Why James Gunn almost didn't put Baby Groot in GotG 2, and why he changed his mind

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Feb 10, 2017, 1:45 PM EST

From the moment we started seeing marketing material for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it became abundantly clear that one character was going to steal the entire movie, and possibly all of 2017.

Sure, Star-Lord is cool as always, and Drax seems set to be even funnier this time around, but none of them can hold a candle to Baby Groot, the tiny but fierce version of everyone's favorite talking tree. From the moment we saw him arguing with Rocket in that last full trailer, we were all goners.

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According to writer/director James Gunn, though, we almost didn't get this tiny scene-stealer. When he began work on Vol. 2, Gunn's original plan was to restore Groot to normal size after he returned as a sprout in a flower pot at the end of the first film. That makes sense. After all, we watched the character basically grow at will the first time. In the end, Gunn decided that would be too predictable.

"A hundred percent, I started out thinking of him as full grown, and I didn't have him grow up," Gunn told "Then all of a sudden I thought, 'that's what [fans] would think [we] would do, and I really don't have to stick with that.

"It could be baby Groot, and baby Groot is very different. He's a unique little fella, and he's pretty great in the movie even though he's not even [physically] there [on set]. But all the time Chris [Pratt, Star-Lord] is like 'G-d dammit, he's gonna steal the f***ing movie.' And it's nothing. It's nothing there, but he's funny even in the dailies we're watching. And we got the guy on a stick, and people are laughing!" 

So we got Baby Groot instead, and indeed it seems like he's going to justify Pratt's fears and steal the movie with his childlike fury. I'm curious how Gunn will explain why Groot's not back to full size yet (Maybe the Dark Aster crash was just really rough on him?), and I'm also curious if we'll end up with other versions of Groot as the movie universe progresses. Pre-teen Groot would be amazing, in a terrifying sort of way.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters May 5.