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:
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.
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.
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?