deliver. There was no way Marvel was going to be able to deliver. After Comic-Con we were at a stalemate. There was no way we were going to be able to answer the fans… And then Kevin Feige and James Gunn came up with something brilliant, even if I didn’t understand how brilliant it was when I first got it.
They sent over the script to Guardians of the Galaxy and they sent over a giant book of conceptual art… Everyone knows I’m a sucker for conceptual art… So, they sent over the visuals. I look at the visuals first and am like ‘oh my god.’ This is some of the best conceptual art I have seen in my life. But the request was a little bit ‘hmm… they want me to play a tree…”
Diesel states that when he first received the package he was extremely skeptical about the idea, unsure about whether playing a barely vocal tree was the right move for him.
“They said there’s something akin to the Iron Giant about this tree, and everyone knows I’m a suck for the Iron Giant.
And another thing nobody knows, I always loved the Andy Serkis portrayal of Gollum as an actor and as a performer. I always thought that was one of the coolest challenges and one of the coolest things to do. If Peter Jackson would have asked me to play a dragon, I would have loved to have played a dragon, but to really mocap it. So, when Kevin Feige and James Gunn said we ‘want you to voice a character that historically is known for only saying one line’ it was not dissimilar to David Twohy saying ‘I want you to do Riddick but I don’t want you to interact with anyone in the whole first act.’ There’s something challenging about that and fun about that.
…to make sure I was on the right track I took the book of conceptual art into the room with my kids and I opened it up to the page where all five Guardians of the Galaxy characters are and I say, ‘who do you think they want daddy to play?’ And my daughter so quickly pointed to Groot. From that moment on I was Groot.”
So there you have it. That’s the story of how a Facebook following got him two major roles in one of the most exciting blockbuster ventures in decades. Vin Diesel joins his fellow Guardians Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and Bradley Cooper in Marvel’s riskiest and most ambitious project to date in 2014. Groot should be a challenging new role for the actor, and be yet another reason why Guardians is shaping up to be one of Marvel’s most exciting projects in development.
If you want to get involved in the Marvel movie universe, we would recommend building an impressive 40 million+ online fan club.
Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn off of his script co-written by Nicole Perlman. The cast includes Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, Benicio del Toro, John C. Reilly and Glenn Close.