The ‘Smallville’ alum opens up about auditioning to play Star-Lord and the rather crass autograph the ‘Star Wars’ star once gave him.
After cementing himself as DC comic book royalty on the small screen, Michael Rosenbaum has shifted to Marvel with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
The Indiana-raised actor played Lex Luthor for seven seasons on TV’s Smallville and has earned fan acclaim for voicing The Flash in DC animated properties. This month, he returns to his comic roots as Martinex, an associate of Sylvester Stallone’s Ravager character Stakar. It’s a homecoming of sorts, as Rosenbaum — whose podcast Inside of You With Michael Rosenbaum launches in June — auditioned for friend and director James Gunn for the role of Star-Lord in the original Guardians.
In a conversation with Heat Vision, Rosenbaum opens up about reading for the role that ultimately went to Chris Pratt, his Smallville years and his surprising friendship with the late Carrie Fisher.
Marvel and Disney are known for their secrecy. When you landed the role of Martinex, how much of the script did they share?
I got the whole script. It was watermarked with my name. I knew Yondu [Michael Rooker] died before we shot it … I was sitting at the premiere with Michael Rooker and I could tell he was choking up at the end … it really says something when a man can get emotional about his own work.
You’ve written and sold several projects. If you could write something for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what would it be?
I’d love to write Power Pack. It came out in the ’80s … these young siblings get powers from an alien race right as their dad builds this planet-destroying weapon, which another alien race wants. It’s got that Spielberg/Stranger Things vibe. I could really take that concept and make it fresh.
You worked with Sylvester Stallone on Guardians 2. What was your favorite moment with him?
I love James’ [Gunn] taste in music, but he hates a lot of the ’80s shit that I like. I remember belting out this really obscure ’80s song and suddenly Stallone joins in … I look over at James and he’s just staring at me with this “f— you” look on his face.
You auditioned for the role of Peter Quill in the first Guardians. Can you talk about the screen test? Was it strange being in front of Gunn, who is a friend?
Yes, I was nervous as shit (laughs). You’re sitting there with one of your best friends who’s directing a huge movie, who knows your ability and said, “I wanna see your take on Peter Quill.” Now the pressure’s on. I just had to shut it off … I remember coming up with my own dance for the Star-Lord dance scene. I had a great partner, it felt really organic right from the start.
Were you disappointed when you didn’t get the part?
You know, I didn’t really care about getting the part. I didn’t know anything about the Guardians comics. I just wanted to do a good job for James.
Did you know Chris Pratt was cast before that became public?
Yeah, I’d heard. Chris is amazing in that role.
Were things weird between you and Gunn after that?
No, not at all. The way I look at it … I was privileged to be one of the few people that got to screen test. I was so honored and grateful that James had me audition.
How do you draw the line between friendship and business?
Friendship comes first 100 percent of the time. You don’t question it. I want to see my friends succeed … if they have the ability to cast me in something, that’s great. If not, I don’t think twice.
Talk about your relationship with Carrie Fisher. How did you two meet?
Carrie’s assistant reached out because Carrie’s daughter wanted a signed photo of Lex. I said, “Tell her I want a signed picture from Return of the Jedi!” Carrie actually sent the photo, which I keep in my office. It says, “Blow me — Carrie.”
At the time I was filming the first season of Smallville and living in a hotel. She said, “Why are you living in a hotel? I have these little bungalows at my house, Meryl Streep stays there, Richard Dreyfuss stays there, you could, too … it’s got its own kitchen, you’d never have to see me.”
So I stayed there for three months and I wrote like crazy. She really showed me the way when it came to writing, and she never asked for anything, she just said, “Buy me a gift when you’re done.” So I bought her a skylight for her living room.
She was just an amazing person, she embraced mental illness like no one had ever done and she was just so giving. Her house was always open to everybody, and she was so smart. I remember listening to her and saying to her, “I don’t understand a f—ing word you just said.” She said, “Oh, f— you, why don’t you try reading, Rosenbaum?!”
Carrie was always there for her friends. If I said, “Man, I feel like shit,” she’d say, “Why? Do you wanna talk?”
What’s one of the strangest things that happened with Fisher?
I remember lying on her giant bed with Michael Keaton, Tracey Ullman, Nicole Kidman and Carrie … just lying on her bed … laughing and talking. I thought, “Where am I?” Then she tried hooking me up with Nicole Kidman. Nicole is so out of my league … Carrie took me over to Nicole, said one sentence, and just left me with her. It was never gonna happen, but I’ll always remember that.
We’d have parties at her place with my friends and her friends. It was like Meg Ryan with my stoner friend Roger. It was a great relationship. She was just a powerful human being.
Michael Rosenbaum can also be seen performing stand-up comedy at places around Los Angeles such as the Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store, and will be touring with his band The Sandwich this summer in Germany. More information can be found here.