When I first talked with Michael Rooker for the theatrical release of "Guardians of the Galaxy" last summer, the prolific "Walking Dead" actor had a good feeling that the film was in for something special.
Little did Rooker know, though, that the latest Marvel big-screen extravaganza would go on to earn more than $332 million at the domestic box office to become the year's No. 1 movie -- a movie that's certain to earn much more as it makes its debut Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD (Walt Disney Home Entertainment).
"I'm baffled and surprised at the reaction," Rooker told me in a recent interview. "I knew the movie was going to be successful, but I had no idea how amazing it would be in the way everything ended up coming together. The fans have been so wonderful. People come up to me all the time and tell me that they've seen the movie three, four, five times and want to talk about Yondu and what it was like to make the movie. I'm very happy."
Rooker embodies Yondu in "Guardians," a space pirate who takes Peter Quill from Earth as a young boy after his mother's death. After growing up and learning the ways of Yondu's group, the Ravagers, Quill (Chris Pratt) betrays his alien mentor and keeps for himself a mysterious orb he's stolen from a powerful space lord, only to learn the sphere holds powers far greater than he ever could have imagined.
With a group of fellow outlaws, Quill and his group come to be known as the "Guardians of the Galaxy," which includes Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), who must do battle with the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) in an effort to save the universe.
While Rooker's career dates back nearly 30 years with such acclaimed films as "Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer," "Tombstone," "The Bone Collector," "Cliffhanger" and "Jumper" to his credit, today's generation of fans have largely embraced the 59-year-old actor for his previous role as the menacing Merle Dixon on the blockbuster AMC series "The Walking Dead."
But since "The Walking Dead" is made up largely of a late-teen to adult audience because of its mature subject matter, Rooker is thrilled he can be a part of a phenomenon like "Guardians of the Galaxy" because it's accessible to younger fans, too.
"I'm absolutely blown away by the demographics that make up the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' audience," Rooker said. "It spans the spectrum of ages, so I'm very pleased and excited that that's occurring."
With the reaction to "Guardians of the Galaxy" still at a fever pitch, Rooker is quite well aware that fans are clamoring for any details about the sequel to the film, which is tentatively set for a 2017 release. Even if Rooker had any details about the film he couldn't share them, but he is willing to express his wishes if he were writing the script for the hotly anticipated follow-up.
"I would put down in big letters, MORE YONDU," Rooker said, laughing. "I'm excited to be involved in movie No. 2. I'm ready, man."
Until then, Rooker said he's looking forward to popping in the Blu-ray to watch "Guardians" again. After all, he's just as big a fan of the movie as everybody else.
"There's a blooper reel and all that kind of stuff on it, so I'm excited to see the extra material that's been edited out for various reasons, especially for time," Rooker said. "I'm pretty darn excited."
Tim Lammers is a nationally syndicated movie journalist and the author of the ebook Direct Conversations: The Animated Films of Tim Burton (Foreword by Tim Burton).