Some Philistines claim that gravel-voiced wifebeater aficianado Vin Diesel is a purveyor of wooden acting. Well, "wooden" acting could be exactly what's required for one of his next roles: the tree-like Groot in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy. Though not officially a done deal yet, Diesel has been very transparent about the fact that he's in talks with Marvel for a major role in one of their upcoming films. Here are seven reasons why we think Groot may have Diesel's name carved all over it.
1. Diesel Posted a Comic Book Image of Groot on His Facebook Page — The Fast & Furious actor posted an image of the walking/talking tree from the most recent Guardians of the Galaxy comic series for the pleasure of his 45 million Facebook fans. But what's more, he made it his cover photo...only to take it down quickly thereafter, even removing the original post. Could Marvel have intervened because Diesel wasn't supposed to let this dribble of information slip?
2. He's Been Teasing his Marvel Involvement for Awhile — Back in June, Diesel said that Marvel Studios had "requested a meeting" with him. Then, at the Comic-Con panel for Riddick last month he said that fans could expect a "major announcement" from Marvel by the end of the month. But July passed and we weren't treated to any such announcement. In the meantime, he kept throwing out teases like a shot of him standing in front of an old Avengers comic-book cover. Something is brewing...
3. Groot Has Been a Major Part of the Guardians of the Galaxy Team Since Its Relaunch in 2006 — Groot was originally conceived as a villain by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1960. He was a tree-like alien scientist who experimented on humans. Groot could absorb wood to gain strength and heal, and he could psychically possess other, non-sentient trees. But in the 2006 Guardians relaunch, Groot was reimagined as a key member of the spacefaring superhero squad, and since that's the version of Guardians' lore that's serving as the basis for the movie it makes sense he'd be included. In fact, Marvel has already released the following concept art for the character. No other voice actor has been attached to the part, however.
4. It's An All-CGI, Voice-Heavy Role — There aren't too many hairless, musclebound characters left in Marvel lore who Diesel could play, really, so it makes sense that the studio would want to take advantage of one of his other assets: his voice. That basso profundo roar could be a way to give Groot an instant personality...except for the fact that most people, unable to understand his language, can only hear him say "I am Groot." But imagine what Diesel could do with those three words!
5. Groot Suits Diesel's Sensibility — Groot is a character whose imposing physical presence often overshadows his keen intellect. He is a supremely intelligent scientist, but he doesn't often get the credit he deserves. Kind of like Diesel, if you think about it. Most of the time he's billed as just a testosterone-fueled heavy, but he does have acting ability and also something more ineffable: awareness. He's an action star with an internal life. Even the great Sidney Lumet said in 2006, when promoting his Diesel-starring film Find Me Guilty, that the actor was "as accomplished as any I've worked with in my career." And that's a career that includes Henry Fonda, Al Pacino, William Holden, Albert Finney, and many others, so he knew what he was talking about.
6. Groot Is One of the Good Guys — ...But he's not exactly a "nice guy." Kind of like Diesel in every movie ever.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Would Fit Into His Production Schedule — Diesel is about to start production on next summer's Fast & Furious 7, followed immediately by a film called The Last Witch Hunter. That might make shooting Guardians of the Galaxy difficult, since it's coming out August 1, 2014, but Groot will be an all-CGI character. Diesel will have a brief window to record his dialogue, but that's easier than showing up on set. Also, his recording sessions will probably just involve him reciting dozens of different variations on "I am Groot."
What do you think of Diesel's possible casting as Groot? And do you think he or any other members of the Guardians team might also show up for The Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
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While studying film and media in college, I enrolled in a course called "New York in Film and Television." The curriculum focused on works of entertainment that are either set in or are about the Big Apple, and in most cases the movies we screened applied to both. We viewed films as wide ranging as MGM's classic musical On The Town and the Oscar winning staple West Wide Story as well as gangster pics like Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale and crime thrillers like The French Connection, all of which depict The City That Never Sleeps in contrasting fashion.
There wasn't much required reading, but the one book that my professor assigned was called Street Smart and it described and analyzed the characteristics of the "New York" of the four major filmmakers most closely associated with the city: Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Woody Allen and the late, great Sidney Lumet. Each of these auteurs offered their own eclectic taste of New York City to their audiences, from the raw and racially-charged Brooklyn as seen in Lee's Do The Right Thing and Crooklyn to Allen's quirky and charming Manhattan from films like Annie Hall and...Manhattan. Off all of these directors, the one I was least familiar with was Lumet; ironic since he had been around way before the others had made their mark on the movie industry. As I dug deeper into his filmography, I realized that his films may have most realistically depicted the New York that I knew and the residents which I interacted with on a daily basis.
That makes Lumet an important figure in the history of cinema (as do his five Oscar nominations) and his passing, which occurred on Saturday afternoon, is a major loss for Hollywood and movie buffs alike. Since you, too, may not know just how incredible his work is, I present seven essential Lumet films that you ought to view this week in honor of one of Hollywood's true renegades.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Pre-dating the American Civil Right Movement by a few years, this unprecedented courtroom drama opened a national discussion about the state of society and the legal system in the USA. 12 Angry Men is about a jury charged with the seemingly simple task of finding a young Hispanic man guilty of murder; simple because there's an orgy of evidence validating that conclusion, but things only appear to be so cut and dry. Thanks to a sole juror (played by the great Henry Fonda), the case is deliberated for hours inside a stifling environment where the tension and temperature run high. Lumet brilliantly exposes the prejudices of the all white jury members while simultaneously developing each character, which makes the explosive climax that much more riveting. A timeless tale of tolerance, the movie will be shown in film school's for years to come as its message is as topical today as it was in '57 and the execution is a work of genius.
Films about police corruption are a dime-a-dozen these days, but it wasn't always that way. Cops were classically portrayed as stoic and righteous up until the 1970s, when a new class of filmmakers began to uncover the greed and immorality of public office through their art. In between shooting The Godfather and its sequel, Al Pacino teamed with the already established Lumet (he had made some 17 films in between 12 Angry Men and this) to tell the true-story of Frank Serpico, an undercover NYPD officer who attempted to expose the truth about the criminal activities that his colleagues were taking part in only to be almost-literally stabbed in the back by these crooked cops. Together, Lumet and Pacino created a conflicted character that struggled with the ramifications of his noble actions, but Lumet must solely be credited with helping create a sub-genre of thrillers that is incredibly prevalent and successful in 21st century cinema, from 16 Blocks to Pride and Glory to The Departed.
Murder On The Orient Express (1974)
Lumet directed Ingrid Bergman to her 3rd and final Academy Award in this taut thriller about an English detective investigating a murder aboard a transcontinental train. He assembled a magnificent cast, including Albert Finney, Bergman, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York and Lauren Bacall to weave a web of intrigue that connects to the case at hand in almost unfathomable ways. The motion picture can almost be compared to a TV procedural, though its open-ended and slightly unsatisfying conclusion is far from a broadcast standard. Technical beauty aside, Lumet's greatest achievement in this film was, perhaps, resisting the Hollywood ending.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Once again teaming up with Al Pacino, Lumet took on another true story set in New York following his detour on the Orient Express. This unlikely crime story tells of Sonny and Sal, two dead-beats who turn to bank robbing when all other options in their lives seem to be exhausted. Unfortunately, this bumbling duo arrived too late as the majority of the bank's cash had been picked up for the day, but that doesn't stop New York's finest from acting accordingly. What follows is a tense 24 hour stand-off that doesn't end well for either of them. Lumet makes all the lost souls of the big city seem sympathetic to the audience, especially Sonny and Sal, which was no small feat considering this was a real situation that real people were put into. At its heart, Dog Day Afternoon is a message movie about the consequences of one's actions, but there's so much social subtext within it actually gets more personal each time you watch it.
A near-perfect dramatization of the lengths that a major media conglomerate will go to turn profit, Network is a boldly executed cautionary tale about the power of the gatekeepers of information in today's society. Marked by shocking performances from Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Beatrice Straight and William Holden, the film is perhaps more relevant today than it was in '76, when the ratings race was really heating up at the various TV networks of the USA. The satire is as funny as it is frightening in retrospect and the film gave pop-culture one of its most recognizable quotes: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" This is required viewing for any and all who plan on making a career in television and media and also one of the greatest films of all time.
The Verdict (1982)
Just as he took on police corruption in earlier works, Lumet challenged the legal world in The Verdict. Paul Newman plays a down-on-his-luck lawyer who takes (what should be) an easy case, but is inspired to exact true justice on the institutions that left a young woman paralyzed in a vegetative state. The film is many things; a character piece, a David and Goliath good-versus-evil tale and an expose of the medical malpractice field, but Lumet transcends the tropes of them all by making a movie that entertains while infuriating its audience thanks to its authentic portrayal of lawyers and the lengths they'll go to uncover or hide the truth.
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)
Lumet had explored complex families in past productions (Family Business, Running On Empty, Night Falls On Manhattan), but none is quite as emotionally disturbing as his final film, which hit theaters fifty years after his first. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke play brothers who attempt to rob their family's jewelry store to help pay for debts and child-support, respectively, but things go horribly wrong and their mother ends up dead, which sends them on a downward spiral of guilt, shame and violence. It's a pulpy, tragic and harrowing tale that's well acted and executed by the director; very much a return to form for Lumet, whose last few films leading up to it failed to achieve the same level of prestige as his earlier works.
One thing remains clear after tonight's 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards: There was a definite lack of a dominant film on the block. Though certain sure bets did come out victorious, no single film was able to sweep the Globes, leaving the upcoming Oscar race as wide open as it was before.
Heavy contenders "Traffic," "Almost Famous," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Gladiator" all took home two Globes apiece at the annual star-studded event.
As expected, Julia Roberts won the award for best actress in a movie (drama) for her work in "Erin Brockovich". However, she was visibly surprised when "Brockovich" director Steven Soderbergh went home empty-handed.
"I was shocked, actually," Roberts said backstage. "I suppose when I presented the best director and Steven [Soderbergh] didn't win for either film ["Traffic" and "Erin Brockovich"], I thought to myself that the film ["Erin Brockovich"] was not a family kind of thing."
Tom Hanks' win over Russell Crowe ("Gladiator") for best actor in "Cast Away" also added to the evening's biggest upsets.
"The whole season is a wild, wild ride," Hanks told reporters after picking up his award.
When asked what he would miss the most if he were stranded on a deserted island like his character in "Cast Away," he jokingly answered, "Oh gosh, my TV."
There's always a little bit of the unexpected at award shows, and this year's Golden Globe Awards was apparently no different.
Renee Zellweger pulled a Christine Lahti by temporarily being unavailable when her name was called as the winner for the best actress (comedy) award. The "Nurse Betty" star was in the restroom at the time.
"I was in the bathroom. Bad timing. I had something in my teeth and I just went to make sure," Zellweger told reporters backstage.
Actor George Clooney also emerged as the winner in the best actor (comedy) column for his work in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Clooney beat out John Cusack, Robert De Niro and Mel Gibson for the prize.
Benicio Del Toro
Early on, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was caught up in "Traffic" -- and liking it. Benicio Del Toro picked up his first award in the best supporting actor category for his role in "Traffic" to kick off the show.
The actor edged out the likes of Willem Dafoe, Jeff Bridges, Albert Finney and Joaquin Phoenix, all of whom were nominated in the category.
"I got lucky," Del Toro said during his acceptance speech. "If they [the other nominees] want a recount, they can talk to my lawyer. It's just great to be recognized for what you love to do," the actor later told reporters backstage.
"Traffic" also earn its scribe, Stephen Gaghan, the Golden Globe for best screenplay.
But the border-crossing drug film -- which was nominated in five categories -- soon lost momentum, most notably with director Soderbergh's loss in the best director category to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" helmer Ang Lee. The martial arts film was also named the best foreign film at tonight's event.
"Everything is great," the Taiwanese director told reporters backstage. "The best thing was meeting Julia Roberts."
Ridley Scott's Roman bloodbath "Gladiator" remained quiet most of the evening and seemed to have fallen by the wayside of the HFPA's top list, with a mere mention for best original score despite having tied "Traffic" with two awards apiece.
"Gladiator" finally proved otherwise by picking up the best picture (drama) nod -- decidedly one of the night's most important awards.
The best picture (comedy) award went to Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous," which also earned ingenue Kate Hudson the best supporting actress win. The Goldie Hawn scion edged out veterans Judi Dench and Frances McDormand for the prize.
"This is so intense," Hudson said in her speech. Hudson also thanked Crowe and her husband, Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson.
"I felt so in love with Cameron and his vision," Hudson said backstage. "The script is so amazing."
But an amazing night it wasn't for the films "Chocolat," and "Billy Elliot". The two acclaimed pictures both went into the night's race with four noms each but came out empty-handed.
And multiple-nominee "Wonder Boys" only walked off with one award, a best original song for Bob Dylan's "Things Have Changed."
The race for the Globe on the TV front was just as even with "The West Wing" and "Sex and the City" leading the pack of winners with two statuettes each.
The HBO comedy was named best TV comedy for a second consecutive year, and series star Sarah Jessica Parker earned her second best actress in a TV comedy for the second year in a row.
"We had various scenarios laid out for best comedy," Parker said. "None of which included us."
NBC's political series "The West Wing" got both the best TV drama series and a best actor in a TV series (drama) for actor Martin Sheen -- beating out last year's winner James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos"), among others, in both categories.
"I'm quite certain there has been a big mistake," Sheen -- a loyal Democrat -- joked, keeping very much to the political theme of his series. "But I'm going to wait for the recount to finish."
Sarah Michelle Gellar & Freddie Prinze Jr.
Kelsey Grammer nabbed the best actor in a TV comedy award for "Frasier." And "Once and Again" actress Sela Ward took the best actress in a TV series (drama) award for her role in the ABC series, beating first-time nominees Jessica Alba of Fox's "Dark Angel" and Sarah Michelle Gellar of the WB's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
Of note was oft-troubled actor Robert Downey Jr.'s win in the best supporting actor in a TV comedy category for his stint on Fox's "Ally McBeal."
Downey -- who is currently facing drug possession charges -- got right to the point during his acceptance speech, simply thanking people he had worked with on the show.
"It just means a lot to me when people just come up to me on the streets and tell me that they are rooting for me," Downey told producer Dick Clark afterward.
And unlike other winners, Downey opted to read a prepared statement rather than doing Q&A with reporters backstage.
"I just want to share this with my fellow parolees, I mean, nominees," quipped Downey. "This really means a lot, and it's been great working on the show."
Vanessa Redgrave, the actor's female counterpart in the same category, won for her work in HBO's "If These Walls Could Talk 2."
Best TV miniseries or motion picture went to Showtime's original movie "Dirty Pictures," which chronicled the censorship controversy over photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's works.
Continuing on the tube front, though Dench lost out to Hudson in the best supporting actress (drama) category, Dench -- who was unable to attend the bash -- walked away with a best actress in a miniseries or TV movie for her role in HBO's "Last of the Blonde Bombshells." Best actor in the same category went to Brian Dennehy for Showtime's "Arthur Miller's Death of A Salesman."
The night's most interesting moment, perhaps, came at the very end of the show, when best picture (drama) presenter Elizabeth Taylor opened the winner's envelope before running down the list of nominees, causing Clark to come on stage to instruct the legendary actress on what to do.
The annual Cecil B. DeMille Award was presented to big-screen veteran Al Pacino by "American Beauty" Oscar winner Kevin Spacey.