No set visit is complete without a chat with the director – and James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, completely agrees with this statement. Even though we were pressed for time and all had flights to catch, he told us not to leave without a chance to talk to him. James even had assistants bring our luggage to our car so that we could have a conversation with him. We were all thrilled to work an interview with James in to our busy schedule. It had been a long day for all of us – James included. He mentioned that there were two sets running at the same time that day, one with Kurt Russell, and one with everybody else – so he had been running back and forth all day. We actually got to see both sets – we interviewed Kurt on his and watched the rest of the cast film on the other. What an experience – I still cannot believe it happened!
We had been told earlier in the day that James had Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 all planned out even before Volume 1 was released. We asked him how he came up with the idea for the sequel. “A lot of the sequel is about Quill’s relationship to his two fathers – Yondu and Kurt – the character Kurt Russell plays.” At this point, we had no idea that Kurt would be playing Ego the Living Planet. As a Marvel Comics fan, I love Ego and there are so many questions running through my head that I wish I got to ask – maybe I will have the chance some day, who knows.
“The mythology of all of that was something that was written before the first movie was written. I knew basically where he was going. Basically who his father was. Basically what Yondu’s relationship was to his father. So a lot of mythology came then. Then the story started to ferment – during the first movie I was always taking notes and thinking about it. I knew this was a story – I wasn’t sure if it should be the sequel. I wasn’t sure if it should be a third movie in a trilogy. Then when it came time to actually write the screenplay, I [thought]let’s just go for broke and do that story that I had in my head, which was this one. I started actually physically writing it on the day the first movie came out – I was at a loss for what I’m going to do – sit around and wait to see how much money we make? I’ve gotta do something to distract myself and I found the healthiest thing to do was to get back in to part of the process that I had some control over – which was processing my own work as opposed to being concerned with what the results were.”
Casting Kurt Russell
Speaking of Kurt Russell, we asked James if he had Kurt planned as Peter Quill’s father. “No I didn’t. At one point Chris [Pratt] brought him up, and I didn’t take him very seriously. At another point Fred Raskin, who is our editor, brought him up. Fred cut Kurt’s last two movies. He really liked him as an actor and if an editor likes an actor, you know that the actor is good. Because there’s a lot of actors that cut together very well. You have to piece together their good performances and it’s actually difficult. Then people go and say, oh this person’s great. But it takes a lot of work to get there.”
Awesome Mix Vol. 2
One constant theme throughout the day was the music. Just as in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1, Peter Quill is listening to a mix tape and the songs are playing during key moments in the movie. Everyone on set assured us that the music in Volume 2 was just as important, if not more important, to telling the story. In fact, many people called the music a character of the film – James being one of them.
“I think that music is really the character of Peter Quill’s mom, so that’s his relationship with his mother – through the music. Music is an important thing in my own life so I think it’s something that keeps that relationship alive. And that relationship is very much kept alive in this second movie. His relationship with his mother, as well as his relationship with his father, and what that is exactly – that’s told through music. I think in the first movie, there’s another practical reason, which is that people were going into this movie, different planets, different worlds, different characters from other planets, and the music was a way we kept everybody grounded in something that was attached to Earth, something that was familiar in the midst of all this unfamiliar stuff. Something that was an emotional tether, basically, to Earth.”
The Message Behind It All
One of my favorite questions to ask a director is what message do they hope viewers and families walk away with after watching a movie. I love movies that send a good, positive message. We asked James this question about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and this is what he had to say.
“I don’t think so much about what’s the message of the movie, so much as what’s the effect it has on people? The reason I make movies is that when I was a kid and I saw a great movie with my family and it made me love people more when I walked out of the theater than when I walked in. So if there’s anything that this movie can do, it’s that. I think it’s a really, truly emotional film. I think the first one was emotional, and I think we take this one to a much deeper level of the emotion. The Guardians are a group of outcasts. They’re all creatures or people who don’t belong in society anywhere but with each other.”
“One of the very moving things to me from the first movie is getting messages from all the people who feel like they are outsiders – who relate to the Guardians. Whether it’s Gamora or a lot of people relate to Drax and to Groot. A lot of young children really relate to Groot. There’s been a lot of people with autism who relate a lot to Drax because he has a very different way of perceiving the world and metaphors. I can tell you countless people that have written me thank you for that, I don’t understand metaphors and Drax is like me and he’s a superhero to me. The story is a story about families that are not traditional. Peter Quill has a biological father. He has an adopted father. His adopted father is far from perfect.”
When my fellow bloggers last talked to James around the time Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 released, his favorite character was Rocket. We asked him if Rocket was still his favorite, and he said yes, but he was torn now that Baby Groot was added to the cast!
“Baby Groot is pretty awesome. There’s times when we’re shooting and it’s nothing – it’s either a little stick or I’m describing it. Baby Groot’s gonna steal the whole movie and he’s not even there. I can tell you on the first movie, we were barely aware of Groot. He wasn’t that present on set. My brother, Sean, played Rocket. So he was always there and everybody knew Rocket as a real character. But Groot wasn’t there, and then we start putting the movie together and creating Groot in post, and it was like, oh wow, the character really fills out once we started to create him. But they would just forget about him in the first movie because a couple times Groot’s like, what about me? I’m over here. I want my share of things. And that’s really what we were treating him like. So I love Baby Groot. But Rocket’s the one.”
“I just relate so deeply to Rocket and I really feel as if he’s in this movie. It’s something that we succeeded a lot at in this film – each character has their own story. I think that’s been more true for the other non-Star-Lord characters in this movie than in the first movie – especially for Gamora and Rocket. They have their very specific stories that are about them. The first story was about becoming a family and this one’s about being a family. So it makes a big difference. In this one it’s really about Rocket. You get that first flush of accepting friendship and love which he had in the first movie. This movie is about being able to continue some form of intimacy, which is much, much harder for him to accept because of where he came from.”
Drax Steals the Show
“Through that he forms a pretty tight bond with Yondu, who has a similar background – Yondu’s an older guy who never accepted people that loved him. It’s not so much about him learning to love other people, it’s about him learning to accept the love and affection of other creatures. I love him as much as ever, I love them all. Drax steals this movie. I mean he’s really, really funny. One of the great things about coming back to a second movie is you get to know the actors who play the roles.”
“Now that the roles are all tailor fit to [the actors]. Bautista probably had the least experience of everybody on the first movie so he’s grown the most. He’s gotten the most better from anyone in the first movie and the character is more tailored to him. So it’s really been great. And then Pom, who plays Mantis, it’s uncanny how she fits the role. She’s a very eccentric and strange character and she just sort of came in and did it. It was like, wow – I’d barely ever give her a note. Rarely ever. For me that’s – I give a lot of notes.”
Guardians of the Galaxy Trilogy
Since we learned that Volume 2 was planned at the start of Volume 1, we asked if there is a Volume 3 in the works yet.
“I really wanted to do number two when I was doing number one. I love the people that I’m making the movie with – the actors but also the producers. The idea of three is very interesting in that way. I don’t know if I’m gonna do [Volume 3] but I come up with ideas every day for what could be future Guardians movies. Also other movies to have those individual characters go off and tell different stories. It’s just what my brain does all the time. Jonathan Schwartz, who is our Marvel producer, who’s always on set – I’m always joking about things that could happen or coming up with ideas with him.”
Well, I don’t think I am alone in keeping my fingers crossed for a Volume 3.
Peter Quill’s Childhood
The last thing we asked was if we will see more of Peter Quill as a child. “I will say that whether or not we see characters in flashbacks or as children, a lot of the movie is about their childhoods and where it has brought them. Whether we see it or not, we learn a lot more about Gamora, Nebula, Yondu, Mantis. We learn a lot about these characters and where they originated and why they have both the weaknesses and strengths that they have.”
It was very obvious how much James loves these characters and their stories. I can tell that his heart and soul went into this one, and I cannot wait to see it! The first movie was amazing, but I think this one will blow it out of the water.
Watching James in his Element
Immediately before chatting with James, we had the chance to watch a scene being filmed (the picture above is actually from that moment!!!). Honestly, despite interviewing the cast while they were in costume (total fan girl moments), that was the coolest part of our day. I couldn’t believe how long it took to set up the scene – we only say about 5 seconds of a scene being filmed and we watched for quite some time. We were standing there for, what had to be at least 45 minutes, watching them set up the wires and harnesses with the stand-ins before the actors even came out. It was pretty awesome to see how they did that. Then, even after the actors were all out and in place, we waited several more minutes before seeing the shot being filmed.
We had already interviewed some of the cast, so it was pretty awesome when they noticed us hiding in the corner. At one point, Chris Pratt was jumping up and down, yelling about the scene and what was going on to get himself ready and in character. They all made sure to sat hi and were waving to us as they waited. Michael Rooker seemed the most excited to see us there (he is such an amazing guy – which I am sure you could tell when reading my interview with him). It was pretty surreal to be there and to hear James Gunn giving direction to the cast. He was incredible – and it was awesome to see him in his element. He asked Zoe to move around a few times – I cannot wait to see the final shot! It is definitely an experience that I will never forget!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is in theaters May 5th!
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