You will believe a raccoon can talk — and that’s thanks in large part to the clever voice characterization of Bradley Cooper and the small army of CGI technicians that worked on “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But another key ingredient in making Rocket Raccoon come to life was Sean Gunn, who provided the motion-capture performance and played opposite the cast on set as they shot their scenes with the furry mercenary.
At the film’s premiere, CBR News chatted up Gunn — the brother of “Guardians” director James Gunn, who also plays the Ravager crewmember Kraglin in the film and is perhaps best known for his long-running role as Kirk on “Gilmore Girls” — where he revealed the challenges of playing an anthropomorphic forest creature, what he really thinks of Michael Rooker and enjoying his brother’s victory lap as the film nears release.
Because you got to do some of the motion capture stuff, what was the key to playing a talking raccoon on set for you?
Sean Gunn: Well, I don’t really feel like I played the character — I did, to some degree, but I was a placeholder for the final product, which is an amalgamation of Bradley [Cooper] and the special effects team. But the first challenge was physical which was getting my eyes — I’m 6 feet tall, Rocket’s 22 inches tall, so trying to get my eyes to the level of his eyes from shot to shot was a challenge. And then from there, I just really listened to my brother. The first couple times I was on set and trying to go there and get to the essence of sort of what Rocket is, he let me know.
Did you exchange any ideas with Bradley Cooper?
I’ve not met Bradley! I can’t wait, actually. And in the little bits I’ve seen, he’s so awesome. I love what he’s done.
Would you like to do more of this kind of digital character acting?
I’d love to, actually. It’s really fun work, and there’s so much more of it increasingly — as technology gets better, there’s more work to be had and there’s more for actual actors to do. I mean, when the technology is approximating the human face better, the more of the actor gets injected into what the character’s doing. And I didn’t do much of that on this film, but it’s a really cool thing.
Tell me about your performance as Kraglin, one of the Ravagers. You got to work a lot with Michael Rooker’s Yondu.
I love Rooker! I love working with Rooker! He’s a pain in the butt a lot of times, but in a great way. I wanted to just sort of be his shadow and stay right by his side. I’m basically his sidekick, so I’m right there and I’m always watching what he’s doing and trying to jump right on what he wants me to do — which is the total opposite of what I do in real life with him!
How cool is it to see your brother get a chance to do a movie of this scale?
I mean, it’s so cool that I don’t even know what to compare it to! [Laughs] This is crazy to me. I’m not surprised, but I have no reference for it. I can’t wait to see the movie, and it’s just a really cool thing. And it’s cool that my whole family’s here. My parents and our four siblings and everybody’s here, and seeing this and experiencing this together is truly a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Because even if there are ten more movies, there will only be this one, first premiere, and I’m trying to enjoy every second of it as much as I can.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is in theaters now.