‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’: Kevin Feige on How the Movie Fits into the Greater MCU

You want to know the key to getting top-secret information on a Marvel set visit? When someone wonders if they should tell you something during an interview, you just tell them, ‘Oh, it’s okay. Kevin Feige already spoke about it.’ Okay, maybe it’s not that easy as the cast and crew of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were very good at dishing out concrete bits of information without ever delving into spoilers, but on the film’s Atlanta set, you do most certainly get the sense that Feige’s word is the word, and he had a good deal to share during our on-set interview with him back in April 2016.

Guardians of the Galaxy may be known for being fun and outrageous, but when you look beyond the crazy characters, action set pieces and visual effects, it’s a very emotional tale about a bunch of unlikely heroes forming a family. During our on-set chat, Feige offered updates on Groot’s growth cycle, how Kurt Russell fits into the sequel story, what The Ravagers are up to, how Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 paves the way towards Avengers: Infinity War and so much more. You can get all the details in the full interview below.

Question: Why hasn’t Groot gotten bigger?

Image via Getty

KEVIN FEIGE: Well, I don’t know if you’re aware, but the growth cycle of a Groot is slower. This movie takes place relatively soon after the events of the last film. Just a few months. So he’s probably just grown out of that pot and stepped out and is now this size. But as James I’m sure will tell you, he’s just about as dumb as big Groot was. He’s not really a baby. As James says in that sizzle, he gets mad at people. And then of course the fun thing is, as you saw briefly in there, whereas Groot was Rocket’s protector in the first movie, Rocket is Groot’s protector. And they sort of all are in this movie, which was something we had talked about and planned on, and was one of those things when we’re making a first film, and we’re just concentrating on making that film as great as it can be, there are always little things that we say, ‘Boy, but if we get to make another one, it’d be really fun.’ And from the moment we were shooting and animating Rocket on Groot’s shoulder, we were saying, ‘Well, in the next one, you know, we’ll reverse it. In the next one, the other way around!’ [Laughs] ‘Wouldn’t that be cool?’ And that’s what we’re doing.

Are you doing anything different with Groot’s voice? Vin Diesel has a deep, gravelly voice.

FEIGE: He will sound different, yeah. But he’ll still say the same thing.

What happened between the time where the last film ends and this film starts?

FEIGE: I think they’re giving it a shot at being more organized heroes. They are available for do-gooding, so to speak. It doesn’t always go well, but they try that. And when we first meet them in the beginning of the movie, they’re on a place called Sovereign where they’ve been asked to help with this giant, sort of inter-dimensional beast that comes out and eats their batteries, their power source, and wreaks havoc on their planet. And the Guardians have been asked to come in and dispatch with that thing, and that’s how our film starts. Their legend and their mythology has grown and spread throughout the universe because they defeated Ronan and because they were able to hold – Peter in particular was able to hold an infinity stone and not die. Which also has spread his legend.

This inter-dimensional beast, is that a nod to the Cancerverse in the modern Guardians?

via Getty Images

FEIGE: Not specifically. We don’t talk about that. It’s more just a fun beast for them to attack in the opening title sequence.

I assume that Peter Quill’s legend growing only makes Peter Quill more of an asshole.

FEIGE: It doesn’t take much to make Peter Quill more of an asshole. Yes, there is a pompousness. James I’m sure will talk about it more eloquently when you see him today, but he said they’ve all grown a bit more pompous. You know, the garage band that then gets a multi-platinum album and have egos to go along with that is certainly the case. Which is true for all of them frankly, not Drax as much, but all of them, particularly Quill.

Is this team still getting to know one another?

FEIGE: I mean, they are of course, but they are really and truly a family. And you’ll hear James talk about that a lot. And one of the things I think makes James so special as a writer-director, and you saw it in the first movie, and it’s even more so in this film is, for as fun as it is, for as outrageous as it is, with characters named Taserface and Baby Groot, you know, killing people, throwing them around, it is very, very emotional and not cynical in the least. It is very, very truthful, and sort of unabashedly so in its emotions. And it’s a very special combination that I think James is perfect for. That’s sort of the crux of this whole movie.

How does Kurt Russell factor in?

FEIGE: Kurt Russell is a mysterious figure. An adventurer from far parts of the galaxy who has heard the legend that had spread of the Guardians as I mentioned, and has come to meet them and check them out for the first time.

So what’s the main drive? The sizzle made it seem like it was Quill and his father, and also some of The Ravagers.

Image via Marvel

FEIGE: It’s a combination. The Ravagers are a big part of this movie, much more so than even the first film. We did a costume test for The Ravagers. You always do make-up and costume tests on every movie, and usually people come in and they stand around. Chris Pratt will put on his outfit and stand there and turn around and point at his butt and you get the gist of what the costume’s gonna be. With The Ravagers, we had them all in full costume, full make-up, and then James put them all together and basically just said, ‘Act like The Ravagers,’ and I’m telling you, I could’ve watched that footage for three hours. It was hilarious. And it was amazing seeing these guys. Some of the same actors from the first movie, a lot of new actors playing new characters and new Ravagers, and there’s something just really sort of chemically interesting that happens when you put them all together. There is a story that you saw bits of in the sizzle that Yondu has gotten soft, that Yondu has a soft spot for Quill. He clearly at the end of the first movie opens the Orb and sees that the Infinity Stone is not in there, that a little Troll doll is in there, and he smiles. It’s a very sweet moment in the first movie. I think it shows that he cares about Quill maybe more than he even admits, but there are other Ravagers who think that was shitty and think they should have hunted him down and killed him right on the spot. There is an incident in the first act of this movie where they’ve been hired to get him and yet again, Yondu’s like, ‘We’re not gonna take down the Guardians of the Galaxy. We’d be crazy to do that. We’d endanger ourselves. We’d get the entire Nova Corps, everybody would come after us if we did that.’ And Taserface and some others are like, ‘Bullshit. You’re just doing that because you’re soft on Quill,’ and it leads to a mutiny. And in that we have a sort of a subplot of these mutinous Ravagers, and Yondu and Rocket and Groot sort of teaming up and escaping from that munity to go help Quill. You may have noticed, without much ceremony in the sizzle, but we see it with great ceremony in the movie, he gets a much bigger fin on the top of his head, which was James’ sort of nod of the head to that bigger fin he had in the comics. And also it’s because he looks frickin’ awesome in that bigger fin.

Can we confirm that Elizabeth Debicki is Ayesha and Chris Sullivan is Taserface?

FEIGE: Yes. That is correct.

How does Nebula fit into the story?

Image via Marvel

FEIGE: She comes back into the story relatively early on. In fact, we realize that the payment for the mission that the Guardians have done on Sovereign is to get Nebula. The Sovereign have captured Nebula, and are exchanging her for the services of the Guardians helping them. And they want to take Nebula back to Xandar to have her arrested. Things go awry on that journey and she becomes a much bigger player in the film than she was in the first one. As James said in the sizzle and we can talk more about today, you explore that dynamic between them as sisters, as adopted sisters who both clearly were raised in less than ideal circumstances by Thanos. And it’s sort of Nebula’s deciding, does she want to kill Gamora or is she gonna set aside this internal rage within her? And she does spend some time teaming up with Taserface through much of the movie too.

It seems like familial conflict is a through line in this movie, like Rocket and Groot, Peter and his father, and Gamora and Nebula. Is that a big subtext in this movie?

FEIGE: Absolutely, and Peter and Yondu. And Peter and his real father – who may show up.

Speaking of his father, there’s a location over here that is named J’son, which is his father’s name in the comics. But this appears to be a location as opposed to a person. Can you speak about the location that is J’son?

FEIGE: It’s a very good question. You should ask James.

Following up with that, we see a bunch of different locations. How many planets are we going to this time? How big is the scope of the galaxy?

Image via Marvel

FEIGE: I would say it’s as big, if not bigger than the first movie. Sovereign is a planet, Berhart is a planet. Some of these names actually in fairness – even not being cute about the J’son thing – some of these names change, right? Because they’re not often referenced in dialogue, so it comes down to the little locator. We changed a lot of names back and forth before we locked them in in the first movie. But Sovereign’s a planet, Berhart’s a planet, Contraxia a planet, J’son’s a planet, so four/five. We see glimpses of two or three other worlds, but these are the major locations.

Is there any Thanos in this at all?

FEIGE: No.

Can you talk about how Mantis comes into the fold?

FEIGE: Yes! She’s amazing. Pom Klementieff is really amazing, and is really unique. She auditioned for the part many, many times, along with many, many other people because James was doing something very unique with Mantis who has never really encountered other people and other humans before, and makes Drax look like the most world-savvy person there is. And it’s a tough thing to do and to be endearing, and she’s pretty amazing at it. She comes into the story along with the Kurt Russell character, and doesn’t know the other characters, and doesn’t know much of the world. And we’re talking about the bonding between characters – she and Drax spend a lot of time together in this story as well.

Mantis in the comics is a highly complicated and weird character whose history makes little sense. I’m assuming we’re clean-slating it here with this version of Mantis? Or is the Celestial Madonna stuff still in play?

FEIGE: Those specifics are not in play, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less complicated or weird.

The first Guardians did a lot of heavy lifting for setting up what will become Infinity War. Without Thanos in this movie, what role would you see it functioning within the larger MCU as we’re building towards Infinity War?

Image via Marvel

FEIGE: This is really, again, I always say all the movies – Civil War is a standalone story. This is even more of a standalone story than that. This is about the characters, this is about their evolution as heroes, as their own internal family, as a group of characters known as the Guardians of the Galaxy. The way this film ends and the team at the end will inform future things, but there’s nothing that nods directly towards that.

John C. Reilly and Glenn Close are not in this one?

FEIGE: John C. Reilly is not in this one. Glenn Close might be. [Laughs]

With Nova being introduced in the last movie as – I don’t know if they’re a species or a police force – are we gonna see an evolution of that? Could we ever see a superhero-style Centurion Nova?

FEIGE: Certainly you can see that someday. This movie’s not a set-up for that in any way.

One thing I think people loved about the first film was how weird and crazy you guys got. Are you pushing that with this film or have you now established a universe?

FEIGE: No, we’re pushing with it. There were a handful of things that we discussed about what the next movie could be about as we were finishing the first movie, and we released the first movie and James went off for a little while and took some of those things and came back and had a pitch for this movie that was amazing. We were in the midst of a couple of other projects at the time, as we always are, a lot of which were not easy, right? None of them are easy and you’re tangling through different storylines and stuff, and James delivered a 64-page treatment. And we were dealing with all these other things and all this stuff and I was like, ‘A 64-page treatment? Why couldn’t it just be a four-page beat sheet?’ I started reading it – it was amazing. And you know, it’s changed, it evolved a little bit but it was so well thought out and so set up and payoffs and character beats and jokes, that it was just like, ‘[Sighs] Maybe I don’t have to worry about this one.’ And of course we worry about everything. And the thing that was so cool about it is it was a little bit easier than the first movie. [To] your question, you know the characters voices now. We were defining all of them as we were going on the first movie. Now you know their voices so when you read it, you hear that. So to that regard, yes, these characters’ voices are just as distinct and fresh as they were the first time. However, the overarching storyline and where the story takes us I think is perhaps even more unique and more daring than the first film. There’s maybe an easy way and a hard way, but the hard way maybe could be more interesting, which is kind of what Guardians was all about for us as building a movie universe, and we’re certainly going that way as well in this one.

Was the music part of that pitch? How does the music play into this one?

Image via Marvel

FEIGE: I think they gave a disc at the same time when that treatment came in. Right around there.

Is the music diegetic in this again? Is it all off the tapes?

FEIGE: It is all off the tapes. It’s all off Volume 2. I would say that the other Guardians now know that music is a thing for Peter so in early scenes, what you see Baby Groot doing here, he’s setting up these little outer space speakers so that the music can play for all of them because Quill likes to hear music when he’s fighting. It does go more than just his headset, but it’s all based off of Volume 2. And I would say that a couple of the songs, and particularly one song, has very unique lyrics that play a much more specific part into the plot than any song did in the first film.

Were you able to get all the songs you wanted?

FEIGE: We’ve cleared all the songs that were in the script, yeah. You don’t actually pay for them until you cut the movie together and decide. If you use the first movie as a track record, maybe one or two songs came out of the movie that had been in the script, for length more than anything else. But we’ll probably end up using the vast majority of them, and certainly the ones that tie into the plot and dialogue are in.

We’re not getting any closer to bringing this team to Earth at any point, are we? It seems like you’re going out further.

FEIGE: We are going out further, yes, yeah. There’s a little bit of Earth in this film, but it’s not these characters going to Earth.

Does Peter Quill only listen to mix tape Volume 2 now or does he revisit the first one?

Image via Marvel

FEIGE: Right now it’s only Volume 2.

With the first one being such a big success, going forward do you see more films set in this part of the universe?

FEIGE: Yeah, for sure. I don’t know about branching off from this, but certainly inhabiting similar areas from this. A lot of our upcoming movies will. The upcoming movies will be as much out here as they are on Earth, starting with Thor: Ragnarok. There are three scenes on Earth in Thor: Ragnarok. Everything else is Asgard and not any of these worlds, but worlds that certainly – let’s put it this way, in Thor lingo, it’s beyond the nine realms. There are other planets that we spend a lot of time on in Thor: Ragnarok that certainly people would say, ‘Oh, that’s sort of like a Guardians world.’ But they’re just other areas of the Marvel Cosmic Universe.

As the Guardians’ reputation spreads through the galaxy, are they going to hear even a whisper of The Avengers or Thor?

FEIGE: They might know about Thor. It doesn’t come up. It doesn’t come up. I don’t think they know anything about the Avengers. They might know Volstagg and Sif walked into The Collector’s labs once, so some people know they exist. But that doesn’t come into play in this story.

The first movie worked so well tonally. How do you go about not just repeating that?

FEIGE: Going to all of these different planets, going to very different locations, and introducing all the new characters that are introduced in this movie, and evolving significantly the relationships – Yondu, Nebula, supporting characters from the first film – is certainly a couple of the ways that James is doing it.

How are these villains different from any of the villains we’ve seen so far in the Marvel Universe?

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FEIGE: Well, they are less grandiose in their – Taserface and Ayesha are less grandiose in their ambitions than Ronan was, for instance. Ayesha just wants to kill them for slighting her. Taserface wants to lead The Ravagers, and thinks that, as I said, Yondu got soft. We learn that there are many Ravager factions of which Yondu controlled one large faction. And a faction that frankly was not necessarily beloved by the other Ravager factions. In large part because they did things like traffic kids from one place to another, which the other Ravagers didn’t love necessarily and set Yondu apart from them. Yondu’s getting softer. His experience with Quill in the first movie perhaps is softening him a little bit. Certainly more so than the other Ravagers like. And Taserface thinks, ‘Yeah, who cares about those other Ravagers? And this guy getting soft, we’re gonna be …’ we never say pirates of course, but that’s sort of the inspiration for them regardless. And there are a couple you saw in the b-roll, references to walking the plank. Taserface is not a nice guy.

What’s at the end of that plank?

FEIGE: Outer space. The deadly vacuum of space.

What have you learned about creating villains for the Marvel movies? The scale was always big like Ronan, but Baron Zemo in Civil War, it’s very small in scope.

FEIGE: It always varies, but it always starts with what serves the story the most, and what serves the hero the most. If a big criticism of ours is that we focus on the heroes more than the villains, I think that’s probably true. I don’t think it’ll always be true and I think some of you spoke to Chris and Steve at the Civil War junket. When the heck was that? Yesterday? [Laughs] And they talked about in appropriately oblique terms, Thanos. Thanos in Infinity War is – in a movie that has a lot of characters, you could almost go so far as to say he is the main character, and that’s a bit of a departure from what we’ve done before, but that was appropriate for a movie called Infinity War. In a lot of cases, Ronan – Ronan was great, Lee Pace [did an] awesome job, absolutely serves it – but certainly was there to go up against our heroes and to give our heroes a reason for coming together. In 2008 there were two superhero movies that came out. One focused on the villain, one focused on the hero. And we at Marvel look at them and [go], ‘Yeah, we focus on the hero. We don’t mind that. We like that.’ Please don’t start a flame war. [Laughs] We don’t need that. Nobody wants that. We don’t do that. So again, it really always is what serves the story. Loki, great character, serves in a lot of ways Thor. Zemo served that conflict between Cap and Iron Man.

Do you find that you might start having these villains that don’t just go away after one movie, like you had with Loki and Thanos?

Image via Marvel

FEIGE: Sure. If we’re talking about all of Phase 3, they don’t all – a lot of them can continue. Thanos is the biggest one, of course.

Will we see any Infinity Stones in this movie?

FEIGE: No.

It seems like the scope of this is big, but the scale seems to be small and personal. Is there a universe-ending or planet-destroying threat that we’re not seeing here? Or is it really just these two different groups?

FEIGE: It’s mainly these two different groups. There are other surprises and other things that happen in the movie over the course of the story, but all of it is in the service of very, very personal stakes.

There were rumors that the Guardians were gonna take over Tower of Terror at Disney’s California Adventure. Can you talk about that and what their role will be in the parks world?

FEIGE: I can’t really talk about it, but I know that Imagineering has been talking about it for years, and I think we’re getting closer to actually seeing more of the Marvel characters in the parks, which is something that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. The timeline is very different when it comes to building giant park rides, as I’ve learned. So I think you’ll see the incorporation of many Marvel things, but that could be over the next 10 to 15 years.

Is it a challenge finding time for every person in the sequel? Coming out of the first one, everyone had their favorite. So when you come into a sequel, some people might come in wanting a lot of Star-Lord. Some people might want a lot of Yondu.

Image via Marvel Studios

FEIGE: They will get a lot of both those things. I think it comes down to the screenplay, again. I think Civil War, Chris and Steven and Joe and Anthony did a magnificent job balancing those characters and there are many more characters in Civil War than there are in this movie. But that’s one of the things that James does incredibly well. And again, it’s not about the amount of screen time, it’s about what they’re doing in the screen time they have, and I think every single character on these walls has great moments. More than that! Great arcs over the course of the movie for sure.

Can you talk about Baby Groot’s costume and why he has clothing this time?

FEIGE: He only has it very briefly and that is a Ravager costume, which the very mean Ravagers sort of quickly sew and put him in because they think it’s funny. Groot does not think it’s funny. [Laughs]

In the first Guardians, there was a lot of concern that when the first merchandise came out that Gamora wasn’t to be seen in a lot of places. This movie has Nebula, Mantis joins the group. As the merch comes forward, are we gonna see more women? Is it the follow-up to that “Where’s Black Widow” campaign that people were having on the Internet?

Image via Marvel Studios

FEIGE: Yeah, that was very frustrating for us, right? Because we see it from the other side, right? When I say “we” I mean the filmmakers. Because we’re presented with the stuff that’s being made. I don’t know if there’s an absolutely equal sampling, but Black Widow was all over that stuff. Gamora was all over that stuff. What we don’t see is, how much of it is in any given store? How easy is one piece of merchandise to find versus another piece of merchandise? So we see the stuff and we go, ‘Oh, great! These are all our characters. They’re all great represented. They’re all gonna be sold.’ And then we found out, ‘Oh, you can’t find this. You can’t find that.’ Or there’s lunchboxes or a backpack where a certain character’s not on it. And I think the outrage was great because that’s not gonna happen anymore. And that was one of our big things we wanted to set out to do and was very important to James as well was, as we did in the first film with a number of characters and even more so this time, was putting women at the forefront of the story.

So is that something you’re gonna be more involved in going forward, making sure there’s that representation?

FEIGE: There is in as much as what we can have sway over. We can’t have sway over what a retail store how many items of what they want to stock on a shelf, but when toy sets come over or t-shirt designs come over, if they’re not represented properly or representative of the film – we’re not even saying, ‘Is the equality of each gender specific?’ We’re going, ‘Does it represent the movie we’re making?’ And if it doesn’t, we send it back until it does.

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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