Inverse Interview

The Suicide Squad is “James Gunn at his best” and nothing like the original

"He's like the mad scientist at the helm steering all this craziness," Michael Rooker tells Inverse.

James Gunn might be the only director playing in both Marvel and DC's universes, and coming along for the ride is one of his favorite actors: Michael Rooker. The Alabama-born actor was best known as the villainous Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead until Gunn scooped him up to play the blue-skinned space pirate in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

When Gunn signed on to reboot DC's The Suicide Squad, he brought Rooker along with him as Savant, a self-styled vigilante from the comics who turns to crime after he's spurned by Batman. Savant is also easily recognizable by his long and flowing white hair, and for Rooker, that was a huge selling point. In fact, he's pretty sure Gunn included the character just for him.

"My hair is curly, but to get to play a character with long straight hair, that was my dream come true," Rooker tells Inverse. "And James Gunn wrote it! I told him I always wanted to have straight hair, and that's why he put me in this character."

Michael Rooker as Savant in 'The Suicide Squad.'DC

Beyond his own luscious locks, Rooker is also convinced that The Suicide Squad will blow everything else out of the water. Literally. A behind-the-scenes featurette previously revealed that Gunn is making a war movie full of supervillains, and Rooker confirms that it really will be the director's most explosive film yet.

"The Suicide Squad is massive," Rooker says. "James Gunn is at his best. He loves massive sets with all these different characters, everything going at once."

Then, as if anticipating my next question, he adds: "You can't even compare it with the first one. Absolutely not. It is just out of this world."

Read on for the full interview, in which Rooker says more about James Gunn and The Suicide Squad, discusses the possible future of his Marvel character Yandu, and gushes over his co-stars in his newest movie, Love and Monsters.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

You play Savant in The Suicide Squad. What can you say about that character?

The hair! I think my hair that movie should be its own character. Honest to god. That was a lot of hair, and it was beautifully done. I have always wanted to have straight hair. My hair is curly. It's been curly all my life and I wear hats to straighten it out a little bit. But it's wild and crazy and frizzy and curly. But to get to play a character with long straight hair, that was my dream come true. My dream. And James Gunn wrote it! I told him I always wanted to have straight hair, and that's why he put me in this character.

It looks like The Suicide Squad will be a big explosive movie. Is that true?

The Suicide Squad is massive, dude. James Gunn is at his best. This is what he loves. He loves massive sets with all these different characters, everything going at once. It's like craziness. He's like the mad scientist at the helm steering all this craziness. What a blast. It's gonna be so much fun. People are gonna go crazy over this piece. You can't even compare it with the first one. Absolutely not. It is just out of this world.

Rooker in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.'Marvel

Could your Guardians of the Galaxy character Yandu ever come back? Even in a flashback?

That's very interesting. There is a world where that could happen. I don't know when and where, but anything is possible in the Marvel Universe. I loved playing the character. Yandu was an awesome role and a really beautiful character. You know, James Gunn is at his peak with The Suicide Squad, but when he wrote Yandu, that was a gorgeous character. I'm very fortunate, and hopefully, I will continue to get roles that are more complicated than they initially seem.

James Gunn seems to be operating on another level than everyone else in Hollywood. What makes him special?

I think there are a lot of directors and artists out there that can do interesting and amazing things — if they have the balls. It's simple. James Gunn does it the way he wants to do it. That's why it's different than everybody else's shit. Because he gets to do what he wants to do. He gets to write it the way he wants to write, and he gets to direct to the way he wants to direct it.

If studios would listen to their artists and allow other actors and directors to do the same, you would get a lot of different things, and not just the same old, same old. And James Gunn is a very lovely and crazy dynamic artist, and you harness that by allowing him to go free. The same thing with me. My best work is when people leave me alone and I do it the way I imagined it. I develop the character. Most of my best work is when directors just point me in the right direction and say, "Go Rooker, go."

Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt in 'Love and Monsters.'Paramount

Love and Monsters is a great ensemble movie. Was it fun acting with a kid and a dog?

With kids and animals, are you kidding me? They take the scene and they just run with it. And there you are left standing around with your samurai sword and the hat. That is the toughest in the world. But let me tell you, man, Ariana [Greenblatt] was a blast. We had such a great time. We bounced off each other so well, even from day one. She was the smartest human on set and so it was a blast.

The best part of the movie has got to be you and Ariana as this unlikely duo in the apocalypse. Is there spinoff potential?

I think we should do something. Maybe even a prequel before we meet Dylan's character. What an awesome concept. It seems to be the prequel and sequel and spin-off world we're living in, but why not? It would be a blast.

Love and Monsters will be available digitally on October 16.