Guardians of the Galaxy has been a massive hit for Marvel and Vin Diesel’s character Groot was a big part of that success, but was he cast because of his massive social media presence?
Now, before Diesel fans start throwing rocks, hear us out on our social media theory.
If you’re a fan of the Fast and Furious actor, you’re well aware that he has a whopping 83.6 million Facebook fans. If that doesn’t impress you, it should. He has more likes than any other actor on the planet and is very in touch with his fans – something studios would be very interested in using to their advantage to increase a movie’s exposure.
For reference Will Smith is the next actor on the list, with 10 million fewer fans, which is pretty astonishing considering how massive of an actor Smith has been over the last 20 years.
With the international box office becoming more and more essential for a film’s success, having an actor with such a massive social media presence in the international market is key.
Guardians of the Galaxy pulled in $94M at the box office during its opening weekend, which is incredibly impressive for an entirely new group of superheroes. It has just crossed $500 million worldwide today, with nearly half of that coming from international markets without being released in China, Japan, Germany or Italy yet. It’s also now Vin’s most successful film ever at the domestic box office.
Recently, there was an interview released which featured Kick Ass 2 actress Chloë Grace Moretz. While being asked multiple questions about her latest film If I Stay, she explained that her most bizarre experience while auditioning for a role was when a casting director asked her how many Twitter followers she had at the beginning of an audition.
For reference the actress has 1.1 million Twitter followers, which is a fairly respectable number for a talented actress of her age and popularity. But she explained that she couldn’t believe that the casting director even cared enough to ask her during an audition.
She insinuated that her social media presence was deemed vital for her chances of landing the role with this large film and she revealed that she did not end up getting the role. Now, Moretz could have not gotten the role for a multitude of reasons, but this is the first time we’ve ever heard of an actor being directly asked how large of a social media presence they have.
Moretz continued, saying, “Instead of being asked how you want to approach [the role], they tell you that if you don’t Instagram or Tweet your movies then they aren’t going to succeed.” This is a very surprising statement and if it’s happening with other actors (which is highly likely), then it’s truly a paradigm shift from what we’ve seen in the past with actors and auditions.
Normally actors are asked to read scripts, meet other cast members already involved, talk with studio heads, directors, writers, producers, you get the point. Twitter followers or Facebook likes haven’t exactly been the first things that come up when an actor shows up for an audition for a massive film.
Back when Vin Diesel was making his way around the web saying that he was going to have a role in a new Marvel movie, he was throwing out some massive hints, pointing at posters in Marvel Studios’ offices, posting an image of The Vision on Facebook and then taking it down and that’s when everyone began speculating.
Most believed that with his size, tough guy persona and deep voice that he’d be playing the villain that every Marvel film is building up to: Thanos.
That role ended up going to actor Josh Brolin, who we heard for the first time in Guardians of the Galaxy as Thanos and The Vision role ended up going to actor Paul Bettany, who previously voiced J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Iron Man trilogy and The Avengers.
After all the speculation Vin Diesel finally revealed that he would be voicing Groot, the character essentially no one outside of comic book fans even knew or cared about. What no one could have expected was that Groot would end up being one of, if not the biggest, highlights in the entire film despite saying only three words (four if you count the one time he said “we”).
Guardians of the Galaxy had a unique problem, in that not even American audiences knew who the superheroes were, the director wasn’t a household name, neither were the actors, and the story was entirely in space.
The actor best known in the film was two-time Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper, who wasn’t even on screen, but voiced the second most popular character Rocket Raccoon.
Marvel have proven to be incredibly smart and when taking a look at all of the check boxes for Guardians, they undoubtedly had a big box with “find an actor with international appeal” beside it to check off.
That’s where Vin came in. The actor has the biggest international appeal of any Hollywood actor on social media and if you check out his official Facebook page, you’ll see his over 80 million fans eating up every Guardians of the Galaxy related post he made over the last six months leading up to Guardians’ release.
This was even more apparent when Groot became a star during Guardians of the Galaxy’s #1 run at the box office. The actor posted pictures of himself wearing “I am Groot” t-shirts which had millions of views and likes. International and stateside fans were falling over themselves to share Diesel’s posts about the film on Facebook and he was trending, along with his character who a year earlier 99% of the world had never even heard of.
Despite the fact that Chris Pratt was the star of the film, and did one hell of a job as the leading man, everyone wanted to hear three little words from Vin Diesel at all the premieres around the globe – and why not? It’s catchy, we can use it online in nearly any situation and now “I am Groot” has become Marvel’s new “I am Iron Man.” Fairly lucky for them, considering the latter phrase had become a bit stale, they get a new one just in time for it to become a global phenomenon.
Guardians of the Galaxy desperately needed international appeal because it barely had any domestic appeal prior to its last few trailers, which is really when fans truly started gaining interest and it began generating traction due to solid word of mouth after early reviews started to roll in.
This isn’t intended to discredit Vin Diesel’s work as Groot in any way, because he was obviously brilliant, but because of Groot’s one line, nearly anyone (with a deep voice) could have voiced Groot and most likely would still have been a gigantic hit with moviegoers. His beloved presence was felt because of the incredible VFX artists working their magic to bring this tree-like character to life and tap into our deepest emotions.
Especially considering one of the most memorable parts of the film was when baby Groot was dancing during the mid-credits scene – a scene where Groot doesn’t speak at all. But when fans can put a face to the character, it becomes all the more popular and even more advantageous to Marvel for promotional purposes.
So, what does all of this mean? Was Vin Diesel the right guy for the job? You bet he was, but maybe not because of his unique voice and unlikely due to his past experience doing voice work on The Iron Giant.
Marvel have become marketing ninjas and they saw the potential to include a cast member that only has three words, yet would bring them 80+ million adoring fans spreading the word that Vin Diesel, the actor with 80 million strong, is the voice behind the heartstring-pulling superhero in their latest film.
Guardians of the Galaxy owes quite a bit of its success to Diesel and we would never take that away from him, but Marvel is behind-the-scenes pulling the strings in exactly the right way and there’s no doubt in our mind that they’re a lot smarter than the rest of us.
Which means their casting choice for Groot may have been a bit more about brilliant promotion as opposed to brilliant voice work.
The real question is how this will affect casting in the future. Will the first question during all auditions become: How many Facebook fans do you have?
It wouldn’t surprise us in the least.