I don’t know why, but when I saw that we were interviewing Vin Diesel for his role as Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, I was a little surprised as to why so many people were excited about this. I mean, I knew who he was, and I wasn’t ever really a fan. Not for any particular reason, but I just wasn’t. And then he walked into the room.
The group not being shy and this being our last interview of the day, we all clapped when he entered. He loved the welcome which makes it safe to say he knew that this interview would be fun and full of love for him. He was actually so taken back by the welcome that he said he wanted to go out and come back into the room to feel that love one more time. “Wow look at this wonderful reception. You guys! You didn’t have to make me feel that good. My God! This is like…I need to walk in again.” And he did. It was actually funny. And he got the same welcome. Noticing one of the bloggers shirt with his Guardians of the Galaxy character on it he says, “Oh, I love that. How did you get that? How did you get that? I love, love that you’re wearing that shirt. I love…what do you love — first of all, I love that you love Groot. But what do you love about Groot? ” It set the mood for the rest of the interview. And it’s interesting to understand why he took the role, what is important to him, and how now I am a fan of Vin Diesel.
Vin Diesel Plays Groot in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Interview
So after him saying, “I love that you love Groot. But what do you love about Groot?” Everyone wanted to respond, but I asked him, “What do you love about Groot, and what attracted you to the role of Groot?”
And so the story is told. “I come home. So. So, Kevin Feige called. First of all, the people that get the most credit for me playing Groot are those people on my Facebook page. Because they manifested this union between myself and Marvel when nobody had an idea of what we could do. As you know, I had to shoot “Fast and the Furious 7” a little bit longer than anticipated. And there was really no schedule to be able to do a six-month role. And the persistence of the social media somewhat forced us all to be really creative. So, Kevin Feige had gone to Comic Con and they were asking him about (who will play Groot)– and I was at Comic Con too for “Riddick” — and they were asking me, “What is the involvement between Vin and Marvel?” And then they asked him. And we felt like, oh my God, we’d better come up with something fast. And he called me and said, “I’m gonna tell you about this character. Don’t think I’m crazy. I hope you will like it. And I’m going to send you over some conceptual art.” So, someone delivers this huge book of conceptual art. For “The Guardians of the Galaxy.” And it’s the first time that I had ever seen what they were doing with Groot, which is not like anything you have ever seen in any of the comic books. It’s an original Groot.”
Vin has two children with model girlfriend Paloma Jiminez, and it’s obvious Vin loves being a dad, for this is how he decided to take the role.
So he continues, “I went into the living room, and the kids were there, and I opened up the book, and it was a double-truck picture with all of the characters. And I said to the kids, “What character do you think they want Daddy to play?” And I was asking them, and they answered in seconds. I was praying that they would lead me in feeling good about this role. And they all pointed to Groot, and they thought Groot was cool. Jump cut to: they’ve seen the movie. They’re singing all of the songs in the house. If I wanted to share the music with them, like we all want to share Jackson 5 with our kids, right? But what better way to do it than Baby Groot? So, it became one of those things where it was — it was one of those movies that was just remarkable to share with your kids.”
“But the best thing about having played this role is something I never would have anticipated as an actor. I never would’ve seen this coming. I knew when I did the voice of Iron Giant that it would be cool for my kids to say “my dad is the Iron Giant.” But I didn’t anticipate what the effect would be from playing Groot, and this is what it’s been. When my kids are in the back seat, I ‘m driving, whenever they see trees they say, “Look, Dad. It’s your brothers and sisters.” You can’t beat that. I mean, nothing I would try to teach them about life and respect for nature could have been as effective as them seeing Daddy as Groot, and them thinking — and how appropriate. What a beautiful thing. And something you would never even think is possible. I mean, we’ve never seen trees in that light. I mean, I guess, in 1939, when “The Wizard of Oz” came out, there was a little something us people that kind of saw that saw, you know, okay, the tree can have some kind of feelings, if they’re pulling apples from the tree. This, I feel, has gone to the next level. And I never thought I’d be so proud of it. But you know, in some ways, Groot is nature’s ambassador, and there’s something beautiful about that. And just the idea of talking about, for me, you know, movies should promote or provoke conversation, right?”
“I mean, in the best sense, when we take our kids to the movies. I mean, Bambi was that, right? Or, you know, when people came out of “Iron Giant,” there was the whole discussion of the deer, and, you know, death, and what that was like, and it was an opportunity for kids to talk. But the idea of sacrifice at the end, which Groot is demonstrating is — that’s a wonderful conversation to have with our kids. So, it’s been really special, and you know, I do movies that are not necessarily for kids. So, to do this and to be able to share this with the little ones, and for them to be so excited about it and so proud of it, and to think of trees differently. They will never look at a tree the same way. No one will, after this.”
How much input did you give the FX guys in the way that Groot moves?
“What they did, and what they do a lot now, is that they film you while you’re recording, and they’ll save some for references, and they’ll try to pull some mannerisms, and try to incorporate that. What I did is, I went into the recording booth as a seven-and-a-half foot tree, in essence. I was wearing jumping stilts while I was recording.”
“Kinda crazy. They had to adjust the mic, and they had never had to do that before. And it was pretty intense. And it was one of those things that I started doing last year, because you don’t need a whole lot. You just need one thing, or a few things, that get you into character, that get you into the spirit of the character. And what I wanted to do is be seven-and-a-half feet tall, and I was seven-and-a-half feet tall, and it felt like I was adding something.”
Was that your choice to go in dressed as the character? And how long did it take you?
“Well, I really kept it about kind of being this towering kind of innocent character. The innocence of the character is what’s so attractive. So, yeah. It was my idea to go above and beyond. And I guess people were like, “Damn, this guy’s taking this serious. It’s only three words, dude.” So we have, literally — you know, I have worked more days on this than I have words. Surreal.”
“Another fun thing about this character, how much work they were putting into creating this character in the CGI space. I was always a fan of what Andy Serkis was doing for Tolkien, for “Planet of the Apes.” And I always loved the idea of doing some kind of performance art like that. I started doing a version of performance art. When breakdancing started in the Eighties, it was only performance art. And New York City, when somebody would walk by and see me dancing on the corner, with the crowd around, and handing my hat out, yeah, I was that dude. Can you believe that? Literally, like, if it was the Eighties, I’d be dancing for you right now, and I would take my hat off and say something cute like, “I take credit cards too.”
Oh, yes. I found video footage of Vin breakdancing.
“But the performance art part of it is so fun and so challenging, and I imagine as this series grows and continues, there’s going to be a lot of opportunity to do the performance art for this character. But I know a lot of people from — I know Zoe Saldana. I did a show called “The Ropes,” which was a webisode series, and she directed one of the episodes for me. We wanted this kind of multicultural, feminine voice on it, and she did such a great job with it. So, she’s a friend of the family. And of course Dave Bautista was in “Riddick,” so I’d already worked with him. But I think when I watched the movie, the fun, the chemistry that’s really fun for me, is seeing Rocket and Groot go back and forth. And that just feels delicious, it feels fun, and it feels like…we know we’re going to see more of them.”
Well you know you got YouTube you can always do more videos.
“I could baby. You know I could baby. I’ve been dranking. I’ve been dranking. Think of all the mommies that have seen that video. You know all the mommies loved that video. I’ve been dranking. I’ve been dranking.”
Besides “Fast and the Furious 7,” do you have any projects coming up that we can see you in?
” I am about to do a movie called “The Last Witch Hunter” about a 700-year old New Yorker. And I feel sometimes like I’m close to 700 years old. It is going to be very cool, and we just cast Michael Caine. Which is for me, you know, when Dame Judi Dench did “Chronicles of Riddick” or when I had the opportunity to work with the late Sidney Lumet for “Find Me Guilty”….it’s always a big deal when I get to work with people that I’ve been such fans of for so long. So I’m just so excited to see what happens when the camera starts rolling, and it’s me and Michael Caine. You just know it’s gonna be good.”
And if I could only share the audio on this! He breaks out in song…“HOOKED ON A FEELING” group sing-a-long and he continues to talk to us as we are taking a group photo.
“I love the mommy bloggers. You know mommies are the first super heroes you guys.”
Chiming in is one of the dad bloggers at the press junket, “And some dad bloggers!”
“Let’s give one for the dads! And that’s tweetable! Thank you so much guys. You guys made me feel so good!”
See it’s easy to see how in about 15 minutes I am now a fan of Vin Diesel.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY opens in theaters everywhere on August 1st!
*I was invited by Disney and Marvel to be part of the Guardians of the Galaxy Event. All opinions as always are my own.