Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
Karen [Gillan] says that Lee [Pace] is pretty scary.
GUNN: Well, Karen’s pretty scary. But Lee, yeah, Lee’s great. Lee’s fucking great, he’s great.
Looking at all the reference pieces you’re using, it seems like there’s this retro space pop culture theme going on—the Walkman, Drax’s space helmet, the music from the sizzle reel. Was that important to you and why?
GUNN: Well, yes. I think you’re talking about two different things, in terms of how I see it. The first thing is part of the visuals of the movie. When Blade Runner came out and especially, even actually when Alien came out, it kind of changed how all science fiction movies were designed after that. And that was a really great thing. Now we’re watching a lot of movies that are xeroxes of xeroxes of xeroxes of xeroxes of Blade Runner. The way that you can be a serious science fiction movie is by being dark and then sometimes kind of Japanese. It’s just been too much stuff like that and then there’s a certain sort of white look that’s like the utopian science fiction, that’s a completely different thing. That’s gotten equally boring.
I really wanted to keep the grittiness of those movies because I like that. I like the—especially in Alien, how these guys were working in outer space and what they’re doing in their daily working lives. I like keeping the grittiness of it but I wanted to bring back some of the color of the 1950’s and 60’s. You know, pulp science fiction movies and inject a little bit more of that pulp feel into things. So, that’s where I think that comes from. There’s the pulp mixed with the grittiness and that’s been throughout the whole movie—the beauty mixed with the ugliness.
One of the big things was the painting Visions Of Light. You know that painting where it’s in the nighttime on the ground and day time in the air? That was one of my big guiding forces in the design of the movie, to be able to create these contrasting looks with things. The other stuff is really, it’s our tie to this world, and this isn’t an outer space film that takes place completely disconnected from this earth or what we’ve experienced ourselves. It’s about a guy who came from here and the only thing he has to attach him to his home is this cassette of music and that’s a really important part of the movie. I also think it’s something that grounds us a little bit in our own lives, through the use of music in the movie.
This is your second movie where you have a group of friends have a talking animal with them. Was it weird when you were writing it to think of Rocket as more than just the sidekick? Was it challenging to think of him as an integral part of the group?
GUNN: No, not at all. Rocket was the easiest one to write for me. He was just the easiest, I don’t know why. I like really tortured anthropomorphic animals. I told you I wanted to write hit monkey. I really saw that as being a part of the movie from the beginning and it flowed pretty naturally. The same thing with Groot, I really love Groot. I probably have so much of a deeper love for those characters than I do the other characters simply because there’s more of me in them in some ways, I guess.
Right now, Vin Diesel is supposedly Groot but there’s a lot of conjecture.
GUNN: That might happen but it’s not done, so maybe.
Is it weird for you to have him talking about it, just out there like the way it is?
GUNN: Vin’s a unique dude. He’s his own kind of animal, so I think that’s cool. I respect that. He’s his own thing.
Are we doing to see different version of Groot? Because he’s different in the comics, he grows and changes.
GUNN: Not exactly but a little, Groot’s a little bit different. He’s able to grow in this movie. He’s able to grow and use his limbs, and grow. He’s a pretty threatening, powerful dude and he’s also like a puppy. He’s more of an animal than Rocket is. But he’s very—I don’t know.
The stuff you took to Comicon this year. It was very early in the process for you and there has to be a little bit of trepidation about taking stuff that’s that raw and that new and showing it to that many people. But the response was overwhelming. For you, was that gratifying to hear that the approach had landed the way it did?
GUNN: Yeah! You have to ask that question? Yeah, I was stoked! I’ll admit, I saw what Disney cut from the footage that we had shot and I felt really good about it. I felt good about that. With 12 days of shooting, I felt really good about that little teaser. I felt like, “God, I think people are gonna like this a lot.” You never know for sure but still in my heart, I felt really good about it—just like the same way I feel good about the movie in general. You never know but you have a feeling. You feel good.
Was the Rocket, Groot stuff from a test? Was that something you had done as proof of concept?
GUNN: Part of it was. The shots of Rocket on Groot were from a test but it’s a test that’s part of the scene in the movie, sort of. It’s a little bit different but it’s the same basic shots and set up. And then the stuff with him in prison, it was the first step towards those animated—those bits are actually in the movie of them being sent to prison together.
How do you set a movie inside the head of a celestial being? How do you make a commercial, big budget film like that? Is there an amount of handholding you had to do?
GUNN: Well, there’s only one sequence inside of the celestial head.
But the movie is very fantastic and it has a lot of…
GUNN: Again, I think it’s the same thing that I said earlier. I think it’s really being able to have these outlandish situations, this wonderful world around us, but that’s not the most important part of the movie. The most important part of the movie is the relationship between the characters and where they’re going in terms of their emotional lives and what that is. That’s even more funny than being funny. That’s more important than the crazy surroundings. It’s more important than anything, as long as I can be true to those characters and what their story is—I believe in the story. This is a story about a group of people who are finding out that they’re not the pieces of shit that they think they are and it’s really that simple. They all think they’re pieces of shit at the beginning and throughout the movie they learn that maybe they’re a little bit different than who they think they are. I think that’s a nice thing to learn and that’s really what it’s about. As long as I can keep it centered in those emotions and in those relationships, then I think the celestial head becomes a little bit easier to deal with.
GUNN: I really have to go? I’ll take one more, it’s good to talk to somebody besides those guys.
It seems like a lot of the aliens are practical in this movie. Are you doing a lot of practical make-up? But Groot and Rocket Raccoon are obviously CG. How are you going to balance that out? It seems like they’re the only CG characters.
GUNN: No, there’s other CG characters in the movie and that is a balance because I have other characters in the background that I use to balance that out. I have to balance every scene in terms of the CG and practical. But I think it’s been something that, if you see my other movies—which are much lower budget movies—it’s always been something I’ve been very into, is the integration of CG and practical effects. And mixing those in a way so that when we try to create something it comes out as something that people don’t know exactly how it was made and it looks as real as possible.
What scene, when you actually shot it and saw it come alive, made you just really geek out?
GUNN: Oh, there’s certain stuff when they were in the prison. There’s a scene where Quill is in the prison asleep and he’s on the floor. Have you ever watched Locked Up Abroad? I watched a lot of Locked Up Abroads to base on Locked Up Abroad’s. Instead of sleeping in single cells, only the protected inmates are in single cells and he’s in this cell with a bunch of—he’s asleep with people’s feet next to him and on the floor with all these people. There’s a scene in there where he’s just surrounded by these aliens of different types and having to snuggle up with them.
I loved that one shot. And there’s a scene I shot the other day. My assistant was just crying in the trailer. [To assistant] You were, right? You were crying about 2 hours ago. He was crying, he’s like, “Wah.” I made fun of him. It’s a scene between Drax and Rocket where Drax goes on about his wife and daughter dying and Rocket yells at him. It was a great—it’s a really nice scene and it’s really beautiful. And Dave Bautista’s amazing in it, and yeah.
I’m fascinated by the relationship between Groot and Rocket Raccoon because obviously that’s a key relationship in the comics.
GUNN: Yeah, for sure.
I’m curious about bringing that alive and also, do they have a connection before they meet the rest of the group?
GUNN: Yeah, they have a background.
If you could just talk about that dynamic.
GUNN: The dynamic in the movie is similar in some ways to the comic relationship and different in some ways. I think that in the movie, Groot is really the only friend that Rocket has, but Rocket bosses him—he treats him like his slave. He’s not always that nice to him but I think that Groot has an innocence that none of the other characters really have. Their relationship is very codependent, I suppose.
In terms of dealing with the rest of the group, do they have a tighter bond?
GUNN: They’re a team, yeah. They come together, they work together at the beginning, when Rocket wants to leave, he wants Groot to go with him. Then Groot sort of brings forth some of his individuality for the first time in the middle of the movie.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 1, 2014
Were you ever tempted to put your own dog in the Cosmo dog costume?
GUNN: No, because Cosmo looks very different than my dog. But my dog is gonna be in another scene. I’ve also got pictures of him—
Your dog is an Instagram star.
GUNN: Wait until after this movie comes out because I have him in everything. I’ve got him in the Dark Aster seat, I’ve got him in the prison cell, I have him in a space pod, I have him in every single take. I have a picture with him in every single set of the movie. And I’ve got Djimon Hounsou—I’ve got Korath hanging out with him. He knows Rooker really well, so he’s licking Rooker’s face. It’s pretty cool.
How did you get Disney to okay that scene in the sizzle reel where he basically flicks off the entire audience?
GUNN: Well, Disney’s been very supportive of me, so this is not a negative thing about Disney. But the deal with Disney and Marvel is that Marvel is creatively in charge of this film. And that was Marvel thing, it wasn’t a Disney film but the Disney guys were the guys who put it in there. They were the trailer cutter guys, so they were the ones that put it in. I didn’t put it in. I questioned it. I was like,
“I don’t know.” And that wasn’t part of the movie originally. That was something that, Chris did one part of it and he was goofing around. And then I was like, “Okay, now be surprised that you did it.” And he’s like, “Oh, okay.” And it was funny.
There was a black bar over the middle finger.
GUNN: Then one you saw this morning though, didn’t have the—
No. It was full. Were there certain thing you were able to do in this movie that you’ve always thought about doing but could never do because of budgetary reasons, script reason, etc.
GUNN: All the action, all the shots, man. I love shooting movies. I love the shots. That’s the thing that I love doing and I’ve just never been able to do it. It’s like I’m able to breathe for the first time in my life.
How does The Collector factor into the main story?
GUNN: Well, The Collector’s very connected to the overall universe and what’s happening in the movie. But within this movie, he’s a supporting character. Man, Benicio’s the best. He’s great. He’s really creepy in the movie. He’s the most unique character in the film.