Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn recently did Alison Rosen’s podcast, and the two discussed his success, what’s changed in his life (not much), and a few Guardians 2 details. During the conversation, Gunn spoke about the deal he made with Marvel right after he finished the first movie.
Alison Rosen: “So how does it feel?”
James Gunn: “It feels good…My life doesn’t feel drastically different, um, I think from the outside my life feels drastically different. I think that there’s a great amount of people that treat me somewhat differently, but my life has changed — has stayed pretty much the same. I was writing all day, I was working on the sequel, and that’s what I’ve always been doing. I’l go and I’ll shoot, and I’ll work on it like that. So, my life has been similar to what it’s been in the past. I still have all the same friends, same people around me — a couple of new friends — um, but most things are the same.”
AR: “So, where are you in the process of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which comes out in July of 2017, right?”
JG: “Yeah. I am near the end of really putting together a treatment. By a treatment I mean a very, very uh, intense — you know — story, which is about 40 or, it’ll be about 40 or 50 pages long. It even has dialogue, and it goes into exactly what the specific beats of the film are. And I’ve been working on that for, uh, a little while now. To me it’s the most important part of making a film, because anything that goes wrong in this stage, then that is something that’ll haunt you for the rest of your life, further down the line. So, the better I can keep this, as strong as possible, the happier I’ll be.”
AR: “Something that could go wrong at this stage, you mean like, an inconsistency of some sort?”
JG: “Yeah…something in the story that doesn’t work, you’re like, ‘Oh, that relationship doesn’t work, or that character’s arc isn’t really that great,’ and so you’re like, it’s not a big deal…well it ends up being a huge deal later down the line, because the story is a skeleton of the screenplay. The screenplay is the musculature of the movie that you’re making. So if your skeleton is broken, then you’re screwed. “
AR: “And so, what is the story that GotG 2 is based on?”
JG: “Well, it’s not realy based on anything; it’s, the story for Guardians 2 is an original story that I came up with, that I, you know, I started working on actually while I was shooting Guardians 1. And, um, it’ll answer some of the questions that were put forth in the first movie, about Peter Quill’s father — who he is and what’s going on with that. Um, you know, we’ll get to know some of the characters a little bit more, and then we’re gonna meet a couple of new characters, who’ll be very important to — for the Guardians movies, and probably important to the Marvel universe on the whole.”
AR: “Is Peter Quill’s father someone that we have seen?”
JG: “Well. People will have to see the movie for that. But I don’t want to make it into the, it’s not like, my guess is people are gonna know who Peter Quill’s father is — by the time trailers come out and people start seeing early screenings of the film — so I don’t want to make the movie about ‘Oh, you gotta come to the movie and see, you know, be surprised by who Peter Quill’s father is, because if that’s, you know, what is necessary for you to enjoy the movie, the movie doesn’t work. The movie is really about the dramatic, you know, relationships we have between these characters. You know, and hopefully that’s bolstered by action and humor. Um, but those dramatic relationships are at the heart of what Guardians is.”
AR: “So this is fascinating, in terms of this being a story that you came up with. How does that work with Marvel, and sort of, their involvement in it?”
JG: “Well, I mean it’s, they’re of course, involved. I, you know, I thought of, I had teased Kevin Feige, who’s, who runs Marvel, I teased him a little bit…given him a teaser about what I was thinking about — where all this was going, and I wrote up some documents about the backstory of, and where Peter Quill came from, and what his relationship to Yondu really is. What are all the things that, you know, happened in the first movie, and why are they there? Does it make sense, basically, if we continue telling the story? And they were on board with that, and then…”
AR interrupts: “If you continue telling me the story as it is in the comic books, you mean?”
JG: “Well it’s not; it’s different from what the comic books — it’s different, you know, than it was in the comic books. You know, Peter Quill’s father is, is somebody different in the comics. Um, and so uh, yeah, so then I, when the movie came out, you know, we got greenlit on the sequel right away, I went in and I sat down with those guys, and then I’m like, ‘Okay, here’s what I think the sequel should be.’ And they were like, ‘Oh, whoa, that’s risky, but okay.’ And I said uh…now I’m gonna turn over the story in a few short weeks and we’ll find out how much, you know, how well it works. You know, they’re great collaborators, Marvel, and one of the reasons why I’ve written — really liked doing this film is because it’s allowed me to be as creative as possible, because there’s so much you have to create. You have to create characters and worlds and sets and places and locations out of something that doesn’t exist. In a regular movie, you know, when you have a production designer, and you’re like ‘Hey, you know, I wanna have a toaster in the scene,’ and the production designer will say, ‘Okay, well here are pictures of 20 toasters that you can put in the scene,’ and you choose one. In this movie, it’s like I wanna have a toaster in the scene, and it’s like, Well, what is a toaster? How does it work? Does it float in the air? Is it bread that it toasts? What does it do? You know, you have to create everything from scratch. So I feel like most of my time between now and July — in May of 2017 — is really the creation of all those things, little details, as well as the overall story.”
AR: “And is that exciting or daunting?”
JG: “It’s fun. I mean, it’s really fun!”
Gunn describes being a child and creating worlds with his friends or bother, and that creating this movie feels just like that.
“It really is playing. When I’m in the zone it’s that way.”
So there you have it; Gunn is playing with who Quill’s father is. Will fans think the change is refreshing, or is it cool for the director to play with Star Lord’s parentage?
He also discussed his take on the Infinity Stones (“they’re a part of our conre, of who we are” — the one within Guardians is “pure power,” Ronin’s state of mind, Rocket’s lack of parenting, and how it worked with Chris Pratt losing weight for the role of Peter Quill (Pratt had gained weight for The Delivery Man):
“I don’t know if it was in his contract; it might have been…The thing is, he had lost weight for Zero Dark Thirty. Not as much weight as he lost for Guardians. And I know that Kevin from Marvel sat him down and said, ‘Hey, if you want to do this, you have to lose weight.’ And you have to remember that if it’s a few weeks before shooting and he hasn’t lost weight, we can always say, ‘We’re going to hire somebody else.’ I’m sure Chris knew that…The secret that I didn’t tell Chris until after is that for me, I would have fought to keep him even if he was chubby, because he was really the best. And he really fit that character the best. And if that meant that character was a little bit, you know, beefier, and we had the first sort of, you know, chubby superhero, then I would have gone with it. Because he was the best actor for the role.”
I love this guy.
Listen to the rest of the podcast for more of Gunn’s thoughts on Pratt, plus Gunn’s “…childhood, feeling alienated, his creative process, snow cream, religion and his feelings about Catholicism, running errands, being slightly OCD, dating, trust issues, Kevin Bacon and so much more.”