Vin Diesel jokes that playing Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy was a form of expunging one of his phobias. “When I was a child actor, yes, I had the fear that I was gonna be cast as the tree,” Diesel said to Movie Fanatic recently. “And this was a way to face my fears head on and I'm delighted that I did.”
Since Diesel first posted that photo of him at the Marvel Studios offices, his millions of social media followers (and Marvel fans alike) have been drooling at the prospect of Diesel as a superhero, but few would have guessed that his first role in a Marvel movie would be that of Groot. But, he is sublimely perfect.
“I'm new to Marvel. I guess this whole thing started for me with a kind of a social media wave that was adamant about me doing something with Marvel. And there wasn't really a six month window to do a character at Marvel,” Diesel said.
But doing the voice of a character that would be entirely CG animated, now that could work.
“When Kevin Feige called me and said that him and James (Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy director) were talking about me playing a role, I had no idea what role it would be. They sent over a book of conceptual art and I went into my living room with my kids and I opened up the book and I asked the kids what character they wanted daddy to play. And they all pointed at the tree,” Diesel said and laughed. “I knew that was a good sign.”
And an iconic role was born because after audiences catch Diesel as Groot, the muscle/houseplant for Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), they will witness a portrayal that is nothing short of brilliant.
For Diesel, it was a healing experience. When he headed into the booth to record the three words “I am Groot” dozens of different ways -- those are the only words the character says throughout the movie -- he was not in a good place.
His longtime friend Paul Walker had just died, and he was in dire need of something uplifting. It would arrive in his inhabiting of the Marvel character that is beloved by millions.
“It was at a very important time when I did this movie because it was in December and it was the first time I was coming around humans again and the first time I was working again. And there was something very therapeutic about in my personal life -- I guess in my professional life too -- dealing with death and then playing a character that celebrates life in the way that Groot celebrates life,” Diesel said.
“I took my kids to a screening to see this movie and they walk around the house reciting Star Lord, Gamora, and all the characters. Something very beautiful happened in playing this role -- something that as an actor I never would have imagined -- and that is when my kids see trees, they refer to the trees as my brothers and sisters.”
That aspect of the entire Guardians of the Galaxy experience has been the most surprising for Diesel. “The idea to be associated with trees like that is remarkable. It's so much more gratifying than you would ever imagine,” Diesel admitted.
Although he only says “I am Groot” through the entire movie, the audience never not knows what it is Groot is trying to say. Diesel achieved something truly special with the performance and he clearly has great respect for Gunn for letting him do his thing.
“I was really lucky that when I went to breathe life into the role, I had a director that was willing to indulge in the way that he did. I felt like I was the last person in, so I got to see all of the performances and I was so blown away by the performances. It felt almost too good to be true,” Diesel said.
There was clearly a method to the madness of bringing those three words to life in a myriad of different ways. “It'd be wild to actually see my script because I don't think anyone's seen my script! It was on the left hand side of the page, it said, ‘I am Groot.’ And then on the right hand side of the page it could be a whole paragraph about what ‘I am Groot’ meant,” he added.
“When I walked into that situation, I saw somebody that cared so much about every little nuance of that character. It was so refreshing for somebody that didn't think that being a perfectionist was a bad thing. When you watch this movie, you could see a director who loves his actors and it shines through the movie in my mind and in my eyes.”
Diesel loved the music, which is a huge part of the film -- as told to us in our Chris Pratt interview. The Peter Quill soundtrack is the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack and the man who is Groot wasn’t the only person in his house to cherish the score.
"I loved all the music,” Diesel said. “The coolest thing was my three-year-old son watching the movie and when Hooked on a Feeling comes on, he was at the edge of his seat and squints his eyes like this and he starts singing, ‘Hooked on a feeling, high off believing.’ Watching him do that just melted my heart.”