Playback: Michael Rooker on ‘Guardians’ and the Evolution of Blockbusters and TV

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

Two weeks into release “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” is still killing it at the box office. One of the film’s stars and highlights, Michael Rooker, is back from traveling around the world promoting the film and he’s in our studio this week to discuss the Marvel phenomenon and more.

Between “Guardians” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Rooker has been exposed to a whole new set of fandom these last several years. He has certainly put in his time in the Hollywood blockbuster machine — witness particularly actioners of the 1990s like “Days of Thunder” and “Cliffhanger” — but being involved with these properties has brought him to a whole other level.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

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“I had been there before but it was at a time when there was really no internet to speak of,” Rooker says. “It was all word of mouth and whatever ads the movie puts out. What changed all that was ‘The Walking Dead.’ [Then] you’re in people’s living rooms every week, whether they like you or not. It’s like having this uncle that keeps visiting. I become part of the family!”

The business of the blockbuster has evolved all the while, too. The breed of entertainment Rooker was involved with two decades ago has given way to franchises and cinematic universes. It’s a dynamic someone like Rooker is in a unique position to have personally observed.

“Back then you didn’t even think of the whole aspect of doing another,” he says. “It wasn’t a franchise. You did one and that was it. You moved on. We didn’t think of ‘Days of Thunder 2.’ I think [today’s business] ties into our need for — we almost become children again. We want to see it again, and again. I think it makes us feel kind of comfortable.”

Along the way, from his screen beginnings in the controversial “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” Rooker has maintained a varied resume. He’s done a lot of TV over the years, yet another business he’s been able to see evolve to an exciting new status quo. He’s also tried his hand at directing with the 2012 horror film “The Last Episode.” But that is something he’s quite sure he’ll never do again.

“Too much work,” he says of sitting in the director’s chair. “I like telling people what to do. That was OK. But it’s just too much work. It’s 24/7 for three, four months or more. It’s just really tough. I’m much more into getting my job done and then moving on. Directing is a tough job. I look up to and am amazed by the guys and gals that are into it and do it well.”

For more, covering films like “JFK” and “Tombstone,” early work with director Michael Mann and a new collaboration with “Henry” director John McNaughton, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” via iTunes.

Michael Rooker photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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