James Gunn Talks GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the Marketing, 3D, Making Movies That Are Like Nirvana Songs, and More at the Saturn Awards

     June 27, 2014


The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror recently held the 40th Annual Saturn Awards, celebrating the best of genre film and television at the Castaway Starlight Ballroom in Burbank, Calif.  Gravity took home the most awards, with five statues, while Marvel’s Iron Man 3 won the inaugural Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture award, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead both won three, and Hannibal took home Best Network Television Series.  Special Saturn Awards recognitions when to writer/producer Bryan Fuller (Dan Curtis Legacy Award), Greg Nicotero (George Pal Memorial Award) and Malcolm McDowell (Life Career Award).

While at the event, Collider chatted with presenter James Gunn, in attendance with actor Michael Rooker, who plays Yondu in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.  During the interview, the writer/director talked about creating exactly the movie he wanted to create, being able to go as dark as he wanted to go with the film, why it’s not as dark as Super 2 would be, the marketing of the movie, trying to finish the film before he starts the press tour in Singapore on July 7th (although he has some doubts that will happen), how lengthy the editing process has been, his learning curve with 3D, what he might do next, and whether he’d chose Daphne or Velma.  Watch the video and/or read the transcript after the jump.

Here’s the video with reporting by Tommy Cook, Hunter Daniels and Christina Radish, followed by the full transcript.

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james-gunn-guardians-of-the-galaxyCollider:  For the rest of the summer, and for pretty much the last year, I have been more interested in what Guardians of the Galaxy is going to look, sound and feel like than almost anything else.

JAMES GUNN:  Almost anything else?  What’s the exception?  Don’t tell me Transformers 4?


GUNN:  Don’t tell me Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

No.  Jodorowsky’s The Dance of Reality.

GUNN:  Okay, there you go. 

Which is probably weirder than even you could manage with the hotdog in the brain.  When you were working on this, how dark were you able to go?

GUNN:  I went as dark as I wanted to go.  I’m creating exactly the movie I wanted to create.  When I got hired to do Guardians, it was the dream of a lifetime for me.  This is what I’ve been working towards.  I’ve always wanted to create a space adventure, and especially a space adventure with a racoon.  Now that I’m finally able to do it, I created exactly the movie I wanted to make.  There’s violence in it and there’s dark humor, but it isn’t like I’m trying to make Super 2, which is a very dark movie.  But, that’s not what this is.  Everything I’ve done is very different form each other.  So, I made it as dark as I wanted to make it, and they were okay with that.

super_movie_image_rainn_wilsonWhat would Super 2 look like?

GUNN:  Well, I don’t think Super 2 should exist.  I think that the story in Super 1, pretty much that’s the end of Frank’s career as a superhero.  So, Super 2 would be a very boring movie about a guy who works as a fry cook and enjoys the little things in life. 

There was some question about how you would sell a movie as far out there, literally, as Guardians of the Galaxy, and it seems like a lot of the marketing has fallen into them all having parallels with The Avengers, in some way.

GUNN: How so?  I don’t think a single piece of marketing is done anything like that.  That’s completely not true!  Tell me one way in which it’s like that.  The only thing I’ve ever seen like that is the EW thing.  What’s like that?

Well, it’s the way they’re all posing together in the first screen shot.  That seemed reminiscent.

GUNN: It’s The Usual Suspects.  When were The Avengers ever in The Usual Suspects line up?

Okay, I’m completely wrong.

GUNN:  I’m not being mean to you.  Ask more questions.  I’m not being mean.  I just don’t agree with you.  I’ve been up since 8 o’clock this morning, still working on this movie, believe it or not.  I’m crazy. 

What is your end date for working on the movie?

james_gunn-guardiansGUNN:  Dude, I wish I knew.  My end date is July 7th because I’m flying to Singapore to start the press tour.  So, I hope to god it’s July 7th.  Although I have a feeling that I’ll have to be looking, by internet, at some shots that haven’t been finalized yet.

What is the editing process like, on this big-budget film?

GUNN:  It’s lengthy, man.  I am used to doing movies which are very, very difficult.  This movie is actually easier than a movie like Super.  With that movie, I was shooting for 24 days, and it’s extremely harrowing for that 24 days.  This movie, I shot for over five months.  So, it’s actually easier, but it’s a marathon because I’ve doing nothing else for two years, really, truly.  I’ve had very little life.  I’ve lost two girlfriends during the two years.  I’ve had all sorts of nothing besides this movie, and that’s really what this movie is to me.  And it’s worth it.  I love it.  I really do love it.  But, I’m ready for it to go away now. 

So, you and Craig Mazin worked together on The Specials and now you’ve moved into Marvel and he’s moved into writing Snow White and the Huntsman 2 and other giant big-budget things like that.  When you did The Specials — what was that $100,000?

GUNN:  No.  I wish it was that low.  It was under a million dollars, but it wasn’t quite that low.

So, is there anything you can say about working with people at a smaller [level budget] that let’s you know that you can handle something of a massive scale?

GUNN:  Well, obviously Marvel thought I could because Super cost only $3 million.  So, they thought I was able to handle [a bigger budget].  It’s been pretty comfortable.  I don’t see a big difference between the job of directing a low-budget movie and the job of directing a big-budget movie.  I do think there are different things that you have to understand and know about.  I’ve been very lucky because I was trained pretty heavily in visual effects.  Both of my two movies, although low-budget, do have a lot of visual effects in them.  Charles Roven, who was a producer on the Batman films and the Scooby Doo movies, took me aside and trained me [in how] to direct big-budget movies, back when I was writing those films.  He is the one that is really responsible for me learning the ins and outs of visual effects, which makes my job on this movie a lot easier.  There have been other guys who have made Marvel movies that haven’t had that experience.  I think it’s a lot more of a learning curve.  3D is new to me.  I had a lot to learn about that.  Sometimes I’m sitting there feeling guilty because I’m actually a student more than I am a teacher.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-imax-3d-posterDid 3D effect the way that you shot the film?

GUNN:  100% I wanted to make a big budget 3D movie from the beginning. The movie is shot in such a way that it could be great in 3D.  However [being set in space] really lends itself to that.  Even movies like 2001 with the beautiful ‘space-scapes’ and the slow bits are a part of what Guardians is.  To be able to take full advantage of that with 3D was something that was exciting to me.

What’s the balance between having that wide-lens space framing while also having the kinetic action?

GUNN:  I always like to think that I make movies that are like Nirvana songs.  They have a slow verse and then they pop into high gear and then they go back into slow and then they pop into high gear again.  So you get the space, you get the softer emotions, you get the more tender moments and then you go really fast and hard as much as you can.  And then you get to play in-between those two different [sides].  I don’t really like movies that are all one or the other.  It’s really about the play between both of them.  Now that I’ve said that, there’s actually lots of movies that I like that are one or the other but it’s just not for me as a filmmaker.

And then, usually at the end of those films, someone gets shot in the head at the end.

GUNN:  Yeah.  I’m not going to make any promises about Rocket.

Do you see yourself moving into more low-budget films after this, as a palette cleanser?

GUNN:  You know, I’ve had so little time.  I mean, I’ve gotten offered a shit load of stuff since the first trailer came out, but I’ve just given so little time [into thinking about it].  I’m not there yet.  I’m still in Guardians.  Right now, in this moment, there’s still a part of me that’s thinking about things I’m going to do tomorrow with the movie.  So, I’m definitely not present with thinking about what my next film is going to be.  All I know is I’m excited about doing nothing for a month or so.  And then, maybe I’ll start to think about what my next movie is going to be.

Do you have any personal projects that you’ve already written ready to go?

guardians-of-the-galaxy-groot-flowerGUNN:  I have personal projects that I’ve written that I’m not certain about.  I had a TV show I was working on that I was going to do before right before I got offered this gig.

What was the genre of the TV show?

GUNN:  It was science fiction.

What’s it like being offered the Marvel movie that’s the weirdest, farthest out there Marvel movie thus far?

GUNN:  Have you ever seen one of those American Idol contestants start crying when they win American Idol? That’s what it felt like.  It did.  For real.

Velma or Daphne?

GUNN:  In the comics or the movies?


GUNN:  Well, in the comics, Daphne.  Come on.  In the movie, I’d take both.  Well, Linda Cardellini is one of my very best friends in the world.  So, sorry Sarah Michelle, I have to take Linda. 


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