Iron Man 3 opens next Friday overseas and with it comes the very first official trailer for Thor: The Dark World as Marvel Studios forges ahead with Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Production on the Captain America sequel is also already underway and in the coming weeks comic book fans will finally learn who will voice one of the key new characters of the franchise: Rocket Raccoon.
Chris Pratt will lead the Guardians of the Galaxy as Star-Lord, joined by the still unconfirmed Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, and in a surprising, yet not really that surprising announcement, Michael Rooker as one of the original team members. More will be joining shortly.
Speaking to media at the London premiere of Iron Man 3 this evening, writer and director James Gunn - who's preparing to shoot Guardians of the Galaxy this summer at London's Shepperton Studios - chatted with HeyUGuys and was rather revealing, even while guarded, in chatting about his upcoming space-faring Marvel feature. With several casting reports revealing three of the core roster members first revealed at Comic-Con last summer, there are only two of the main team left, one of them of course being Rocket Raccoon. And it sounds like Gunn already has someone in mind as it's just a matter of time before fans find out.
"I think there's – here's the thing: there are a lot of people who have a lot of ideas of who is right for Rocket Raccoon Rocket Raccoon has been slightly different over the years, in the comic books, and within my scripts he is a very, very specific guy, and I think people are going to have to wait for a few weeks before they see."
Wait for Comic-Con in July or are there announcements coming sooner? So far, they already have a crowd-pleasing lineup to bring on stage should Marvel Studios host a panel in San Diego this summer.
Gunn continues, explaining that the artwork we saw of Rocket Raccoon at Comic-Con (right above), and more recently, the new art released as part of the Phase Two preview with 10-disc The Avengers Blu-ray set was an earlier design by Gunn and artist Charlie Wen (top of post), but he looks different now, more like a real raccoon. Gunn's even been spending time with the real animals and studying them, since Rocket is one of the essential elements of Guardians of the Galaxy and may prove to be the fan-favorite.
"We did. I've done a lot of studying with real raccoons and we had real raccoons come in. We've done photography with them, I've played with raccoons, and fed raccoons, and dealt a lot with real raccoons to get some of the behavior down, because it’s really, really important to me that Rocket Raccoon, who is the heart of the movie, is not a cartoon character, it’s not Bugs Bunny in the middle of The Avengers, it’s a real, little, somewhat mangled beast that’s alone. There’s no one else in the universe quite like him, he’s been created by these guys to be a mean-ass fighting machine."
It won't be long until we learn more of the voiced animated characters Groot (the tree) and Rocket as Marvel Studios is waiting for Iron Man 3 to release, before pushing forward on launching the campaign for Thor: The Dark World and making casting announcements regarding Guardians. As for what can be confirmed, Gunn did openly talk about the Star-Lord, the leader of the 'Cosmic Avengers':
"Everybody knows Chris Pratt is in the movie, and I saw maybe 80 to 100 guys read for Peter Quill. I was very specific that I wanted it to be somebody really extraordinary. I really had Robert Downey Jr in mind a lot. You had this guy who came in and he inhabited Tony Stark, when you first saw Tony Stark he blew your mind, you couldn’t believe what you were seeing. I knew that I needed somebody to blow my mind like that.
We saw a lot of very famous guys for the role, a lot of very well-known people, and very, very good actors. We saw a lot of good performances, but it wasn’t until Chris came in and he read and I was like, ‘oh my God’, this guy has his own, very particular, amazing take on the character that blew my mind, blew me away. Then I thought, this is the first guy I could see sharing the screen with Robert Downey Jr and giving him a run for his money."
Is this a blatant hint at a Robert Downey Jr. cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy or perhaps, vice versa with Pratt showing up after the credits of Iron Man 3?
"No. That just means that all our movies are connected, we're created in a way that we're very connected to the movies that came before us, we're even more connected to The Avengers 2, that comes after us, and so in that respect, what we would hope is that these characters would continue, and that at some point in time they'll all meet up with different characters throughout the galaxy."
Sounds like Guardians isn't as "standalone" as Feige would like fans to believe. As for the latest cast addition in Gunn's real-life friend Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) - Is he officially aboard to play the red-mohawked, alien archer Yondu?
"Well, I didn't say that. Michael Rooker is my very good friend, he was here visiting me in England and we were hanging out. He was here playing with my dog and having a good time. He’s got a new, little Mohawk that looks ridiculous on him, but yeah, he’s here and hopefully we'll get something going. Michael’s been in two of my movies, we've done two movies together, two reality shows, a short film, so I don’t think it would be crazy to think he would be involved in Guardians in some way."
Gunn was very careful with his words since Marvel Studios hasn't officially announced any of the cast outside of Producer and President Kevin Feige name-dropping Chris Pratt during the Iron Man 3 world press tour. Gunn did say that Dave Bautista is a naturally gifted actor who will surprise moviegoers with his emotional range, and hinted that if Bautista were to be cast as Drax (hint: he is), it's because of "his ability to access his emotions." Gunn also made it abundantly clear that no one else was offered the Drax role, specifically referring to the multiple reports of Jason Momoa having been offered the part initially. He also smiled when asked about Zoe Saldana, saying "maybe" as to her casting as Gamora.
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and Doctor Strange sometime after that.
Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes who you'd like to voice Rocket Raccoon!