Meet James Gunn
James walked into a room of 25 bloggers looking like a kid in a candy store. Grinning from ear to ear, he was undoubtedly excited that a room 88% female was so excited to talk to him about a comic book movie that he directed. After all, while we loved it, we aren't the target audience for the Guardians of the Galaxy film. Read on to learn which character is James' favorite, why he wrote in Yondu and not Major Victory, and how much he loves Kevin Bacon.
James: [LAUGHS] I didn't know it was gonna be so many people. [LAUGHS] So many iPhones. You guys have been tweeting me and I love it, I love it.
Do you have a love for dance?
James: Yeah, I do, yeah. When I say, Kevin Bacon is a great national hero, I mean it. I love dancing, and 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.
Does Kevin Bacon know about this?
James: [LAUGHS] Does Kevin—he knows that I love him. 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 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: Well, filmmaking wise, I could never be a DP. I’m just not able to do it. Yeah, there’s a lot of things I could never do. I think what I do best is picking other people. Finding what other people are good at, and sort of arranging those in a way that 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 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 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—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. 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’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: 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. It’s very strange. Very strange I connected 'cause I started to get emotional.
But I feel like 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 I think probably also because, you know, I probably had the greatest hand in creating Rocket over any of the other Guardians. Rocket and Groot both. Because 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 make somebody alive and so it tends to become more of a real character to me.
How does it feel doing a PG-13 movie, knowing it’s going be geared more towards a younger audience, versus your R rated movies?
James: I loved it. When I set out to make this movie, I didn’t set out to make a movie that was like the movies I loved as a kid. 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. Something that would actively inspire imagination. I found it in the great opportunity to make a movie that was about family, about friendship.
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. Real characters, real people with flaws. You know, not exactly real people, real aliens. Monsters and that stuff.
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?
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 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. 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 would talk to Joss.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 the Thanos aspects of things. And even down to the casting, I would talk to Joss.
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 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 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, it’ll be on the DVD, for sure.
So how was it working with Bradley Cooper doing a voice-over for Rocket?
James: Intense. 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—Sean is what creates the dynamic between those five characters on set. He’s a, a part of that.
So 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. And thank god, Bradley is a pretty egoless guy. Which is strange for someone who is as handsome and talented as he is.
But he was 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 were times Bradley did things a thousand times. And we recorded whole scenes that we did with his voice. And we put him in the scene and I was like, “I think we gotta go do it again.”
Because Bradley sounds 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 instead of Major Victory?
James: [LAUGHS REALLY LOUDLY] Wow. It's simply because I love Yondu’s super power. I thought Yondu’s super power is 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—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 tough guys, these hard guys. And these sort of humorless guys. I wanted to get that part of Michael that is that big laughing, sort of insane maniac that he is. And you know, have that be a part of a character. And I felt like with Yondu I was able to do that.
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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY opens in theaters everywhere on August 1, 2014
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From Marvel, the studio that brought you the global blockbuster franchises of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers, comes a new team—the Guardians of the Galaxy. An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel's “Guardians of the Galaxy” expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits—Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand—with the galaxy's fate in the balance.
Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which first appeared in comic books in Marvel Super-Heroes, Issue #18 (Jan. 1969), stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael, and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector.
James Gunn is the director of the film with Kevin Feige, p.g.a., producing. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jeremy Latcham, Alan Fine, and Stan Lee serve as executive producers. Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” is written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman and released in U.S. theaters on August 1, 2014.Disclaimer: I was selected to attend an all-expense paid trip to LA courtesy of Disney to experience these incredible events, along with a group of 24 other bloggers. All opinions, excitement, and smiles are my own.
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