Did Marvel Make An Expensive Mistake Casting This ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Character?

While fans know Vin Diesel primarily for his role as Dominic Toretto in the Fast & Furious movies, there’s an aspect of his career that does not get much attention: that of voice actor. 

In addition to providing  the voice of Groot/Baby Groot in the Marvel movies, he also provided the voice of the title character in Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant, a 1999 animated film that has grown in stature over the last 20 years.

Whatever one may think of Diesel’s limited acting range, there’s no denying that one of his most distinctive features is his gravelly voice. 

Still, when your only line is some variation of “I am Groot,” is it worth him to pay him millions of dollars over several movies? There’s a case for and against him.

Avengers: Endgame cast
Avengers: Endgame cast | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

The case against Vin Diesel

Vin Diesel’s detractors say he has an ego the size of Alaska. The website Funk’s House of Geekery posted an article called The Six Most Ego-Driven Moments in Hollywood, and all of the moments involved Diesel. A story made the rounds recently that Diesel wanted to devise a point system to ensure he wouldn’t lose a fight with Jason Statham. 

Those detractors say that if it weren’t for the Fast & Furious movies, Diesel’s net worth would be a lot less than $200 million. Sure, he’s one of the main faces now, but they made 2 Fast 2 Furious without him, and it was still a hit, while the franchise is also branching off into movies that don’t involve the Toretto family, like Hobbs & Shaw.

Yes, Diesel got an early break playing Private Caparzo in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, but does that mean he deserves millions of dollars to growl 50 versions of “I am Groot?”

It’s not known exactly how much he made for voicing Groot, but with the character appearing in four Marvel movies, it must be a tidy sum.

The case for Vin Diesel

Simply put, there’s nobody that sounds quite like Diesel, to the point that his ethnic origins have been shrouded in mystery. Another voice actor could probably play Groot, and with digital editing, that person wouldn’t have to work very long and could work for far less money. However, it’s hard to replace the original, as Disney found out with its animated Aladdin sequel, The Return of Jafar.

Dan Castellaneta, best known for Homer Simpson, is a great actor, but he wasn’t Robin Williams playing the Genie. 

Fans also point out that there’s more to Groot than “I am Groot.” He may have only three English vocabulary words, but it’s the way he says them that makes him memorable. On Quora, fan Francis Dickinson wrote: 

“If you listen to Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy every time he says ‘I am Groot’ he uses an intonation that fits the scene and Vin Diesel threw himself into the part both recording each line hundreds of times and recording it in all the languages they thought would be relevant. Both his voice acting and his dedication to the part left everyone else they’d tried in the dust; he’s being paid in large part for his acting ability.”

Diesel himself told The Guardian that Groot’s limited vocabulary made for an interesting challenge. 

“It appealed to the thespian in me. You’re talking about a very challenging character to pull off. How could you really create a whole character with three words? To really bring the emotion and chart the arc.”

Marvel isn’t exactly hurting financially

Wondering if Disney made an expensive casting mistake may seem rather silly when the MCU makes money hand over fist. The 23 Marvel Studios movies have made $8.9 billion in the United States alone, and $23 billion around the world. Yes, every business likes to save money, but they like to make money even more. Simply put, Marvel can afford Vin Diesel. Marvel can afford a lot of Vin Diesels.

Baby Groot will be back in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 sometime in 2021. Diesel will next be seen in the flesh in February with Bloodshot, where he plays a slain mobster reanimated with super powers. He’s also filming Fast & Furious 9,  due out May 22.