James Gunn On That Incredible 'Guardians 2' One-Take, Post-Credit Scenes & His 'Guardians 3' Return

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.

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

I'm really surprised at some of the stuff you got away with in this one.  I know you got a jizz joke in the last one, but this you have a brothel, you have penis and sex jokes.  This is a Disney movie and I love the fact that you got away with it, but was there any resistance to some of those?

No.  No.  I know, don't bring it up, because I'm still scared of it happening.

This film has five post-credits scenes.

It does, yeah.

As someone who enjoys post-credits scenes, and enjoyed the five in this film, it still seems excessive, to the point that it becomes funny. Is the overabundance of post-credits scenes an intentional joke?

Yeah, because people love them. So I'm like "That's what people love are these post credit scenes."  I get asked about the post credit scenes almost as much as the movie.  So I'm just gonna give you a billion of them.  But that's on the one part.  The other part is I have a very succinct ending to the movie where everything comes together, and we see it all.  And it's organic, and it's real, and that's the ending of the movie.  But we have little things that we have left unsaid.  The stuff with Ayesha.  And the other things that we reveal in the post credit scenes.  So I think it's a great way to, instead of being one of these movies that have 20 billion different endings, to have one strong ending.  And then let's throw the other stuff in the post-credits so that the people who worked on the film and doing visual effects for six months of working their fingers to the bone in Montreal get their name read at the end of the movie.

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The final two questions contain spoilers for the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 post-credits sequences, continue at your own risk.

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Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - Baby Groot

How many of those were written into the script?  How did those come about?  Did something come about on set?

All of them were written into the script with the exception of Sly. That one I thought about afterward.  I'm like "Ah, I think I wanna go shoot this and put that in there."

I was talking to Kevin just then.  He said that you came up with the Adam Warlock thing as a possible setup for something future.  

Yes.

Can you talk about that?

Well I think that's pretty simple and I think the reason Kevin's saying that is pretty simple.  I love Adam Warlock.  He's one of my favorite characters.  In all truth, I wrote an early treatment where I had Adam Warlock as a part; this is your big scoop because I don't think I've told anybody this.  But now it's out.

You mentioned on set that you had someone in there.

It was Adam Warlock.  He was a big part of the screenplay, and I realized it was one character too many.  And I adore the character; I adore what we had done with him.  I think we did something really creative and unique with Adam Warlock.  But it was just one character too many.  And I didn't wanna lose Mantis.  And I couldn't, and Mantis was more organically a part of the movie anyway.  So I decided to save him for later.  And so I had that post-credit scene, I wrote that post credit scene.  There was a lot of discussion about whether we were gonna put it in the movie or not.  Because people are gonna think it's about Infinity War, which is why Kevin is saying that.  Because he's not.  He's not in Infinity War, but he will be a future part of the Marvel Cosmic Universe and a pretty important part of it.

Okay, well thank you very much, James.

Thanks, man.  Thanks a lot.  I'll see you later.