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Guardians of the Galaxy - James Gunn interview

Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JAMES Gunn talks about assembling his cast for Guardians of the Galaxy and why Marvel were great in giving him the freedom to create a world that was unique and fun.

He also talks about some of the films that inspired him as a child, why he’d like to see one of the Guardians kill Iron Man and how Dave Bautista turned real-life guardian at the film’s wrap party. He was speaking at a UK press conference…

Q. How did you come to cast the main Guardians?
James Gunn: Well, the interesting thing with all four of the actors, if I think back along the journey, with each one of them… the minute we met there was something very… The first time I met Dave [Bautista] in an audition room, I just really got him; Chris [Pratt] and I had mutual friends and we met each other; Karen and I were hanging out in my office and laughing and having fun, and I first met Zoe [Saldana] on the phone and we totally just got along really well. It was one of those really cool things where you still love everyone on the project that you liked so much in the beginning. That was the coolest thing about this for me.

Q. It sounds like you had a great wrap party…
James Gunn: Yeah, Dave Bautista protected my brother [laughs]. There was a guy who was a crew member who was bothering a bunch of people. He came up to me and was offering me drugs and I don’t even drink! I was like: “Get away from me!” And he grabbed the little person who was the reference for Rocket on the set… he grabbed her. And then there was another girl, who was one of the stand-ins, and he grabbed her butt! And my brother Sean, who plays Kraglin in the movie, and who is not a big guy, got in this guy’s face – and he was a big guy! But he was like: “What are you doing?” And then someone ran over to me and said: “Your brother is about to get into a fight!” And I walked over to the guy and told him to leave because he had grabbed this girl. And then the stand-in came up to me and said: “James, he picked me up by the tits!” I was like: “Woah!” And then Dave noticed and asked what the problem was and this big guy came marching over to Dave and he was about to get in Dave’s face, but Dave has actual super-powers, and he just went like this [motions putting his hand out to stop the guy] and he went [motions flying backwards]. He tapped the guy [motions firmly but gently] and the guy literally flew back [laughs]. It was awesome. He has actual super powers!

Q. Can you talk a little about the casting of Karen Gillan?
James Gunn: I actually told Karen the other day that her audition was my favourite audition… her screen test was my favourite audition of anybody in the entire process. Her audition was the coolest.

Q. Why?
James Gunn: Because she was so good. It was like she took this character that was a pretty simple character and it was a pretty long sequence. It was actually pretty moving… this character that she created. I think her character is like the Boba Fett of the movie and she just has these little moments in the movie where you can see that there’s a lot more to this character than just being the villainess.

Q. Who do you think stole the show the most in the movie? Or is it like choosing your favourite kid?
James Gunn: Well, I have a favourite kid and it’s Rocket [laughs]. For me, in some ways, I think Groot… I just go by the Tweets I get and, frankly, I get more Tweets about Groot and Bautista than anybody else. I like to say that it’s Bautista [Drax] that steals the show because it embarrasses him. So, he’s the one person I like to compliment as much as possible because he hates it. But really I think everybody steals it. Chris [Pratt] has obviously emerged as a giant movie star from this project, which is incredible, and Zoe is kind of the Clint Eastwood of the film. And Karen is just so visually arresting. I think of her and she has this gigantic beauty and charisma that’s so present. And Rocket’s maybe the funniest, and Groot is the soul of the movie, but then Bautista comes in and he’s just the most unique character in the whole movie. He’s so funny and there’s nobody else in the world that could play that role. Actually, one of the comments I got on Twitter and Facebook was that everybody kind of steals the movie in turn. And it really is an ensemble piece. But I think that’s what makes the movie so good – there isn’t that one character who steals it. It’s not one guy. It’s really the dynamism between the characters together that works more so than any individual characters.

Q. If the Guardians were to one day meet The Avengers, who would you like to work with or perhaps collide with?
James Gunn: I would like to see them kill Thor [laughs]. Chris [Hemsworth] and I were driving the other day and we were having one our ridiculous conversations, talking about all the different things that could happen to the Guardians in this universe, as we do endlessly. If you think we’re sick of hearing about the Guardians, no we talk about it constantly! And I said: “Seriously, we really, really think that Starlord [Peter Quill] should kill Iron Man.” The audience would think it was so awesome if he came down and shot Tony Stark in the face. People would be so surprised.

Chris Pratt: Yeah they would! Or maybe Rocket. Without giving away anything… well, none of my ideas are ever going to be realised so I may as well tell you all of them! But in the comic, Gamora and Iron Man have a thing… they hook up. But what if Quill says he doesn’t like it and maybe Rocket hears it and shoots Tony Stark – just blows a hole in his face [laughs]! It would be amazing! It would be super-bad.
James Gunn: Robert [Downey Jr] makes $100 million a movie, so we can’t afford to have that anymore [laughs].

Q. What songs do you want on the Awesome Mix Tape Vol 2?
James Gunn: Well, I haven’t yet quite figured out the Awesome Mix Tape Volume 2 yet, so… the truth is, the songs that were chosen for the movie were chosen to be specific to those scenes. So, it wasn’t so much about what songs I like the best, as it is about what songs feed the scenes. All the songs were written into the script and they were all married to the story of the galaxy, which is what makes it work so well. So, if I was to think about a song that I like a lot and want to put in the movie, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it would work. In fact, one of my favourite songs in the movie was ELO’s Living Thing because, to me, Living Thing was like the main Guardians song because ELO seemed to be the Guardians house-band almost. But that is no longer in the movie because the movie works really well without that particular scene.

Q. And what song would be playing when you kill Iron Man?
Chris Pratt: [Sings] “Hello [by Lionel Ritchie], is it me you’re looking for?” [Then mimics shooting action] And credit roll… seven minutes into the movie! People would be going: “Is it over? Totally worth it!”

James Gunn: And the rest of the movie is like a Weekend at Bernie’s style thing [laughs].

Q. Did you have a lot more freedom to shape this film personally rather than if you were directing a better known Marvel franchise?
James Gunn: Yeah. For me, that was the whole appeal of this project in the first place, was to create that world and to create many worlds. I think I would have a very hard time doing a sequel to another Marvel movie or even setting up another character to be in The Avengers. I felt a lot of freedom in creating this movie and I’m very, very grateful to Marvel because every time I came up with something, or some crazy ideas, like ‘let’s have a seven page scene where the characters argue about stupid stuff in the beginning of the third act’, Marvel would be like: “That’s great! We love it!” Or ‘let’s have all of these bright colours like old ‘50s and ‘60s movies’ and they’d be like ‘we love it’, or ‘let’s have Michael Rooker, who is totally insane, playing the role of Yondu’, and they were ‘we love it’.

For some reason, I was allowed to go wild and it’s been an amazing experience. I know that applies to all of us. This has felt like a special movie to all of us from the very beginning. The flavour of it was special and we felt like we were doing something that was very new, very unique, and then also harking back films that we all loved as a kid. I mean, I remember showing Zoe [Saldana] some of the scenes in the editing room and she was jumping around like a little kid. And I remember how I felt when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark as a kid or Empire Strikes Back. So, it was fun to create that sort of thing. So many movies are dark and brooding, so to be able to create something that’s a little bit more fun, and yet something that also has the emotional weight and the heart to it as well.

Q. This is one of the best marketed campaigns I’ve seen. How do you feel about it?
James Gunn: The marketing was amazing. I’ll be completely honest with you. We went out and tested those original trailers we did for the movie and we had a really mainstream one that made it look all serious. It made it look like a very normal science fiction space movie. And then we had a trailer that we did with Hooked On A Feeling and all that stuff, and we took them [both] out to malls and showed people and people were kind of like: “I don’t like any of these!” So, we were like: “Well, we may as well go with the one that’s most honest and true to the film.” So, we used the Hooked On A Feeling one, which really gave you a feeling of what the movie was. And it just shows you that that stuff is all bullshit because people then loved the trailer. We beat every other movie [when it debuted] in our time slot. We had three times the amount of hits that Man of Steel had on our first day, and yet nobody knows who the Guardians of the Galaxy are. So, it worked really well but that’s just because it was true to the movie.

And that’s been our philosophy every step of the way. So, this is a testament to Disney and their marketing team who decided to sell this movie as what it is and not try to make it into something else that’s more palatable to what they think of as middle America. And that has been a pretty cool experience. But we’ll find out whether that translates to box office in a couple of days.

Read our review of Guardians of the Galaxy

Read our interview with Chris Pratt