Normally, I would regale you with totally cool James Gunn is in person (for the record, he is way cool,) or how much I am way-past-simply-infatuation-to-full-on-head-over-heels-in-lifelong-love with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, but I already did that here: https://www.ruralmom.com/2014/08/Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-movie-review.html
So, instead, I’m going to let you hang on every word this brilliant director had to say in the blogger event interview I attended, because that’s exactly what I did.
When you are in the room with James Gunn, you get the sense that he’s an over-grown kid holding onto a bubbling-to-the-brim bottle of secrets he’s just dying to share. He’s holding the galaxy and every word reveals the depth of the universe. Soak up his insights… and then go see how it plays out in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY for the first time… or for the fourth of fifth!
James Gunn (JG:) [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]
JG : Yeah, I do, yeah. When I say, you know, Kevin Bacon is a great national hero, I mean it. I love dancing, and I, I love pop music. And I love super heroes and I love space adventures. And I love raccoons. So I have all the things I love in one movie.
JG : [LAUGHS] Does Kevin — he knows that I love him. He, you know, Kevin was in my last movie. And he doesn’t know it, so we’ve got to keep it quiet. I don’t think he knows yet. And I was supposed to invite him to the New York premiere. And someone reminded him I didn’t do it. But, uh, 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?
JG : [LAUGHS] Well, film-making wise, I could never be a DP. I mean, it’s just 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 film-making. 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?
JG : 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 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 and 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. Within it I would have the solar system and all the different planets. 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.
JG : The one I feel the most connected to is Rocket. Uh, 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 well, it’s very strange. Very strange I connected ’cause I started to get emotional.
But I feel, 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 I’ve come to love him. And, 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 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 there’s a lot more people involved. It’s much more like conducting a symphony, within one character. To, to make somebody alive, 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 movies?
JG : I loved it, when I set out to make this movie, I set out to make a movie that was like the movies I loved as a kid. You know, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and STAR WARS, and these films. I wanted to make a movie that would make kids and adults feel like I felt when I saw those movies. You know, something that would actively inspire imagination. Something that could touch me. 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.
I have a two part question. How long did it take from beginning to end, for you? And then also, what was the most complicated process in making the film?
JG : I would say that, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was exactly two years from today, when it started. Uh, so I came in in, uh, July of 2012, to meet with those guys. I was pretty much started working on it right after that. Uh, in terms of story-boarding and writing the screenplay and that.
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. The most, the most difficult part – letting go has not been the easiest part of it. Because your brain gets used to doing one thing for two years and this has been my life.
I was talking about Rocket earlier, and like the weirdest things started happening over the first few days before I had to leave for Singapore. I was like, I don’t want to leave those characters behind. I’m going to miss that. You know, and it makes me especially a lonely person, but those characters have become my friends over the past two years. 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, Any there any couple characters you’d like to see together in a story? Or in a movie?
JG : 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 to do the Drax movie. 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. Uh, so I think that all those characters, I have a deep enough connection to that they could go off on their own direction.
JG : Yes, for sure. I mean, uh, I would talk to Joss, ’cause I didn’t want to do anything that was gonna contradict future plans. And really the one 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, even down to the casting, I would talk to Joss.
JG : Definitely the most difficult were the CGI characters, ’cause we had to make them as real and believable and as lovable as the rest of the characters in the movie. I am beyond a perfectionist when it comes to visual effects. I’m very very hard on visual effects people and try to get the most out of them. My eyes are really difficult and harsh on that stuff, so that was the long road.
JG : [LAUGHS VERY LOUDLY] Uh, any hilarious antics – well, one of our great moments was “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 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. It’ll be on the DVD, for sure.
With Rocket it was really interesting to hear that character. So how was it working with Bradley Cooper doing a voice-over for that?
JG : Intense, because I think Bradley had the hardest job of anyone on this movie. 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 five characters on set.
Bradley had a lot of either expectations, or hopes of mine that he had to fulfill. And the first time he came in, the first day he recorded, was probably the most relieving day I’ve had on the entire film, because I always knew the movie would work if Rocket worked. And,we worked very, very well. Thank God, Bradley is a pretty ego-less guy, which is 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. There are a lot of things Bradley did a thousand, thousand times. 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. Bradley is a little too angry. He’s not angry enough. And then we’d go back and rerecord it. 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.
JG : [LAUGHS REALLY LOUDLY] Wow. Uh, 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, who plays Yondu –he’s unfortunately my friend, I’m stuck with him. 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. I wanted to get that part of Michael that is that big into laughing, like sort of insane maniac that he is. And you know, have that be a part of a character. I felt like with Yondu I was able to do that.
At the heart of James Gunn is certainly a genius, but also a truly dedicated artist and a man with a message. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is more than simply a spectacular Marvel sci-fi film, it’s a social commentary. As a misfit, I totally understood Gunn’s fascination and connection with Rocket and I gained a new appreciation for how much of his soul was poured into this project.
For me, the cinema world is a better place thanks to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. My sincere thanks to James Gunn for this masterpiece of film brilliance. It has certainly touched my soul!
For more information on GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY:
|Bloggers in attendance with James Gunn. (In case you are curious, I’m third from the left in the back row.)|
Disclosure: I received an exclusive trip courtesy of Disney to attend various events including an interview with James Gunn. I’m under no obligation to report anything other than my personal experience, thoughts and opinions.