A Liberating Project:
Behind the Scenes of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
By Ben Kayser, Managing Editor, and Barbara Dahl, Contributing Writer
Movieguide® had the opportunity to screen GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and hear from its cast and director.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a new superhero Marvel movie about Peter Quill, a human who was taken from earth when he was a young boy and brought to a whole new Galaxy with strange people, aliens and creatures. Raised to be a criminal and thief, Peter gets possession of a mysterious orb coveted by the evil Ronan who wants to use its power to a whole planet and the billions of lives inhabiting it. Peter, along with five other misfit criminals, decide it’s up to them to protect the galaxy from destruction.
Director James Gunn and actors Michael Rooker, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, and Benicio Del Toro attended a press junket.
Question: I’m going to start off with a warm up question for you James. Obviously these are some fairly unknown characters. Even though they exist in the Marvel Comics universe, what attracted you to the project to begin with and was breeding new characters like this a daunting task or was it liberating? What can you tell us about that?
James: It was frankly liberating. For me, I think I would’ve had a harder time fitting into the regular Marvel scheme of things, and this gave me a chance to take what I loved about Marvel movies and Marvel comics and create a whole new universe. It has been the most exciting thing for me in my entire professional career. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the different planets in the solar system, and I used to create for every planet a different kind of alien race with a certain kind of pet and a certain kind of house and a certain kind of water system and everything. I would draw hundreds of these pictures that were in a box and making this movie was like going back to that childhood box.
Question: Vin, did you ever have to do the acting exercise ‘be a tree’ where the teacher asks you to be a tree and did that pay off now that you are actually playing a tree? [audience laughs]
Vin: When I was a child actor yes, I had the fear that I was going to be cast as the tree. This was a way to face my fears …, and I am delighted that I did.
Question: Chris [Pratt], you’ve had your fair share of having to gain and lose weight for parts recently. Do you relate to your female colleagues and what they go through with media scrutiny?
Chris: … No, I’m sure I can’t relate what females go through in Hollywood. I do know what it feels like to eat emotionally and to be sad and make yourself happy with food and then to be almost immediately sad and now ashamed and to try [to bury] those feelings with more food. I know what that’s like, and it’s a vicious cycle and a very real thing. So, I know what it’s like to have body image issues. I also know if you just work hard and enlist the help of good coaches and be coachable and be willing to work hard you can actually change that.
Question: Chris, you’re just so perfect in this role, and you may not be who everyone imagines taking on a huge super hero role like this, maybe you even felt that way about yourself; so, I’m wondering what you thought you had to prove even in the auditions and for audiences. James, maybe you want to jump in as well.
Chris: People probably didn’t see me, and I’m not sure if I even saw myself in this kind of a role, but what’s really kind of nice about this movie is that we did something with this movie that’s never been done before. This is unlike anything that’s ever been done. Anyone who has seen this movie would agree. Maybe people wouldn’t see me in this role, but that’s because they weren’t able to have the kind of vision that James had for what this could be. He told me in the audition that he was just looking for someone to come in and own this and do their thing. At the time, I was sort of having an identity crisis. I didn’t know if I was an action guy or a comedy guy, and I thought maybe I’m a combination of both but there’s nothing out there like that.
James Gunn (Director): We had screen tested 20 people of big stars and no names looking for the right person because I really wanted someone who could embody this character and take it beyond what was on the page, the same way Robert Downey Jr. did with Iron Man. Nobody blew me away. Plenty of people were really good. Maybe some people were great, but nobody blew me away. Then, Chris came in and started to read, and, this is 100 % true, that within 20 seconds, I was like, “That’s the guy!” That’s who we’ve been looking for. He had this thing that was himself. Sometimes, a role and a person are meant for each other, and that’s what I felt this was. I was like, ‘He’s the guy, chubby or not. If he’s chubby [during the shoot], the world’s better get ready for the first chubby super hero.
Question: “James, the movie is very action packed and very funny, but it also got a lot of heart. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind the emotional journey that you took the characters through in exposing their vulnerabilities?
James: To me, what the movie is about is a couple of things. Number one, the movie is about the son’s relationship to his mother, and how it manifests itself throughout the rest of his life, and that to me is an emotional thing. The second thing is that we live in a world where everybody is supposed to be cool and act tough and put up fronts, and everybody is so cynical, and there’s a cool contest on the Internet, and this movie is about actually allowing yourself [to care]. So, that’s a naturally emotional thing for me. Thirdly, I fell in love with these characters as I was making this movie. I fell in love with these actors as I was making it, and I think my natural sensitivity to that is just something that was automatically was expressed within the film. It’s a film about family.
Question: James, the music plays such an important part in the movie, and I think a lesser filmmaker would’ve just tacked on these songs that he wanted to hear in his movie, but you found a way to make them organic from character and story. Tell me about that process.
James: There was a script before my script. It didn’t 100 percent speak to me. I rewrote the whole script, and the very first thing that 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. That was the emotional center of the movie. It was just a naturally part of the screenwriting process that all those songs that you hear in the movie were all written into the film, and they’re all part of the screenplay.
Question: Vin, Dave and Benecio, what is the appeal of the Marvel universe and particularly this new offshoot, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
Dave Bautista: I didn’t look at it so much as the Marvel thing. I was very familiar with Marvel, obviously. I realized they had a winning formula. I really looked at it as something new and completely on its own. It was just original and fresh! I looked at it strictly from the standpoint of Drax [his character in the movie, who takes everything literally].
Benecio: I’ve done a lot of movies. You never know. You can do a movie you think is great, and then you see it, and it doesn’t work. This is something that is the opposite. I loved working with everyone, and then the final project was a great movie.
Vin: I’m new to Marvel. This whole thing started with a social media wave that was adamant about me doing something with Marvel. There wasn’t really a six-month window to do a character at Marvel. When James called me about doing a role, I had no idea what role it would be. Now, my kids walk around the house reciting all the characters. I was lucky that when I went to breathe life into this role I had a director who was willing to indulge the way he did. I was the last person involved, so I got to see all the performances, and I was blown away by the performances. It felt too good to be true. While I was recording day in and day out, my script said, ‘I am Groot,’ and next to it was a paragraph of what those words meant. It was refreshing that James cared about all the little nuances. When you watch the movie, you can see a director who loves his actors, and it shines through the movie in my mind.