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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 writer-director James Gunn is throwing his weight behind an Oscar push for Yondu actor Michael Rooker. A venerable actor whose career spans over three decades and more than 100 roles in film and television, Rooker finally started getting the notice he deserves beginning in 2010 by playing the ambiguous-turned-redemptive villain Merle Dixon in AMC’s smash zombie drama The Walking Dead.
And while Merle eventually met his demise in the Show in 2013, his longtime friend and collaborator Gunn quickly scooped up the grizzled veteran to play the pivotal role of the Ravager Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy, a space pirate who raised Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) before Quill’s sneaky exit from the group to get rich on his own. Since Rooker’s character quickly became a fan favorite, Gunn not only brought Yondu back for another spin, he made the blue-skinned, shark-finned alien the emotional spark plug of the narrative for Vol. 2, which brought many fans to tears at the film’s conclusion.
One of those fans touched by Rooker’s role is Gunn’s fellow filmmaker Kevin Smith, who tearfully shared his love for the ending of Vol. 2 this week with a video on Facebook. One observation Smith shared was that Rooker’s performance is deserving of an Oscar nomination, adding that if he doesn’t get a nod, “there is no justice in the world.” Gunn simply affirmed Smith’s feelings by tweeting, “Agreed.”
While Yondu no doubt has had a full character arc in the Guardians movie loaded with both menace and humor (“I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”), it will be interesting to see whether Marvel Studios and Disney will take Smith’s and Gunn’s observations about Rooker serious enough to campaign for the actor this coming awards season. It’s entirely possible, considering Rooker would clearly be entered as a Best Supporting Actor candidate, which has tended to be a nomination over the years that has become an ad-hoc way of honoring actors and actresses for their entire body of work rather than their work on a specific film.
Given the Oscars’ history of generally favoring dramatic work over everything else, Marvel and Disney would be facing an uphill battle launching a campaign for the major categories for a superhero movie, considering those films traditionally are honored more for their technical merits over everything else (the one exception being Heath Ledger’s posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar win for playing The Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight).
Playing in Rooker’s favor, however, is the changing makeup of the membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which clearly made a statement this summer by inviting 774 new members (in an attempt to bring youth and diversification to the organization), many of which with superhero or fantasy film credits including Gal Gadot, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Adam Driver, Margot Robbie and Joss Whedon.
Should Marvel and Disney campaign for a nomination for Rooker, they’ll be in good company since Warner Bros. is reportedly planning to seek Oscar nominations for Best Picture for Wonder Woman and its director, Patty Jenkins. Plus, Fox would be making a huge mistake if they didn’t give the same consideration to Logan and launch at the very least campaign for Hugh Jackman for Best Actor, Dafne Keen for Best Supporting Actress and James Mangold for Best Director (in addition to Best Picture).
If at the very least one of this year’s superhero offerings isn’t given a fair shake come Oscar time, Smith is right:“There is no justice in the world,” at least when it comes to world of movies.