My trip to LA was filled with excitement: #GuardiansOfTheGalaxyEvent, #100FootJourneyEvent & #ABCFamilyEvent. Besides having the opportunity to interview the talented cast from Guardians of the Galaxy: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista, we had the chance to sit down and pick the brain of the man behind the movie –> Director James Gunn!
James Gunn was all smiles when he walked into the conference room filled with 25 excited bloggers. We were ready for him, laptops open, iPhones in hand ready to tweet, and all eyes on him.
James : [LAUGHS] I didn’t know it was gonna be so many people. [LAUGHS] So many iPhones. [LAUGHS] You guys have been tweeting me and I love it, I love it. Yeah, I love it. [LAUGHS]
Do you have a love for dance?
James : Yeah, I do, yeah. When I say, you know, Kevin Bacon is a great national hero, I mean it. I love dancing, and I love pop music. I love super heroes and I love space adventures. And I love raccoons. So I have all the things I love in one movie. You know.
Does Kevin Bacon know about this?
James : [LAUGHS] Does Kevin — he knows that I love him. You know, Kevin was in my last movie. And he doesn’t know it, so we’ve got to keep it quiet. Yeah, I know, I don’t think he knows yet. And I [was] supposed to invited him to the New York premiere. And someone reminded him I didn’t do it. So maybe I’ll text him after I get out of here. But I’m excited, for him to see it.
You’re a director, producer, and you’re an actor. Is there anything that you don’t do?
James : [LAUGHS] Well, filmmaking wise, I could never be a DP. I mean, I’m just not able to do it. Yeah, there’s a lot of things I could never do. You know. I think really what I do best is picking other people. And finding what other people are good at, and sort of arranging those in a way that, you know, makes a good movie. And I think that’s really what a good director is able to do. And then I have a basic knowledge of every, you know, most parts of filmmaking. So that I can have a conversation with those people, just sort of bring a film to the desired place.
What drew you to GUARDIANS?
James : I think the main thing that drew me to GUARDIANS was the ability to create a whole new wing of the Marvel universe. I would find a very difficult time say making a sequel to another Marvel movie. Or even making another earthbound Marvel movie that’s leading into, directly into The Avengers, because you’re working so much within the world that’s already been created. And with GUARDIANS, I was able to create, not just a new world, but new worlds, new characters, new species. And I found that to be just the most freeing thing ever. When I was a little boy, I had a box. And this box, I was sort of obsessed with. And within it I would have, I was obsessed with the solar system and all the different planets. And I would make drawings for each one of the different planets, of the species that lived on that planet. What their pets were. And what their houses looked like, what their water systems were like. And this box became filled over time with this sort of universe inside of it, that I created. And that is, that’s where my heart was. And that’s still where my heart is. Because that’s what this movie is.
Who’s your favorite Guardian and why?
James : Well, the one I feel the most connected to is Rocket. Because I feel, the outcast in Rocket. And although I think that Rocket is the meanest Guardian, I think he’s the most selfish Guardian. I think he’s probably the Guardian that learns the least at the end of the movie. He is the saddest. And,[LAUGHS] well, it’s very strange. Very strange I connected ’cause I started to get [LAUGHS] emotional.
[“OHHHH” FROM WOMEN IN AUDIENCE] We could all see how emotional James got when he spoke of Rocket. He had a true connection with that character and knew that Rocket was the key to making this movie what is is today.
James : But I feel like he’s like [LAUGHS] — he’s just this little mangled guy that is completely alone in this world. There’s nothing else like him, he’s been torn apart and put back together again. He was originally an innocent little animal, I love animals to begin with. So he’s just a, you know, I’ve come to love him. And I think probably also because, you know, I probably had the greatest [time] in creating Rocket over any of the other Guardians. Rocket and Groot both. Because that really, you know, unlike you know, Star-Lord, Chris and I have to be on the same level. And see that we see things in the same way. I write his dialogue, he says it. I pull this stuff out of him, he adds stuff. We’re creating a character together, with Rocket, and there’s a lot more people involved. It’s, it’s much more like conducting a symphony, within one character. To, to make somebody alive and so they tend — you know, it tends to become more of a real character to me.
How’s it feel doing a PG-13 movie, knowing it’s gonna be geared more towards a younger audience, versus your R rated movie?
James : I loved it, I mean when I set out to make this movie I didn’t set out to make a movie that was, you know, like the movies I loved as a kid. You know, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and STAR WARS, and these films. But I wanted to make a movie that would make kids and adults feel like I felt when I saw this movie. You know, something that would actively inspire imagination. Something that could touch me both — and I found it in the great opportunity to make a movie that was about family, about friendship. That was about you know, I think in the world, everybody’s — it’s so important to be cool and so important to like be hip and show how you don’t care. And this movie is the exact opposite. It’s a movie about caring. It’s a movie that allows emotions into a spectacle film, which is extremely rare, you know. Real characters, real people with flaws. You know, not exactly real people, real aliens. Monsters and that stuff.
How long did it take from beginning to end, for you? And then also, what was the most complicated process in making the film?
James : I would say that, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was exactly two years from today, when it started. I came in July of 2012, to meet with those guys. I was pretty much started working on it right after that. In terms of you know, storyboarding and writing the screenplay, and that. And then moved to England in February of whatever was after that. And you know, it really finished the movie, I went to Singapore a, a week ago Monday. And I finished the movie, the visual effects right before I got on a plane. I went from Disney to the airport. And then I came back here and I finished the 3D just a few days ago. So it’s been that. And the most, the most difficult, — you know, letting go has not been the easiest part of it. Because you, your brain gets used to doing one thing for two years. And, this has been my life.
And I was talking about Rocket earlier. And like the, the weirdest things started happening over the, you know, the first few days before I had to leave for Singapore, was like, I don’t want to leave, you know, those characters behind. I’m going to miss that. You know and it makes me especially lonely person. But those characters have become my friends over the past two years. So I don’t think it was the most difficult. But that’s been very difficult. I think the most difficult part is simply the length of time, the fact that it’s a marathon. And the lack of sleep that has occurred during, you know, the off and on during those two years.
With the Marvel cinematic universe expanding exponentially, are there any couple characters you’d like to see together in a story? Or in a movie?
James : I would love to tell the Rocket and Groot story for sure. Yeah, I love them. But you know, at the same time, I’d love to tell the, to do the Drax movie, you know. I’d love to do the Gamora film. I think they’re all interesting enough to me. I want to do the Nebula film. It’s something I actually think about a lot.So I think that all those characters, I have a deep enough connection to that, they could go off on their own direction.
In the Guardians comics there is a lot of interplay with the Avengers. Was there any interconnection or conversations that you had with Joss Wheedon, on what he has done or is doing, with the Avengers?
James : Yes, for sure. I mean, I would talk to Joss, ’cause I didn’t want to do anything that was gonna contradict future plans. And really the one, you know, piece of connective tissue is Thanos, he’s the guy who’s at the end of The Avengers. He’s the guy who’s the character in our movie, and he will likely show up in future Marvel movies. So that was something that all along, I would have conversations with Joss about all the Thanos aspects of things. And even down to the casting, I would talk to Joss.
What was the most difficult thing to bring to the big screen?
James : Most difficult thing to bring? Well, definitely the most difficult were the CGI characters, ’cause we had to make them as real and believable and as loveable as the rest of the characters in the movie. And I am beyond a perfectionist when it comes to visual effects. I’m very very hard on visual effects people. To try to get the most out of them. And my eyes are really difficult and harsh on that stuff. So that was the long road.
Were there hilarious antics that took place while filming?
James: [LAUGHS VERY LOUDLY] Any hilarious antics – well, one of our great moments was in the dance off. We didn’t tell Dave Bautista. I went up to Chris and Zoe, and I said — no, to Lee Pace, and Chris and Zoe. Lee Pace who plays Ronan. And I said, “When Chris challenges you to a dance-off, you know, take him up on it.” [LAUGHS] And so Chris started dancing. And then Ronan goes, “You got it, pal, you’re on!” And he throws down his hammer and he’s doing this ridiculous dance that his six foot five frame in this gigantic metal object could do. And he’s dancing, and then Gamora starts dancing. And then they turn it over to Dave and Dave is like, “Oh, no.” And he did it, he did, he just started dancing and then, we had about 200 extras on set or something. And all of them started dancing, my brother who plays Rocket on set, started dancing. And I have it all on film, it’s one of my favorite things. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’ll be on the DVD, for sure.
That is one outtake I can’t wait to see!
With Rocket it was really interesting to hear that character. So how was it working with Bradley Cooper doing a voice-over for that?
James : Intensely. Because I think Bradley had the hardest job of anyone on this movie. Because I had such a specific idea of who Rocket was. By the time we recorded him, we had already shot the whole movie. My brother played Rocket on the set. And he was an integral part of the team on set. And you know, you talk to the other actors, he — Sean is what creates the dynamic between those, you know, those five characters on set. He’s a, a part of that. So Bradley had a lot of you know, either expectations, or you know, hopes of mine that he had to fulfill. And the first time he came in, the first day he recorded, I was probably the most relieving day I’ve had on the entire film. Because I always knew the movie would work if Rocket worked. But we worked, you know, we worked very very well. And thank god Bradley is a pretty egoless guy. Which is you know, strange for someone who is as handsome and talented as he is. But he’s like, “Listen, if you have a line reading you want to give me, if you want me to say a line like your brother said it, just let me know.” And I didn’t always take him up on that. But occasionally I would. And there is a lot of Bradley, did things a thousand, thousand times. And we recorded whole scenes that we did with his voice. And we went, we put him in the, the scene and I was like, I think we gotta go do it again. ‘Cause Bradley sounds like a little bit different than he did on the other day. Or, Bradley is a little too angry. He’s not angry enough. And then we’d go back and rerecord it. And that’s one of the difficulties when you’re doing a voice actor, you can kind of keep doing it again and again and again and again. And I did.
Why did you go with Yondu?
James : [LAUGHS REALLY LOUDLY] Wow. You know, it’s simply because I love Yondu’s super power. I thought Yondu’s super power’s about the coolest thing ever. And it’s so different from any super power we’ve ever seen in any movie, that I’m like, I think this is something that could really be cinematic. So that’s, that’s the main thing that attracted me to Yondu. And also, my friend — Michael Rooker is my friend, who plays Yondu. He’s unfortunately my friend, I’m stuck with him. But, I thought that I really wanted the chance to write a character for Michael. Because he’s always playing these, these tough guys, these hard guys. And these sort of humorless guys. AndI wanted to get that part of Michael that is that big laughing, like sort of insane maniac that he is. And you know, have that be a part of a character. And, and I felt like with Yondu I was able to do that.
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Disclosure: Disney invited me on this press trip and is paying all of my expenses (except travel). No other compensation is being received. All opinions are always 100% my own and honest.