With just a little less than two weeks before Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy lands in theaters, journalists and film bloggers were invited out to Walt Disney Studios over the weekend to see Marvel’s new film, which opens August 1st, and sit down and get a chance to talk those involved in the making of the film. On hand at the end was the film’s director, James Gunn, and his eccentric cast for the film, from left to right, Michael Rooker, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, and Benicio del Toro. The group shared stories about making the film, what it was like to be taking a massive risk in the Marvel Universe with a fairly unknown property, and much more.
The panel started off with a question aimed at James Gunn, asking him what it was that drew him to the project about this unknown group of characters, and if the fact they were so unknown made the project more daunting or more liberating. Gunn said:
It was frankly liberating. You know, for me, I think I would’ve had a harder time trying to fit into the regular Marvel scheme of things. This gave me a chance to take what I loved about Marvel movies and Marvel comics and create a whole new universe, which is really been the most exciting thing for me, in my entire professional career.
His elation and excitement for the characters and the universe, and the fact he go to build this from the ground up really was infectious, and you could tell how much it meant to him to really get a chance to do this. Gunn had done so many small things previously, so getting the chance to create this vast new side to the Marvel universe was a huge deal for him, and it shows.
Not long after, Chris Pratt was asked what it was like, or what it took, to create the attitude of his character Peter Quill, also known as Starlord. He was very humble about it, saying that it really didn’t come so much from himself, as it did from Gunn’s vision for the character:
In terms of the attitude, that was something that like, you know, and kind of the whole process for me on this one, was just trusting James, really, and taking big swings and sometimes falling flat on my face. The big challenge for me was to ignore the embarrassment of being an actor. It’s pretty embarrassing what you do, you’ve got people pointing cameras at you and hundreds of people watching you as you’re trying to be great, and often almost every time you’re not. And then, there’s one moment where you are, and the editor will dig through all the s**t to find it, and then put it in the movie. So the challenge is not like finding the attitude, it’s being open and willing to go for it and try new things, and having a director you can trust. So the attitude is not something I intended or created, it’s something James intended and created by getting me to try different things.
Gunn was quick to give Chris credit though, saying he really did bring the character to life, and it wasn’t so much his direction as it was the way Chris just was in the role. Pratt than began joking about the press conferences themselves, and how he really didn’t know how to handle it, and he’ll get better at them eventually:
I’m going to get better at this. I’m never done this that much. So uh, acting is something I’ve learned how to do through trial and error, you know? And I’m sure press conferences will be the same thing.
This was followed up with a question that came up to the fact that Chris is so perfect for the role, and how did he go to get it, and did he see himself as the perfect fit for the character:
Umm, I guess, uh, I didn’t…people probably didn’t see me, I’m not even sure I saw myself in this kind of a role, but what’s really kind of nice about this movie, and I believe this, is that we did something with this movie that’s never been done before. I think this is unlike anything thats ever been done, and I think anyone who has seen this movie would agree. I’ve never seen anything like this movie before, and uh, so I don’t think I was right to do anything similar to whats been done before, you know, I wouldn’t have been right to do other movies. So maybe people wouldn’t have seen me in this role, but that’s because they maybe weren’t able to have the vision that James had for what this would be, you know? He just told me during the audition, “I’m just looking for someone to come in here and own this and do their thing,” and at the time I was sort of having an identity crisis as an actor, I didn’t know what I was, like an action guy, or a comedy guy, and I thought maybe I could do a combination of both. There’s nothing out there that’s like it, maybe I can develop something, and my manager kept saying, “Guardians of the Galaxy, man!” And I finally said maybe you’re right, lets go meet on it. And then James said I just want someone to do their thing, and part of me thought, “OK, well then I’ll just do my thing, and if it’s not right, that’s OK.”
Gunn than continued from there, talking about how he initially didn’t even want to see Pratt for the role, because he didn’t think the chubby guy from Parks & Rec would fit:
We had screened test at least twenty people, actually screened test these twenty people. Big stars, no names, looking for the right person, because I really wanted somebody who could embody this character, and take it beyond what was on the page, in the same way Robert Downey, Jr. did for Iron Man, essentially. And nobody blew me away. Some people were really good, maybe some people were great, but no one blew me away. Sarah Finn, our casting director, really deservers the credit for Chris in a lot of ways, because she kept putting his picture in front of me, and saying, “You know, what about this guy? Why don’t you meet with him?” And I was like, “The chubby guy from Parks & Rec? You’re stupid.” And she kept doing, and kept doing it, and finally she like, really, I don’t even remember agreeing to see Chris. I just remember her saying, “OK, after this guy, Chris Pratt is here.” I was actually kind of mad, thinking I didn’t want to see him, but you know, then Chris came in, and he started to read, this is one hundred percent true, that within twenty seconds I was like, “Holy s**t, that’s the guy! That’s who we’ve been looking for.” He had this thing that was himself, and sometimes a role and a person are just meant for each other, and that’s what I felt this was, and I turned around and Sarah Finn was sitting behind me, and I was like, “He’s the guy. Chubby or not, if he’s chubby the world’s going to have to get ready for the first chubby superhero, because he’s still going to be better than all the
other people still!”
One of the biggest parts of the film is actually tied to Starlord’s walkman, one of the only things he has left from his life on Earth, and the mixtape that he has had since he was a kid. The music on the tape is pivotal to the film itself, and Gunn was asked how he seamlessly added the music into the film, without it feeling tacked on.
Yeah, well I mean for me, I started the script, there’s a script for my script, and then it didn’t one hundred percent speak to me, so I wanted to make some pretty major changes, and I rewrote the whole script. And the very first thing I thought of was this idea of the walkman and the cassette tape, which is really this character’s connection to his home planet of Earth. And that was the emotional center of the film. If the MacGuffin of the film is this orb that everyone’s chasing after, the emotional center is this walkman, and so it was just a natural part of the screenwriting process. All the songs that you see in the movie, Hooked on a Feeling, Redbone, Come and Get Your Love, were all written into the film, and were part of the screenplay, so they were from the ground floor up.
Zoe Saldana, who plays the beautiful but deadly Gamora, talked about what it was like coming into the film, and how she came up with the sort of fighting style she thought the character should have:
I wanted her fighting technique to be very, very different. Obviously when you show up, and you’re sort of the last person cast, and everybody’s just ready to go, the stunt coordinators have already designed the fights and they’ve helped the stunt woman working on what you’re going to do, and you sort of come in and just add your last little tweaks. I just didn’t want Gamora to look like any typical action person thats just like very martial artsy, and just does those Underworld jumps and lands on the ground and the ground breaks and s**t. I wanted her to be a little more graceful, and more antique, with a very classy way that she fights. My husband, one of his colleagues, was showing us, as I was sort of doing research for the role of Gamora, she was showing us her last collection of work she was going to do, that wasn’t ready for the public. But she basically recorded this bullfighter from Spain, dancing a duel, a fight, and leading this bull with his sword and his cape. She shot it at 60 frames per second, so it’s very slow, and I’d never seen anyone move so, so smoothly, and it’s just such a seductive dance, and I thought, “That’s Gamora!” She’s a woman, and she just has to be very seductive in the way that she tricks her enemy into falling into their own death.
It’s pretty cool seeing how much thought she put into how she wanted Gamora to fight and come off. The fact she drew inspiration from bullfighters makes the character so much more interesting, and you can definitely see what she means in the film’s final product.
When Vin Diesel was asked about what it was like to join the Marvel Universe, he opened up quite a bit about how it happened, and how it actually helped him heal a lot after the the loss of his close friend Paul Walker:
I’m new to Marvel. I guess this whole thing started for me through a social media thing that was adamant about me doing something with Marvel. There wasn’t really a six month window to do a character at Marvel, so when Kevin Feige called me and said he and James were talking about me playing a role, I had no idea what role it would be. And they sent over a book of conceptual art, and I went into the living room with my kids and I opened up the book and asked the kids what character they wanted daddy to play, and they all pointed at the tree. I knew that was a good sign. It was at a, uh, for me it was at a very important time when I did this movie. Because it was in December, and it was the first time I was around humans again, and it was the first time I was working again, and there was something very therapeutic about it in my personal life, and I guess in my professional life too, dealing with death, and then playing a character who celebrates life in a way that Groot celebrates life. Something really beautiful happened in playing this role, something as an actor I could have never imagined, and that is when my kids see trees, they refer to the trees as my brothers and sisters. The idea to be associated with the trees like that is remarkable, it’s so much more gratifying than you could ever imagine. I was really lucky that that specific role came up.
Gunn than went on to praise Diesel, and his work as Groot:
I’ll just say real quick you guys, no one will ever, ever understand from the bottom of my heart how much Vin Diesel brings to that role. Because I sat and watched that movie a billion times with my voice in there, my brother Sean’s voice in there, and when he came in and said, “I am Groot,” it really filled out that whole character, and it’s really quite incredible. It made that character, who was a CGI character, suddenly complete. Ant it still doesn’t sound like Vin to me, it sounds like Groot! There was a weird sort of, you know, strange energy in the room when he was doing it, and I think a lot of people have felt after they’ve seen the movie that Groot is this emotional character. We even felt it when we were shooting. But I’m really eternally grateful to him for that performance, and a little freaked out by it.
The way the cast and the director of Guardians of the Galaxy talk about the film is really full of passion and love for this project that is very rare these days. It’s great to see people who genuinely love the characters, the universe, and about how the film came together, and how happy they were to be a part of this. This was very apparent from the way the panel talked about their time on the film, and their characters, and their co-stars, and we can only hope the film does well enough to see them return to the big screen sooner rather than later.
Guardians of the Galaxy opens on August 1, 2014, and check back later this week when our review for the film goes live on July 24th!