This article may contain slight spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Of all the colorful characters who populate James Gunn’s two Marvel Studios movies about the Guardians of the Galaxy, the most colorful (in more ways than one) may be Yondu Udonta, the Ravager leader and adopted (sort of) father to Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) who is played by the great Michael Rooker. Yondu’s history in the comics is much different than the way he is portrayed on film, but he’s still one of the most interesting characters in the two movies and his story in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is one of the richest and most involving in the sequel.
In fact, it’s probably safe to say that we see new layers to Yondu this time out that we didn’t get to see the first time, and that he changes the most during the course of the story. “It was fabulous, you know?” says Rooker about reading Gunn’s script and Yondu’s part for the first time, when we sit down with him for a brief chat during the Vol. 2 press day in Los Angeles.
“It comes with a cost though,” he continues, referring to the emotional rollercoaster that the character goes on as he rethinks his life, his choices, and his relationship with Peter Quill. “But it’s also just the way it should be. It was beautifully done, beautifully written, and I guess in hindsight after this movie comes out and we get a lot of feedback from everywhere, maybe it’s gonna be a very positive thing.”
“I think they’re going to be surprised by Michael Rooker’s performance,” Gunn told us earlier this spring at the press junket for the film The Belko Experiment. “(He) deserves an Academy Award nomination — no joke — for his role as Yondu.” When we mention Gunn’s comments to Rooker, he says with a straight face, “That was incredibly nice for him to say, because I did not have time to spike his lemonade.” Asked if he thinks the Academy overlooks performances by actors who just happen to be painted blue (or other colors) for their role, Rooker is diplomatic: “I think they should take all acting and all forms of media and cinema seriously… so yeah, of course I think so.”
Rooker is a constant presence in all of Gunn’s films, and said that working on the second Guardians feature, with the expectations set way higher after the massive success of the first one, was just as much fun as any other Gunn set. “You know the first time around was awesome,” he recalls. “Needless to say. It was well done, well conceived and well written. The second one is, damn, it’s just as good dude. I mean we had a blast doing it. James wrote and directed it exquisitely, genius almost, almost. He’s practically perfect in every way, but not completely perfect, as opposed to me (laughs).”
One thing that was different from the first Guardians was the addition of new cast members, including Rooker’s old pal from the movie Cliffhanger, Sylvester Stallone. The latter plays the Ravager leader Stakar, with whom Yondu has a volatile relationship.
“It’s always great to work with him,” says Rooker. “I’d worked with him in the past and it was old home week. So we just went right into the same shoes and just like, went at it. Very (much like) Cliffhanger, ‘cause we’re at each other’s throats in that movie too. So it was an easy transition. He came on, boom, it was like, you know I hadn’t seen him for years and it just felt like I’d seen him just yesterday. It’s that kind of relationship, so it worked out great.”
Making the shoot more comfortable for Rooker this time around was his make-up process, which was also improved from the first movie. “It was easier,” he says. “The makeup artist came up with a new base that helped in the removal process, which is really good. I think it helped. I don’t know how it helped, but I think it made a layer of blue that didn’t allow the other paints, the other layers, to soak into my skin quite as much. So it made it easier to take off, which really helped in the overall process, ‘cause by the end of the day you just wanna get the hell out of there.”
We would probably feel the same way after being painted blue for 12 hours, colorful character or not. But Rooker indicates before we leave that he is ready and willing to suit up should the Marvel powers-that-be find a way to work Yondu into Avengers: Infinity War, next year’s all-hands-on-deck blowout that will team Tony Stark’s squad with the Guardians. While Rooker can’t confirm his involvement, he utters that full-throated laugh of his when we mention that he’s listed in the credits on IMDB. “Isn’t that crazy?” he exclaims. “You’ve got to love IMDB.”
Not necessarily, but after people see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we feel confident in saying that everyone will love Yondu.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is now playing.