Michael Rooker long ago proved he was the coolest guy on Earth, now his sights are set on becoming the coolest man in the entire galaxy.
Reprising his scene-stealing role as Yondu in the 2014 blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, Rooker is back and badder (and bluer!) than ever for Vol. 2.
The long-time character actor caught up with Heat Vision to discuss the much-anticipated second installment as well as dish on his very real friendship with director James Gunn, how he transforms into the Mohawk-sporting space rogue Yondu, and drop vague hints about the new Disneyland ride based on the films.
Are we going to see a bit more of Yondu kicking ass in Vol. 2?
Perhaps. It all depends on what kind of tip I can garner from you. You come up with a big enough tip, it’s possible you can see more action. No checks, cash only.
When we last saw Yondu he had just been conned by Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). Is he out to get some payback in the upcoming film?
You know what, that kid (Star-Lord) has been conning poor Yondu over since Yondu has taken him in and changed his life and his existence. He is constantly being conned by him, and, I might add, [Yondu] taught [him] how to con. I think Yondu’s a great teacher of Star-Lord throughout his life. When that [ending] occurs in the first one, most people I’ve talked to go, “What did you get out of that moment?” and what I was trying to show was a proud moment. I was proud of him. I wasn’t like I’m angry, I’m gonna get you now, you little… My thought behind that whole scene was that I was proud that he was able to do that. It just means that [Star-Lord] can survive one day longer in this harsh environment.
You’ve been in the business for a long time, were you a mentor to any of the younger actors on set?
Oh no, no. Unless they give me a substantial tip I try to keep all my knowledge as close to the vest as possible. [Laughs] In all seriousness, you learn that very early on, you never, ever, ever give advice to other actors or whoever, unless asked. Except with [Guardians director] James Gunn. I give him advice constantly. He never listens unfortunately. [Laughs] I should say fortunately. Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing really well all by himself. Thank you for not taking any of my advice.
What’s your relationship with Gunn like on set?
Pretty much just like I explained right there. He teases, I tease. He gives advice, I never take. I give advice, sometimes he takes it. Not often.
Did you give him any advice on Guardians 2?
[Laughs] Yeah, please hire me. Please hire me, Mr. Gunn. I know Yondu is a good role. I like it. Please hire me back for the second one.
Yondu has a pretty distinctive look. What’s the makeup process like?
We cut about an hour and a half out of it from the original. So now, it’s maybe two and a half hours.
Yondu’s Mohawk has grown quite a bit in this new one.
It did! People are starting to call it a fin now, which I like. It’s more like a fin in the comics and its bigger. It’s more like the original. I think we had a bigger budget this time around. We were able to build the ships with ample headroom. In the first one, my ship was lower, the ceiling was lower, so I would’ve kept bumping my head. When I look at the first one and I look at the second one I just automatically say, “Wow! The second one is bitching!” I forget its there so easily that I bump my head all the time. I bump the edge of the fin, so I put little pieces of tape across my door frame in my trailer to remind myself I have a fin on my head that goes up about eight inches and goes out about two inches beyond my nose.
Yondu’s a bit different onscreen than he appears in the comic books. Do you read the comics as inspiration?
No. I started out reading them a little bit and Gunn said don’t refresh your memory. Our Yondu is obviously different. I’m not in a loincloth. I don’t have any knives. In the comics I had knives.
You do have that awesome arrow, though.
Dude, my arrow is crazy, crazy fun. I’ve gotten really good at that. Man, I can whistle and that arrow just flies. I had to watch it on set, because I don’t have complete control over it. So when I whistle and it comes flying out, sometimes I made holes in my duster — my jacket. When I get a chance I go to conventions and I love it when moms and dads bring the little kids and I do a little whistle and flip my jacket back a little bit and their eyes go absolute bonkers. Oh, and when I give my talk, the Yondu speech from the first one, the “Blah bloo dibby dabba doo boo…”
I heard that you improvised that line.
[Laughs] Yeah, it was written “blah, blah, blah.” Writers do that all the time. It started out as “blah, blah, blah” but it changed on the day, in the moment. It went “blah, blah, blah bloo blee bah da ba ba,” and Gunn freaked out and started adding shit, and I started adding stuff. It became a whole ridiculous affair.
Were there improvised moments on the second one?
I think every moment is improvised when it comes to Guardians. I’m sure James Gunn would probably agree with that statement. I don’t think he knows quite what’s going to come out of my mouth, even when things are scripted. He likes what’s coming out, otherwise he’d fire me.
You’re a wild card just like Yondu.
I am definitely the wild card.
There’s a new ride opening at Disneyland based on the Guardians of the Galaxy. Have you ridden it yet?
Dude, I have not. I am so looking forward to it. I am anxious to see it, I’m anxious to ride it — I’m not sure if I’m anxious to ride it. It looks a little scary to me. But I’m definitely anxious to see it and experience it in some way. Its going to be cool, that’s all I can say.
Is Yondu going to be a part of the ride?
You know what, I’m sure they’re going to have artwork and stuff like that for the characters in the movie.
You weren’t asked to perform any scripted material for the ride?
I didn’t even know they were changing it over. We’re busy working. I’m not sure when they started doing this thing. I was surprised as much as anyone else. I was like, oh cool! I want to go ride that ride. They don’t tell us everything. They totally keep us actors in the dark. They know how we are. You get us talking and all of a sudden a story about how the whole ride is about Yondu. [Laughs] I would never say anything like that, of course. I would never mislead you in any way.
I’m reading too much into this conversation now…
Oh, you’re totally reading too much into this conversation. Trust me, I’ve learned how to deal with interviews. Well, sometimes I think I know how to deal with doing interviews when you’re not allowed to say certain things and give away spoilers. I mislead. Instead of saying, “I can’t say anything about that at this time,” I’ve found it to be a lot more fun to completely try throw you off as best I can.
You’ve been acting in films for decades, but now you’re on this whole other level with huge properties like Guardians. Has your life changed a lot?
I’ve been recognized a lot because of The Walking Dead and different things I’ve done, but this is another level. The Walking Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy has pumped up the recognition factor a thousand times. I can’t get off an airplane anymore. I don’t know how the hell they know, and how these people find out. They must have some interesting secret way of getting a hold of the flight manifest or something.
There’s a Rooker Tracker app that we all have.
Oh my God, dude! I’m going to have my friend make that app for me. I would put the little thing on my belt and you could know exactly where I’m at every minute of the day. That would be so scary!