‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’: James Gunn on Baby Groot, Adam Warlock, and So Much More

James Gunn’s got a tough job. Not only is he at the helm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most unique series and trying to ensure that the sequel meets the sky-high expectations set by the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but he’s also got to deal with folks like us who come visit his set, examine every little detail, and phrase and re-phrase questions until we get as much story information as possible. He held strong and refused to reveal much about the identity of Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father or how the sequel sets up future MCU movies, but he did share quite a bit about the big picture of making Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. 

The first movie had loads of unforgettable scenes, but don’t expect round two to have its own dance-off or “I am Groot” moment. Gunn insisted that this movie is its own thing and that if anything, the only tradition it upholds is to give the audience something they don’t expect – and given what we already know about folks like Star-Lord, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket and Groot, the possibilities are truly endless.

Check out what Gunn told us about what’s coming our way in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in this on-set roundtable interview: 

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Question: You said on Twitter that there is no J’son in the MCU, so when this eventually comes out and Kurt’s character is revealed, how do we reconcile that?

JAMES GUNN: I say the same thing; there is no J’son in the MCU. You think we aren’t prepared for you guys? [Laughs] You think anything we did today is real? We hate each other … there is no J’son in the MCU.

So how does that statement reconcile with what we think we know?

GUNN: I’ll just come out and say it; there’s no J’son in the MCU. That’s for you. That’s just what we’re using right now.

There was the concept art and the chair. And I think Kurt even used the name …

GUNN: I call [Kurt] J’son all the time. That’s what we do. [Laughs] But I also wanna make clear – here’s the thing and here’s the thing you get stuck with; he isn’t J’son. He isn’t named J’son in the movie. That’s just flat out the case. We’ll probably all know who the father is by the time this movie comes out, “we” meaning you guys, because the movie really isn’t about that. It’s not about this big reveal of who the father is. It really is about the story between the different characters. It’s not about that reveal, it’s not about a big shock moment. We’re probably all gonna know by the time the movie comes out. It happens pretty close to the beginning of the film. It’s not something that we reveal at the end of the film. So, it’s something that’ll come out eventually. I think it’s just we wanna choose the time when that comes out, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that.

We were talking to Kevin Feige earlier today and he mentioned that you came in there with a 64-page treatment. How much has the script evolved since?

GUNN: One major thing that happened during the treatment phase – not even during the script phase, during the treatment phase – there was another character that was a major character that was a part of the treatment. And although it kind of worked generally in the story, I got to the place where there were too many characters. There’s been other movies that have come – I think Civil War has a lot of characters really well, but they’re minor characters and in this movie every character kind of has their own arc, their own thing, and I thought it was one character too many so I took one of the characters out of the story about halfway through the treatment phase. But the eventual 70-page treatment, which is what it was, is what this movie is, and it has changed very, very little. There has been almost no changes in the past three or four months before shooting. Minor, minor lines here and there. We did rehearsals and some things I changed because of that, but I think in terms of a Marvel movie, I think it’s extraordinarily – now, who knows? We might go into post and go, ‘Oh my god, let’s change everything.’ [Laughs] I hope that isn’t the case, but I’ve been really fortunate. And part of it is because I knew on the last movie, we did do a lot of changes later on. We did some changes in production, we did some changes in post production, and I knew this time I was really fortunate to have such a head start on the script and to make that story really strong so that we could have that from the beginning. And so that was something I focused on, was really dialing in the screenplay, the dialog, everything before we ever even came here to Atlanta.

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It sounds like a big part of Nebula and Gamora’s arc is dealing with the residual trauma from being raised by Thanos, so why not have Thanos in the movie?

GUNN: It’s about two sisters. It’s not about the sisters and their father. It’s about two sisters and what were the sisters’ problems with each other? And, you know, some of those things were caused by being raised by the ultimate abusive father. But it really isn’t about Thanos, and frankly, I just wasn’t inspired to put him in the movie. You know, I kind of go with my gut on these things and it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. It wasn’t the most fun part of the movie last time for me and I just didn’t really wanna do it this time. And again, the relationship with Thanos has nothing to do with it. It’s not about their relationship with Thanos. It’s about their relationship to each other, and what is that? And that was interesting to me, and I thought that was important to our story, and that was important to our characters. What happened with them in the past – there’s a lot of stuff that happened with them in the past that affects our characters presently. Same thing with Rocket. Rocket’s past is very important to the present story, but it’s not how it affects him. It’s about how it affects his relationship with the other Guardians.

Is there any new tech or tools that weren’t used in the last movie?

GUNN: The rig we’re using is much different. The RED camera of course, but also the rig we’re putting – one of the main reasons we’re using the RED Weapon is because it’s a smaller size camera that can fit into the rig, and the rig is really – it’s a cross between – it’s a handheld and a dolly together. It’s like an advanced steadicam that allows you to stabilize.

Are you doing any IMAX scenes?

GUNN: Yeah, we’re switching aspect ratios just like we did on the first movie. This time it’s a little more planned out ahead of time, but we switched between 2.35 and 1.89 aspect ratios.

What was the inspiration at the beginning? The first movie ends very open ended. The Guardians are back and we know it’s not about Peter’s father, but it’s about the relationship that they have, so talk a little bit about when you first sat down to write the second movie, what you wanted it to be about.

GUNN: I think the first film is about becoming a family, the second film is about being a family. But I also think I had a more science fiction concept around Quill and his relationship to his father that’s a little bit of a bigger idea. And I think I knew where the characters needed to go, and I felt extremely freed by not having to set up so many major characters in 20 minutes like I did in the first movie, which was by far the biggest pain in the ass about the first film.

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Not only have you never done a sequel before, but it feels like most of your movies and projects have been departures from each other. So it’s your first sequel, do you feel like you’re doing another departure? Is this a departure from the first film?

GUNN: Yeah, I think it’s a departure from the first film. One of the things that worked about the first movie was that people went into the movie expecting one thing and they got something that they liked more than they expected. It was different than what they expected, and I think the second movie is the same thing. I don think it’s going to be what anyone expects.

In terms of the new characters, there was an arsenal you could’ve chosen from and there’s obviously a lot of fan opinions about who they wanted to see. How did you land on Mantis and these new characters?

GUNN: Shit, I don’t know. I really wish I could remember how I landed on Mantis, but I just felt like she served this aspect of the story the best.

Mantis is really complicated in the comics. There’s a lot of different versions of her. Is your version a clean slate? Is it your version of Mantis or are there elements from the comics?

GUNN: It’s both. It’s my version and there’s elements of the comics as well. I think that frankly, some of these characters that do have the various pasts and the various different origins are a little bit easier in the Guardians movies because they don’t come with as much expectations. I think adding alien elements to some of these characters [is] a little easier, and from the beginning I say that for the time being, Quill is the only earthling superhero member of the Guardians. That was part of what I had in mind with her, and that’s probably part of why I landed on her as well.

Kurt mentioned that he’s never had so many people tell him that he has to take a role as much as he had with this character. Was there ever a plan B or was it always, ‘It’s gotta be Kurt?’

GUNN: He was perfect. But listen, there’s always – I felt like the script was good and if Kurt Russell said no, we would’ve found somebody else, I would hope. So I never wanna say there’s no plan B, because that would just be a lie. I mean, there’s a lot of actors out there, there’s a lot of great actors, there’s a lot of great 60-ish old actors out there, so yeah I think we would’ve found – one of the great things about doing this one was we weren’t under pressure to have a name actor in that role, and we actually auditioned a lot of no-name actors for the role. So that was pretty cool. And like with Pom [Klementieff]. She came in, she had done some things before, but she doesn’t have a huge track record, but she came in and she just completely, completely nailed the role like, in a way that honestly nobody else has ever done in this movie. This or Guardians one, and that’s pretty incredible.

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Can you talk about the music and choosing the songs, and what inspired your choices?

GUNN: You know, I think that the soundtrack is an evolution from the soundtrack of the first movie. I think the first movie was made for a child that was a couple years younger than the child that this music was made for. So it’s slightly more complex songs. I also think that we have a wider variety of songs. We have, you guys probably heard one of the songs today, we have a couple of songs that are sort of enormous songs, which we didn’t have on the first movie. We also have a couple of songs that are almost completely unknown, or not very well known at all. So there’s a bigger gamut between the popular and the unpopular songs on the second album.

We all met and fell in love with Baby Groot today. Was there any consideration of ever having him be more full-grown in this film?

GUNN: Totally! 100 percent! I started out thinking of him as full-grown and I didn’t – you know, of having him grow up and then all of a sudden I thought, ‘Listen, that’s what you would think he would do, really.’ And I’m like, ‘You really don’t have to stick with that. It could be Baby Groot.’ Baby Groot, he’s very different. He’s a unique little fella. And he’s pretty great in the movie, even though he’s not even there. All the time Chris is like, ‘Goddammit, he’s gonna steal the f*ckin’ movie!’ [Laughs] You know, and it’s nothing, it’s nothing there! But he’s funny even watching, in the dailies we’re watching and we got the guy on a stick and people are laughing. There’s something really cool about him. And he’s funny in the movie. He’s a little jerk too.

He’s strong, right? He can kick some ass too?

GUNN: Yeah, he can kick some ass, but he’s also an idiot. He’s a baby! He’s not very smart so he’s stupid.

Is it still Vin doing the voice or are you gonna recast?

GUNN: We’re figuring it out.

What’s easier to shoot with, Baby Groot or the one you were working with last time?

GUNN: Quite honestly, I will say Baby Groot, but the reason for that is unknown. A lot of times on the first movie we were like, ‘Are we even putting Groot in this movie?’ Because Sean [Gunn] plays Rocket on set and he’s so present as Rocket that you’re very aware of Rocket as a character. The guy playing Groot was basically a stand in on the last movie and so he was there and we just kinda always forgot he was there. He doesn’t talk very much, so you’re kinda doing all these scenes and when we have the scenes in the movie where they turn to Groot and Groot’s like, ‘Why are you forgetting me?’ That’s really what we felt like when we were shooting the first film. And I think also the whole personality of Groot and who he was, it was there on the page and then you forget about it while you were shooting the first movie. But now everyone knows Groot so well that we have much larger of an awareness, as me and the cast, of Baby Groot being there at all times, and him being one of the members in the scene. So it’s been much easier for that respect, but I’m not sure if it’s because Baby Groot is – ah, yeah, I think he’s a better-written character than the first Groot in some ways. Not that he was poorly written at all, but I think he’s just more of a complete character than in the first one.

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Going back to the music, you said you put the songs that you wanted in the script. Has there ever been a scene where you had a song and then came to realize it didn’t work?

GUNN: No, for this movie it’s worked really well so far. For the last movie I think it worked pretty well too. I don’t think I had anything I changed out. On the last movie, the one song that wasn’t in the script that I remember was “Moonage Daydream.” We tried a lot of other songs for that scene, which didn’t work, or didn’t work quite as well as “Moonage Daydream.”

Yondu’s fin looks pretty badass. Is there an impetus for that?

GUNN: Yeah, there’s a reason for it. There is a reason for the change of fins.

Does it have to do with The Ravagers’ larger role?

GUNN: Yeah, it does.

We saw a little bit of the art, but we don’t really know a ton about Ayesha. Can you explain a little bit about her character?

GUNN: Yeah, she’s a member of this race called the Sovereign, and they’re all genetically created. They’re created by themselves as sort of a self-sustaining race who are created as perfect beings and they think of themselves as perfect.

In the comics she’s related to Adam Warlock. Is that the case? She’s gold here just like he is. Is it the race that Adam could come from perhaps?

GUNN: Totally possible. They’re created in pods.

In the first movie you had The Collector scene with a lot of Easter eggs. Is there a scene in this movie where you could put some Easter eggs?

GUNN: Our Easter egg obsession is insane. In fact, I have the dumbest Easter egg. We have so many incredibly obscure Easter eggs in this movie that it’s ridiculous. We’ve been working hard on the Easter eggs. I feel like this need to do it now since people have been pouring over stuff so much.

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Are people still hunting the last one?

GUNN: Yeah.

The relationship between Rocket and Groot is flipped now?

GUNN: Yes, Rocket is the protector now. I think that’s part of what the story and the story being about families, and it’s about Rocket really trying – I think Rocket, as I’ve said many times before, I relate to Rocket more than any of the other characters and this is really about Rocket coming to terms with accepting his place within a group of people, which probably seemed like a good idea for two seconds when they were kind of getting along and saving the planet, and now’s it’s like, he’s just not very comfortable with the idea with being a part of this group. Which, come to think of it, probably is what I’m like with everything in making this movie.

Can you talk about the Infinity Stone and the impact it had on Peter and possibly other members of the team? Kevin told us that Star Lord’s mythology has expanded because he was able to hold the Infinity Stone.

GUNN: Yes, we say that at the end of the movie. There’s a question as to why Star Lord was able to hold the Infinity Stone and not be completely and immediately destroyed. We learn a little bit more about why that’s the case in this movie.

You said the reveal of his father isn’t the biggest reveal necessarily in the movie, but how big of an impact does his origin play?

GUNN: It’s incredibly important. Where Peter comes from and who he is and his lineage and his straight up relationship to his father and his surrogate father, basically, which is Yondu, all of that stuff is incredibly important.

Is there a world where, potentially, Peter can have superpowers?

GUNN: I don’t know about superpowers, but you know, it’s about him seeing what his heritage is and where does he come from, and I think that thing in all of us where we want to know where we come from and who we are. He’s an adopted kid, and I come from a family with a lot of adopted kids in my larger family and my extended family. There’s a lot of adopted kids in my family and in a way he has a lot of that in him.

One of the things I loved about the first film is how weird and crazy it was for a Hollywood movie. Does this push it even further?

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GUNN: Times ten. I was scared last time and this time I’m not really scared because I know that people wanna go see the movie and they probably will go see the movie, you know? But in terms of just being allowed – this is truly my movie from start to finish and there have been absolutely no restrictions placed on me in terms of, ‘That’s too far, that’s too artistic, that’s too unique or that’s too dramatic, that’s too comedic.’ None of that stuff has ever come up, you know? So it’s been – we’re really, really pushing it.

I’ve heard this from a couple of filmmakers at Marvel. It seems like in Phase 3 things have gotten a lot looser, they’re more artistically inclined. Is that your experience?

GUNN: That’s true, yeah. I think that’s been true because of a lot of different reasons, but I think for me personally, they let me do my movie the first time around and then it was a huge hit and much bigger than they expected it to be so that kind of gives them the faith in me that I know what I’m doing, and they’ll let me take it another step further. I went in to Kevin and Lou [D’Esposito] with an outlandish premise and I said, ‘I wanna do this movie,’ and they were like, ‘Oh, f*ck. I don’t know.’ They didn’t say that to me actually. They said, ‘Oh, that’s great! That’s great!’ And then I said, ‘Okay, good! I’m gonna go write the treatment.’ And they’re like, ‘Okay!’ And then I wrote the treatment and Kevin called me up and he was just ecstatic. He loved the treatment. He loved the story. But it really pushes things. And I know people have had different things to say about Marvel, about how creative free or not free they are, but for me the rule has always just been stay as good as I can possibly be and stay one step ahead of the curve, and stay unique, and stay myself, and they seem to like that. Whether or not they would like that with another filmmaker, I don’t know. I really don’t. No, I do, of course not! Not everybody likes everybody else’s aesthetic, but luckily with me, whatever is strange about me to them has always been sort of nice. So I’ve been really, really lucky in that respect. Really, incredibly fortunate in that respect.

You said that writing Thanos wasn’t the most fun part of the first movie for you and from what Kevin told us, this movie is a lot more standalone in terms of interconnectedness. Are you looking forward to the day when you can sort of draw the Guardians into the other pre-established parts of the MCU?

GUNN: I mean listen, honest to god, for me, I don’t – I’ve never been a guy to stack projects. A lot of these other guys, they like to do this and then line up what they’re doing next and line up what they’re doing next. I just can’t do it. It makes me miserable, and by the time I get to that other project, it’s usually not what I wanna do. So I’m doing Guardians Vol. 2 and after that, am I gonna do Guardians 3? Am I gonna do something else with Marvel? I really, really don’t know. We’ve talked about it, we talk about it all the time. Is it what I wanna do? I don’t know. I honest to god don’t know and think about it.

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Can you talk about the decision to make the movie take place a couple months later as opposed to a couple of years later? Usually movies take place in real time, and this is gonna be three years and a couple of months.

GUNN: Yeah. Why to do that? I think because they’re just such fragile egos and they’re so combustible that this is really the time. I think they’d have problems with each other pretty instantly. And so I just felt like it was more – you know, again, you ask me why I do these things, I don’t know why I do these things. [Laughs] It seemed funny when I was writing it. It’s what came up and I thought about it being later, and I think a lot of it was the Groot thing as well. When I first started thinking about it, when I was jotting down ideas, I thought Groot was maybe gonna be an adult, and I thought, ‘God, what if I just make Groot a baby for the whole movie? Like he’s a baby?’ That just felt right, so a lot of it had to do with that.

What’s it like going from being a fan of Kurt Russell to directing him?

GUNN: It’s pretty crazy. Honestly, especially Escape from New York to me was like one of those bible movies as a kid. It’s like one of the core experience films. So working with Snake Plissken has been quite an experience. But he’s great. I’ve worked with a few actors who I’ve admired a lot. Benicio [del Toro] was like that, Glenn Close was like that, Kevin Bacon was like that. Those are people who I really admired as actors and it wasn’t like coming into work with somebody who was more of a contemporary. It was somebody who was famous and successful long before I was. Not so much Benicio, but he was pretty young when he became successful. And working with Kurt, he’s been the most down to earth. And maybe it’s also because I’m more confident than I used to be. But I think he’s just been really down to earth and he’s funny as sh*t, and we laugh just hard. And he’s filthy.

Is Wesley going to be back in this movie?

GUNN: He might. We’ll have to see. My dog, he loves to appear in the movies. He’s on set all the time.

For Glenn Close, they said it’s not 100% sure that she’ll be back …

GUNN: I mean, right now – I think right now we’re gonna shoot with Glenn Close. So yeah, yeah.

Can you add any context to the scene we watched before, of them going onto Kurt Russell’s ship?

GUNN: Yeah, that’s it. They’re taking a trip on Kurt Russell’s spaceship. His freaky, creepy, 60s pop art spaceship at the beginning.

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Quill looks unsure.

GUNN: Yeah, I think they’re all a little unsure.

Are they first meeting each other?

GUNN: It’s not too long after they meet each other.

In the first treatment, you mentioned that there was a character that got cut. Is that another Guardian that we could meet in the future?

GUNN: Yeah, for sure. I loved the character actually. I loved the way – I loved everything about the character. I just didn’t have room for him.

Was it a classic Guardian?

GUNN: I don’t know what you think is a classic Guardian. Do you mean Yondu/Starhawk-classic Guardians? No.

Seeing what the ship looks like and that weird, glamorous, lounge design he has going on, what can you tell us about the character formerly known as J’son? [Laughs] Like his characteristics, what kind of guy is he?

GUNN: He’s a lot like Kurt Russell. [Laughs] He really is a lot like Kurt Russell. He’s a very interesting guy and I think he’s a very thoughtful guy, and I think he’s a very gregarious guy, and I think we get to see Kurt Russell in his full glory expressing himself.

Is there any name value attached to that role that’s part of why you’re nervous about revealing who he is?

GUNN: Oh, you guys. You do care. That’s nice, that’s nice. So that’s good. That’s not what’s at the front of my mind. Really at the front of my mind is just creating all of them as the fullest on-screen personalities as I possibly can, and being as honest and true as I honestly can, and having it be something relevant to our own emotions and our own world today.

I didn’t know if that was why you were being so secretive about it, because if people found out the name of this person and have an idea that’s different from what you were putting on the screen.

GUNN: Maybe.

In addition to Kurt’s character, can you talk about Mantis and what sort of dynamic she adds to the group?

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GUNN: Well, I think Mantis is as odd and strange as Pom is. I think she’s an incredibly unique character. I think she’s funny as sh*t. She’s really funny. She’s also a little creepy. She’s great. She really is great. I remember when we were auditioning Star Lord. You’re asking for this straight, white dude, you know? And we screen tested 25 guys. It was really hard finding somebody great because, honestly, a lot of the really great guys in that age category become movie stars. And to be auditioning Asian actresses was awesome, I mean truly. We screen tested four actresses who – all four of them – were totally incredible. It’s just Pom happened to fit the role the best. But it was a really amazing experience and honestly, truly an example of – there’s a lot of actors out there who don’t get the opportunity of these lead roles that a regular white dude does.

Besides the obvious working relationship, how would you describe the relationship between Mantis and Kurt’s character in the film?

 

GUNN: She works for him basically. That’s it. You know? I think it’s very interesting to watch the relationship between Mantis and the other characters because like them, she’s an outcast. I think the relationship between her and Drax is very interesting because they’re both complete odd balls.

What kind of relationship does she have with Peter?

GUNN: Her relationship with Peter – it’s more of a relationship to the group as a whole, but I think she relates a little bit more to Gamora and Drax than she does to Peter.

What’s different about your villains this time around? What’s the dynamic?

GUNN: I think the main thing that was different – and this is really important to me – was to be able to make the story one where the personal story of the Guardians and the villain agenda plot was all about one thing. And that was important to me, that it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, here’s our characters on a journey with each other while they’re fighting this big bad that’s doing whatever he or she is doing and just, that’s it.’ Which honestly, the first movie, if there’s one thing that – you know, it’s fine, but it is kind of two separate stories. There’s Ronan taking over this planet and then murdering the universe and then there’s these guys who through that journey get to know each other and come together. In this movie, all of those things are a little bit more interwoven. It really is all one story and that’s to me a lot more satisfying way to tell a story.

When you were coming up with the treatment for this whole thing, did you come up with the core theme of family then or does that theme come out as you go along?

GUNN: It’s a step by step thing. I think probably the first thing was sort of the larger science fiction concept. I think the movie’s more science fiction than the first movie was. It’s still a space fantasy. I mean, they still have jet packs, you know, Gamora has a sword and ship that they have in space. But I think it’s more of a science fiction concept behind it. So I think that is what came first and then the theme started working its way into that, that would sort of push me forward in another direction, then maybe I’d have a character moment that would push me forward another direction, then an ending that pulls – you know, so it really is going step by step by step in terms of what affects me the most.

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One of the things that I thought was really interesting about the reception of the first film was that people with Autism really embraced Drax. Did that impact you while writing this time?

GUNN: It really did. Yeah, not only Drax but the characters in general. Groot, and I think outsiders as a whole reacted to the Guardians, which is – listen, I mean, that is what I am. That’s what I feel like. But it’s being able to tell those stories for those people is the only reason I give a sh*t about any of this, frankly. And the only reason I would ever put myself through this, is to be able to bring people together and make people feel like maybe they belong a little bit more than they would feel before they saw the movie.

You were saying that Zoe and Karen feel lucky to have sisters in the movie and when we were talking to Pom she said she didn’t want Mantis to be sexualized. Can you talk about those portrayals of women and having them stand alone in their own storylines?

GUNN: For me it just strictly comes down to one thing, which is trying to make all the characters be equally characters, you know? To have the equal amount of weaknesses and strengths, to have the equal amount of foibles. Do I think my writing as a whole has always done that? Yeah, completely. We have four primary female characters in this movie; is that a cool thing? Yeah. One of the things is that Mantis is as weird and screwy as Rocket and Drax and Groot who are all just nutcases and so being able to have that dynamic to me is what’s cool about having the female characters more than having the strong females, I guess.

At the same time I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that you and Chris together created Star Lord – I have a twelve and eight year old, and he’s Hans Solo to them. Coming back to him a second time, tell me about some of the challenges about figuring out what the next steps are for him. He’s the leader of the team, but it doesn’t seem like this is his story, it’s the whole team’s story.

GUNN: It is the whole team’s story, but there’s a big, huge part of it that’s his story too. I think that when I was writing up the first movie, I wrote the whole backstory of where Peter came from, who his father was, why did Yondu pick him up from the planet – I wrote all that stuff. And there was a part of me that thought about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, maybe there’ll be a story in between that answers that story, and I said, ‘I don’t know. How much longer am I gonna be around for?’ I don’t know. Let’s just go for that story. So that’s a big part of what this story is, and those other characters are now major characters in the movie – Nebula, Yondu – these characters that were more tertiary characters in the first film.

Does it help or hurt that Chris becomes a movie star in between films?

GUNN: Well, I mean, it’s Chris so he’s my buddy so it doesn’t hurt me. It helps the movie because he’s a movie star! So it’s great but I mean, mine and Chris’ working relationship is incredibly close. Just honestly, just as friends, it’s a great thing to have on set that I didn’t have last time. Last time I had [Michael] Rooker and my brother, and now I have Chris and Zoe especially so it’s nice to have that aspect of it for me because making a movie is lonely endurance test.

Does Rooker get jealous?

GUNN: [Laughs] Yeah, he might get a little jealous.

Image via Marvel Studios

Can you talk about the set pieces? We haven’t heard much about the action in the movie – how many scenes there are, how big it gets. Because when you think about the end of the first movie, that’s a pretty huge set piece.

GUNN: I really set out to write a more intimate, personal story and I think it is. And then somehow, in the midst of writing this more intimate, personal, emotional story, the set pieces got five times as big. Like, really. So it’s like, ugh, you know? But I feel great about it. I’ve honestly been focusing a lot on it because I think that I want this movie to be better in every aspect, and that includes that it’s funnier, that the emotion works on a deeper level – which is probably the most important to me, frankly – and then the fact that the action is bigger and more exciting.

We heard that sometimes the tags are written in in the script and sometimes they’re brainstormed and thought of throughout filming …

GUNN: You mean the tags at the end of the movie? Oh, they’re all written. They’re all in the script, yeah.

So they bump into the Hulk then?

GUNN: Yeah. [Laughs] You guys saw my last tag, right? I had two tags. One was a baby, dancing Groot and the other one is f*cking Howard the Duck. That’s my tags! I mean, I wouldn’t wait. I don’t think the fate of the Marvel Universe is gonna – don’t wait after the credits [for that], wait for stupid sh*t.

When we saw the artwork, one of the planets looked like a Yes album cover. Is that a conscious thing for you?

GUNN: Yeah! [Laughs] I mean, I think that there’s a conscious return to pulp and getting a greater sense of pulp from all areas. But everything from old 50s amazing stories covers were a big part of the 60s stuff which you can see in that ship. It’s very 60s inspired to a lot of almost Ralph Bakshi inspired, you know, Yes cover album inspired stuff, you know?

And jetpacks, we saw that.

GUNN: We got some jetpacks. Yeah, we got some jetpacks goin’ on.

I love the audacity of Star Lord challenging Ronan to a dance off in the final battle. Can you talk about continuing that legacy now?

GUNN: I mean, I think again, I think it’s the same thing. I think there’s a trap that a lot of sequels fall in where they say, ‘Okay, we had that beat where there was a dance off, so what is our dance off in this movie? And we had that moment where they said ‘we are Groot,’ so where’s our ‘we are Groot’ moment?” And I’m like, ‘Screw all of that. This is it’s own thing.’ Other people can go and try to figure out what the moments are in this movie. I don’t want to do the same types of things. I think the only tradition is that we try to give the audience what’s unexpected and what they don’t think is coming next, and mostly just in terms of the story, the characters hopefully being something that’s a little deeper than the first movie.

What character will surprise audiences most coming out this movie?

GUNN: Dude, I mean, Yondu. But Dave Bautista. He’s murdering. He’s just murdering, murdering every scene.

Literally?

GUNN: [Laughs] Yeah! He thinks, he thinks! He wouldn’t want to hear me say it. But Bautista is, you know, the greatest thing was walking onto the first day of set and being back with these people, and it was kinda like we just picked up from where we left off, except for one thing – that they had all gotten incredibly better. I think Zoe probably had the most experience starting off, but she got a lot better. Chris got way better. And Bautista like, you know, exponentially got better in terms of what he was in the first movie, and he’s gonna flip people out. And then Rooker’s just like – it’s a role of a lifetime. It really is. He’s amazing. And then people don’t know Pom.

For more on Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, peruse all of our set visit coverage in the links below. The film opens in theaters on May 5th.

 

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