Vin Diesel playing a talking tree in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' -- UPDATE

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UPDATE (DEC. 22, 2013): Vin Diesel officially cast as Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy

ORIGINAL POST: Vin Diesel is going to play a tree. Specifically, Vin Diesel is going to play Groot, a giant alien tree-creature from Planet X.

At least that’s the latest rumor in this summer’s best-running cultural enigma, the Mystery of Vin Diesel and Marvel Studios. According to Deadline, Diesel is in negotiations to play Groot in next summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s kookbat space-fantasy, which is currently scheduled for an August 2014 release. When reached by EW, Marvel had no comment on the rumor, but there is some vague evidence: Diesel posted a picture of Groot over on his Facebook page.

It’s absolutely possible that this is all a social-media prank by Diesel, but if so, it’s an elaborate prank. Diesel told a crowded Comic-Con audience that there’d be “big news” about his Marvel collaboration coming soon, and he posted a picture of himself purportedly at the Marvel office. And although early chatter had Diesel in line to play Marvel mega-franchise Big Bad Thanos, Groot makes a bit more sense. He’s a member of the crowded Guardians ensemble. He also doesn’t talk very much — most of his lines are variations on the phrase “I am Groot!” — and Diesel’s distinctive baritone could make for a cool bit of stunt-casting. (Diesel memorably voiced the lead character in The Iron Giant, who also didn’t have too many lines.)

Also, Diesel has the following things in common with Groot:

1. Groot has resurrected himself several times after apparently dying in battle. Diesel resurrected the Fast & Furious and Riddick franchises.

2. Groot travels with Rocket Raccoon, a brilliant soldier with a bottomless well of combat strategy that belies his diminutive stature. Vin Diesel co-starred in Find Me Guilty with Peter Dinklage, a brilliant actor with a bottomless well of charisma that belies his diminutive stature.

3. Groot first appeared in Tales to Astonish as a terrifying inhuman villain but has become more conventionally heroic, rescuing the galaxy from the terror of Thanos. Diesel’s most famous character is Dominic Toretto, who first appeared in The Fast and the Furious as a charismatic antihero but has become more conventionally heroic, rescuing the world from car-terrorist Owen Shaw.

4. Groot increases his strength by absorbing wood. The Fast & Furious franchise increases its popularity by absorbing the stars of other action movies.

5. Groot is a tree. Vin Diesel’s arms are very large.

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