james gunn on the set of guardians of the galaxy vol 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters in the US this week, after making it’s international debut last week. I sat down with writer/director James Gunn to talk about the challenges of the sequel, including the incredible one-take opening sequence, how he filmed Kraglin and Rocket in the same scene when they are played by the same actor on set, why he decided to return for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, how he got snuck more racey adult jokes into a Disney movie, and how he came up with the ideas for those five scenes.

All this and more, in our James Gunn interview.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer breakdown

Peter Sciretta: I’m a huge fan of one takes and single shots. That opening shot is incredible.  And I know in a 10-minute interview you can’t relay how much work went into that shot, but…

James Gunn: A lot.

But can you talk about how that came about?  Was it written as one continuous take?

Yeah, it was written as one continuous take, it was actually a part of the treatment.  And the first thing I remember is when the sort of shots and everything about it was sort of was written into the scene itself.  So I drew it before anything else, and I had to keep it in my head and not lose it. I had my producer Simon Hatt come into my office in my home and film me doing the dance moves.  And that’s me. I did later did all the dance moves.  So that’s me doing all that.

james gunn on the set of guardians of the galaxy vol 2

Oh, in performance capture?

Yeah. But long before that, we had him filming with my iPhone so that we could remember how exactly it worked to the music, ’cause it was all planned out very specifically.

How much of that is CG and how much of it is live-action?

Well, I mean, a lot of it is CG, and then the people are live-action to some extent, but there’s also digi double replacement in there a lot.  So it’s a big combination of those different things.  There was a time when Henry Braham, the cinematographer, wanted to actually film it all and it was like sometimes you’re just filming nothing.  So it was no less hard, and it was nerve wracking ’cause I didn’t see the finished shots until two weeks ago.

And you can’t cover your ass by cutting.

You can’t cover your ass for cutting, and you know the visual effects…if the shot is screwed up, then you’re just dead.  You can’t do anything ’cause it’s one big shot.

Sean Gunn Guardians of the Galaxy

You have Sean Gunn in two roles and sometimes in the same scene playing off of–

Oh God, it was rough.

How does that work?

It was terrible.  It works terribly.  It was terrible.  I don’t know what I’m thinking putting Kraglin and Rocket in so many scenes together.  But normally, when Sean is Rocket, he wears this little gray suit and he’s crawling around so you know who he is.  But now he’s Kraglin all the time so in like the big scene when they’re surrounding Kraglin in the forest with all these Ravagers, I have Sean standing in the circle and he’s gotta be himself and then run over and do the Rocket stuff in his Kraglin outfit.  And so the first cut of the movie is ridiculous because it has like a big, dramatic scene between Yondu and Rocket and in some shots Kraglin’s in the background and some shots Kraglin is looking at them.  And then I cut over to the shots of Rocket getting all teary eye and it’s Sean Gunn also dressed as Kraglin.  And it’s a very odd and off-putting thing.  And you really don’t know if you’re walking down the right path when you’re editing those scenes.

james gunn on the set of guardians of the galaxy vol 2

And you announced that you’re doing another Guardians.

Yeah.

I remember before you were so unsure that you were gonna do a second one and you surprised Marvel with this huge treatment.  Is that what happened this time around?  Or was it just–?

No, I wasn’t unsure.  I was signed, I was contracted to do a sequel.

Oh, you were?

I mean, I, we did our little dance and whatever’s happening and lawyers and agents and all that stuff, but I knew I was doing a second one.  The third one I really wasn’t sure I was gonna do.  This one I went very, very deep.  And it was…I didn’t see much else in life besides this for the past three years.  So I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do the third one.  And they offered it to me a long time ago.  And I was like “I love the characters, I didn’t wanna let them go but I needed to be sure that I felt that there was a story that needed to be told.”  And that I wasn’t just doing it for money.  And that I wasn’t just doing it because the fear of being left out.  If that makes sense.  I wanted, I didn’t wanna do it just because I didn’t wanna see some other director directing a Guardians movie.  So it took a long time to decide to do it.

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