As soon as James Gunn got the job of writing and directing Guardians of the Galaxy, fans immediately began wondering how (not if) he’d work in his friends and people he trusts into the movie. It was a key talking point when we met him on set as well during production. His brother Sean Gunn played a pair of crucial roles, fan-favorite Nathan Fillion had a small cameo (in voice only) and longtime collaborator Michael Rooker got himself a major role as Yondu Udonta, one of the original Guardians in the Marvel Comics.
Alongside the main cast, Rooker’s Yondu is one of the few certain elements returning for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in May 2017 and we had the chance to chat with him about the experience and what comes next for the lovable, if questionable, blue-skinned alien pirate.
Our own Andrew Dyce jumped on the phone to chat with Rooker with Guardians of the Galaxy releasing on home video, and in their conversation, we cover how his longtime friend James Gunn told him early that he’d write a role for him and how they together shaped this version of Yondu. We also chat about Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) mysterious father figure, whether Yondu can be considered a hero or a villain, his relationship with Peter Quill and what he thinks about Yondu coming to Earth and meeting The Avengers.
As soon as James Gunn was announced to direct Guardians of the Galaxy, everybody went rushing to you and all of the other people that usually work in his films asking, “Are you going to be in it? Are you going to be in it?” How early in the process were you actually contacted? I’m sure everyone wants to know how quickly James Gunn goes to his usual collaborators.
Michael Rooker: You know what? He had mentioned to me that he was going to write something in there for me. And I, of course, am, like, thrilled. And I didn’t know what it was. And I didn’t know what it was for quite a while, actually.
I think he was into the writing for a while. I don’t know how far along he was in the writing when he finally came to me and told me about the details of the role, but it wasn’t like when he first started out. That was kind of ambiguous as to when, because I knew he was writing the project. He was writing the project for quite a while before he had mentioned that there is a role he wanted me to do.
Yondu in the movie is very different from his counterpart seen in the comics, as I’m sure you’ve had many people point out to you. Can you give a sense if that all came from James just wanting to write a character to pay homage to it, or functioning in the plot, or maybe with you in mind? Did you get any sense of that, or what you brought to round out that role?
Rooker: He was writing the role with me in mind. He decided to bring in Yondu and use Yondu as the vehicle. So I knew the comics, so I was very…I had a lot of questions for him and whatnot. At one point he said, “Stop reading the comics! Stop! It’s going to be changed a little bit and we’re going to do some different things with it.” So I didn’t stop reading the comics, of course. [laughs] And I try to throw in as much as possible. It’s a big collaborative effort. So I got my licks in and got to discuss my ideas. And it definitely became quite a wonderful role for me as an actor. So I was thrilled to get an opportunity to do it.
The thing that lasts with me is: before the movie even came out, it was described as a story about this ragtag group of antiheroes doing the right thing. But looking back, they’re actually all kind of softies. Yondu is the one in the group that is actually the morally gray guy. He’s a killer and a scavenger. But he does come to save the day, and he raised Peter Quill. Now that the movie is out and everyone is talking about it and you can get some perspective with them, in your mind, do you see Yondu having hero potential, or is he going to be bad, if anything? Is he going to pick a side?
Rooker: I think Yondu would pick the side that best suits him and probably what would garner him to have the most wages and the best… Yondu is this kind of character that, for his whole life, he’s worked for himself. And he’s taught Peter Quill to do the same. Star-Lord has a lot of Yondu mixed in with him.
You know what? Hard to say. I’m going to see what occurs with Guardians 2 and we’ll see what happens. It has the potential of going either way and a little mixture of both. Who knows?
That’s fair. Like Yondu, you’re going to wait and see where the chips fall.
You’re darn right I will! [laughs]
I have to ask, because the sequel is coming and we know next to nothing about it. But the movie ends with Yondu… I mean he will be back, and Kraglin will be back, and the Ravagers. But the movie ends with him being made a fool of, to a certain extent.
Rooker: No, not really. Not at all. I think what it is, as the relationship between Yondu and Peter Quill, Star-Lord, has been, even at the very end, strengthened, because, in my opinion, Yondu expected Star-Lord to mess with him again on this.
Come on. Would he have really opened it if he really thought it was a bomb or some sort of crazy weapon?
I read it that way in the theater! I’m relieved that you agree that it was almost a proud smile…
Rooker: It was an absolutely proud smile. I was thrilled that he tried to do it to me, he tried to screw me over yet another time. No way. Of course. Yondu is very proud that his surrogate son has once again shown his true colors. My thought when I opened the orb and I see Peter’s trinket, I see it as, “That’s my boy. He’s done it to me again and I expected it.” I was somewhat taken back that he did it, you know?
Well that was the big mystery left with the film, and now it’s become the topic of conversation among fans: James Gunn has confirmed that he’s going to address (but again, don’t look to the comics) Peter Quill’s father. I won’t ask you to drop any info… But since Yondu is really the only person who actually knows the answer to the mystery, should fans maybe take his opinion with a grain of salt? Or do you think they’ll end up agreeing that this guy might be a bit of an a-hole?
Rooker: Who, the father? Peter Quill’s father?
Rooker: My last words, Yondu feels that [Quill’s] father was a jackass. I would take Yondu at his word. Maybe a dangerous jackass, but still a jackass. Who knows? I mean because that was a very… I loved having that question being brought up by my first mates: maybe we should have taken him to his dad. That’s why Yondu kept him. Peter Quill, there’s something about this kid that really turned Yondu on. To take him in and raise him as his own kid was a big choice, big decision.
So he’s kind of the unsung hero in a way?
Rooker: Yeah, he’s very much that… very interesting. I found it to be very intriguing that Yondu had done that, because it took a lot of effort to keep him out of trouble, obviously. The guy is always getting in trouble. And Yondu is always coming to his aid and taking him up by the nape of the nick and shoving him in his ship and taking him home again.
Now Yondu is the proud papa and Star-Lord is off with his own little adopted family. As an actor, are you hoping to maybe get an opportunity to share the screen with the rest of that cast? Yondu didn’t actually get a whole lot of chances to swap with those softies and call them out for the killers, the bleeding hearts they are while you are a stone-cold killer.
Rooker: [laughs] We shall see. We shall see.
Lastly, because we know The Guardians are going to be coming to The Avengers, and words collide… is earth in any way ready for Yondu and the Ravagers? Or is there nothing here that could possibly be for Yondu? Is this too tame?
Rooker: I feel Earth is very intriguing. When I was doing the role, I was intrigued by the fact that Yondu has an accent. Yondu speaks English. Yondu likes all these Earthling trinkets. He is very intrigued by the Earth and everything about it. So it’s interesting. I think it’s an interesting place. I think Yondu [laughs] really finds it quite entertaining.
So if he’s not here for The Avengers, he’d at least maybe take in a hockey game or a UFC.
Rooker: [laughs] He might take a trinket. He might take a puck from one of the hockey games or something and tie it around his neck. I have no idea! [laughs] But it looks like he likes to collect these little deals from around the galaxy. He collected Peter Quill and a number of other little earthling kind of trinkets. I’m excited to get the opportunity to discover more about Yondu myself. So we’ll be doing that together in Guardians 2.
Great. I’m sure you have plenty of other people vying for your time. Again, I appreciate you giving us the time.
Rooker: Good talking to you, bro.
I have to say: I’m coming all the way from Winnipeg, Canada, so I’m one of many fans thrilled to hear that you’re a big NHL fan.
Rooker: Ah! Very good. Maybe Yondu will grab himself a puck and…I don’t know what he’d do with it, hang it on his rearview mirror or something.
Hey, there’s enough Easter eggs at it is.
Rooker: Right? OK. You have a good one, brother. Thank you.
Rooker: Yeah, bye-bye.
Guardians of the Galaxy is available on Digital HD plus Disney Movies Anywhere and releases today on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand.
Are you excited to see Yondu, Kraglin and the Ravagers return in Guardians of the Galaxy 2?
Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28, 2017, Black Panther on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6 2018, Inhumans on November 2 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019.
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