Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is set to kick off the summer blockbuster season next month, as the space-faring misfits return for another adventure. While Bradley Cooper will return as the voice of the wise-cracking fur ball Rocket Raccoon, he’s not the only actor involved in bringing the character to life. Sean Gunn, the brother of director James Gunn, is the man who physically plays Rocket on set, and now James has revealed why he’s the perfect man for the job: few people can do what Sean does.
Sean returns in the sequel in a dual role (he also plays a Ravager) along with some new characters, including Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). But fans are also looking forward to seeing Rocket interact with their favorite characters from the first film, especially the slowly-regenerating Groot (Vin Diesel), currently in (adorable) Baby Groot form.
The director was recently asked about why his brother is the “stand-in” for Cooper on set in a Facebook Live session, and his answer emphasizes that Sean is doing a job that not just anyone would be capable of:
“Sean Gunn is not a stand-in. He is a motion reference actor. That means we film everything Sean does on set as Rocket. We film it. I don’t stop doing takes of him until we get the performance right and then we use that performance as a basis for much of Rocket’s acting. And he does a fantastic job in that role. He knows it. He understands it. And also very important, Sean is able to physically do something most actors aren’t able to do, which is waddle around on all fours. He’s always been an incredibly limber guy that can to do a lot of strange physical things. And the fact that he’s able to waddle around on his legs all day long at the exact height of Rocket is quite a feat and quite quite difficult.
Rocket Raccoon is, obviously, significantly shorter than the other characters in the film, as his ‘enhancements’ don’t extend to changing his physical size. At around six feet tall, it’s incredibly impressive that Sean is able to shrink himself to such a short stature for the purposes of filming, and that definitely speaks to his physical skill.
It’s also important to remember that with CGI characters, it’s the norm for the voice actor to provide only part of the physical scenes, or even none of the physical work at all. While some roles call for the voice actor’s face and body to be used (like Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast, who wore a muscle suit and stilts), others involve mo-cap actors or motion reference actors instead. While Cooper will always provide the heart and soul of the MCU’s Rocket, it’s also fantastic to see the director giving credit where it is due, and reminding audiences of the hard work of the other actors who are working to bring these comic book characters to life.
Source: James Gunn
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