Michael Rooker is recognised as one of the most versatile performers in Hollywood, from his terrifying eponymous portrayal of Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer to the bad-ass, zombie hacking Merle Dixon in the wildly successful The Walking Dead television series and the whistling alien Yondu in James Gunn's blockbuster film Guardians of the Galaxy, two roles that have won him countless fans and respect and renown from comic book aficionados the world over.
We recently had the privilege and the pleasure of snagging some time with Rooker to probe him about his recent successes and ask him about his appearances at the traveling pop culture convention Wizard World, which is currently making its rounds in the States.
STARBURST: Very recently, you showed up in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy film, which has done and continues to do extremely well with audiences and critics alike. What was the most exciting part of playing your character, Yondu Udonta?
Michael Rooker: I enjoyed the whole make-up process and the technical aspect of what we were doing. The rest of the stuff, the acting mainly, was challenging at times, but I'm a wee bit of a geek so I enjoy all that sci-fi stuff.
You briefly mentioned the make-up process as a high point of your portrayal of Yondu. What was that process like every morning?
It took about four-and-a-half to five hours every day I was on-set. I'd do an hour or so of prosthetics, take a meal break, and then do all the airbrushing and stuff. I'd do my wardrobe next, which took about forty-five minutes.
Apologies in advance for this one, but what's up with Yondu's metal mohawk and the whistle-controlled arrow? The two light up at the same time.
Yep! They are totally linked to my biological system. Whenever I think or whistle, they react. If I get upset or need to get offensive or aggressive, they sort of get ready for action.
So it's like an increased heart rate?
(Laughs) I guess so, yeah. It could be perceived as that. I think it's a conscious choice, though. It's not just a biological stimuli thing. It's a conscious decision when I want to use a weapon or when I don't.
You've worked with Gunn before on Slither and Super. What sets him apart from the countless other directors in the industry?
He's a friend. Most of the other guys aren't friends. They're business associates and we're there to do a job. Same thing with Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither, and Super. We were there to do a job, but we were also pals. We understand each other and we hit it off. We work well together.
So, in the same vein as our previous question, what's it like working on a small budget movie like Slither as opposed to a big blockbuster flick like Guardians of the Galaxy? In other words, how did the abundance or absence of money during production affect the on-set experience for you?
We get better catering. We get a lot better treats, our snacks on the set are way higher-end snacks. Technically, while making a film you have a bit more leeway when you have some bigger budgeted projects. You always use your imagination, but sometimes when you have less of a budget you end up using your imagination a wee bit more in interesting ways. When you have a large budget, you can hire the experts and get stuff like that accomplished more quickly.
You probably can't answer this in full detail, but has Gunn or Marvel approached you with ideas for Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy 2?
Disney and Marvel have been thinking about that kind of thing for a while, but they wanted to see how the audience responded to the first one before anything else happened. Plus, actors really don't get the scripts until they are already done and polished, so we don't have to go through all the hard work, heartbreak, and craziness it takes to get a project like this up and running.
Despite what you may have heard or read from Marvel, what do you think is your character's logical next step?
I really don't know, and can't say. Gunn has a very vivid imagination, and I'm sure that whatever he has planned will be intriguing and interesting.
Between your popular roles as Merle Dixon and Yondu, which part was more challenging for you and why?
Well, they were both challenging in different ways. Merle Dixon was a much more emotionally and psychologically challenging character. I was also much more physical in The Walking Dead. I didn't have to be as physical in Guardians of the Galaxy because Yondu's weapon is pretty amazing and all I really have to do is think and whistle.
So, you've been making appearances at the traveling pop culture convention Wizard World 2014. What about those appearances and those experiences stood out for you?
Everything about the fans stands out. They're there to see performers they've been watching for years and haven't had a chance to meet, and some are there because they just saw my film or just started watching The Walking Dead. They are all very excited to be there. And that's very cool for me.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is in cinemas now, and THE WALKING DEAD is available on DVD/Blu-ray.
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