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Interview: ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Director James Gunn Talks Blu-ray, Kevin Feige, Phase 3 & More
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James Gunn director of Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy was the unexpected hit of the year, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you will get a chance to experience the superhero film unlike any other that everyone has been talking about when it hits Blu-ray and DVD on December 9th. We had a chance to talk to James Gunn, the director of the film, about some of the bonus material. The special features on the Blu-ray/DVD include a behind-the-scenes look at filming, bloopers, deleted scenes that provide more context and backstory, what Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel’s recording sessions looked like, how they used the motion capture technology for Rocket Raccoon and Groot, and much more.

During the event, Gunn talked about how the film didn’t exceed his expectations, finding bonus material to add to the Blu-ray/DVD, working with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, being surprised as how much freedom he had on Guardians, Phase Three, and why the film resonates so well with audiences. Hit the jump for more.

Gunn is genuinely excited to be doing interviews. Before the event started, Gunn talked about doing a press junket for his mega-hit Guardians of the Galaxy Blu-ray/DVD.

James Gunn: It actually feels pretty amazing to be here doing interviews, because the whole time I was doing interviews right before the movie came out it was really exciting and energizing. But it was also pretty terrifying, because the movie was just about the come out and I started – I think I was understanding by then people really liked the movie, so that part lifted my biggest worry. But we didn’t know how the movie was gonna do and all of that stuff, so it’s nice to do these interviews and answer questions when I’m not completely terrified.

Geeks of Doom: Did the film exceed your wildest expectations?

Gunn: It didn’t exceed my wildest expectations. I could have beat James Cameron. My wildest expectations are yet to be beat! Well I’ve got even wilder expectation than… no, no, I’m kidding. You know, there was a moment, I don’t know when it was, I think it was the first day, because they told us – tracking said we were supposed to come in at $65M opening weekend, and we started getting our first weekend numbers and it kept getting higher every day. At first it was like, “Oh my God” we’re going to be near $80M, and then we’re going to be $85M, and we ended up at $94M. There was a time, and this is such a boring anecdote, but I was sitting out by the pool with my dog at my house, and I almost got this LSD experience where it wasn’t real. It felt like a Twilight Zone episode. It wasn’t entirely a good feeling. It was sorta creepy. But it was that moment when I realized, “holy shit, we’re doing really well.”

Geeks of Doom: Will there be a playable version of the 16-bit special feature seen on the Blu-ray/DVD?

Gunn: I think that’s just for this, but I wish it could be. I would like to be somebody who jumps over mushrooms and stuff.

Geeks of Doom With the amount of footage that was shot for this film, there was going to be even more going on behind the scenes, which would mean there would be tons of bonus footage. How much bonus footage were you considering adding to the DVD while shooting the film?

Gunn: We had a guy on set shooting behind the scenes all the time. And so we have a lot of behind the scenes footage. There’s tons of stuff that I would like to go through by myself, but I just haven’t had the time to do that. We had a lot of bonus footage. And then we have cut scenes and that stuff.

Geeks of Doom: What was it like to work with Kevin Feige, and how has this film influenced Phase Three, since we will be seeing more Marvel films with galactic elements to them?

Gunn: My dynamic, at this point, with Kevin is, is like, I went in and said “this is what I think we should do in the sequel” and he said “okay” and now I’m off dealing with that. So it’s not that dynamic. And who knows how much we’ve influenced Phase Three, but I think the one thing is that The Guardians aren’t backseat to The Avengers. This isn’t – Captain America, Thor, those other movies really do support The Avengers and they do take a back seat in a certain way. The Guardians are their own thing and the cosmic side of the universe is its own thing. Because the movie was so successful, and more successful than Iron Man was, that changed the way other people looked at it, but I still look at it the same way.

Geeks of Doom: Do you have to think about Phase Three now that the film is such a vital part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Gunn: Again, it’s just still more important that the Guardians’ story is more important than where they’re going with anything having to do with the rest of the Marvel Universe. So no, not really.

Geeks of Doom: Feige is clearly the captain of the MCU ship, and they have a clear vision of where they want to go, so what is it like to hear when he let you have so much leeway with Guardians?

Gunn: I really was very, very surprised. Most surprised by things people might think of as basic parts of movies. The fact that when I first wrote the story of what the eventual movie became, I came in with a treatment, and I think this what the story should be. At the top of that treatment I had a photograph of a Sony Walkman. And I don’t know what compelled me to do that, but I think it was stupid. Because I think if I did that at most other studios people would be like, “whoah, wait a sec, that should be Saturn.” Instead, Kevin just loved that Walkman. He just started talking about the Walkman all the time. To me that’s just really the center of where the movie is different. It’s that Walkman ’70s music next to the Space Opera, and just everything I brought to those guys that was the most outlandish stuff was the stuff they embraced the most. And I couldn’t believe it.

I remember when I made my first ever movie, Tromeo & Juliet, and I was in New York City on the subway everyday. I was still in grad school, and I was like, “oh my God, I can’t believe I came up with this idea for this thing and now they’re doing it and they’re spending $350,000 on it and I couldn’t believe it! It’s fucking crazy, you know.” And I got that same feeling on this. I was like, “I can’t believe that they’re just kinda going with this.” I felt like I was tricking everybody. But it worked.

Geeks of Doom: Can you talk about the weirdness of Guardians of the Galaxy? The film was considered a huge gamble at first, but because it is out there and not like any of the other superhero films, it was a huge success. So is that weirdness something you will be striving for in the sequel?

Gunn: I don’t think about Guardians of the Galaxy as weird, because every day I get somebody telling me their eighty-year-old grandmother loved Guardians of the Galaxy, so, in some ways, it’s different. I think it’s unique. But I don’t think it’s that weird. I actually think it’s more accessible to people than a lot of Marvel movies. I think the main thing with moving on is that we can just repeat ourselves. We can’t just say, “okay let’s start with something sad and shift into something really happy with some music, and let’s have the Awesome Mix work in the same way, but with songs from the ’80s as opposed to songs from the ’70s.” And all of those things… that doesn’t interest me. For me, the shift is about getting to know the characters on a deeper level, knowing them more intimately, and uncovering facets of the characters that make them more real to us. Because at the center of it, I think what works about Guardians is that people like the characters.

Geeks of Doom: What does it mean to you to have the film resonate so well with audiences?

Gunn: It’s touching. It’s really touching. I really made the movie completely sincerely, and I love the characters. And I’m moved by it still. Every time I watch the movie and see Drax pet Rocket’s head I still get teary eyed, honest to God. I love that moment in particular, but, you know, I love the movie, I love the characters, and I love the people I made the movie with. So to have people respond to it on that emotional level. And to have people get what I was going for with the whole movie. After having a career of doing many things I thought were pretty obvious what I was doing with them, and then sometimes people just didn’t exactly see them how they were, being able to get to a point where I feel like I’m able to speak to people clearly through film is a real joy.

Geeks Of Doom: Does that mean we will get more of the characters’ backstory?

Gunn: It’s not… Yes. Looking more deeply into the characters themselves and who they are and what they think and what their flaws are and what their strengths are, you know. They’re a much more flawed group than The Avengers. They have major, major issues.

Geeks of Doom: Can you talk about which one of the deleted scenes was cut last?

Gunn: No, I’m the Stupid One. The one that’s Rocket trying to explain to Groot and Groot gets distracted was cut pretty late. That one was cut the latest for sure.

Geeks of Doom: Sisterly Love seems to provide some much-needed information about the dynamic between Gamora and Nebula that the audience didn’t get, can you talk about why that scene was cut?

Gunn: Yeah, that was a hard one. The truth is we had tons of stuff in the first act on the Dark Aster, for too long. It does provide information, but it made the movie move slower so we ended up cutting it. There were ones that were cut later that were easier, like that scene with Rocket and Groot, but it didn’t even occur to us to cut it until later in the game.

Geeks of Doom: You created a rich, dense, and layered world for these characters, how much of that was actually done for this movie, and how much was saved for later.

Gunn: It’s somewhere in between. Some of it was for this movie, but there’s a lot of things that are way more thought out than they need to be for this movie. In particular, things like “The Ravagers” were thought out really… I’d say “well thought out” but that’s like giving myself a compliment. So there are some things that are really, really in-depth, and The Ravagers culture and how they work is one of them.

Geeks of Doom: Did that play into thinking beyond Guardians of the Galaxy?

Gunn: Totally. Very much. I mean, every time I say something, somebody takes it and runs with it. And there was a big rash of “James Gunn is thinking of ideas for Guardians of the Galaxy 3.” Well, I don’t think I really said that. What I said was: “I had ideas for Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I knew what I was going to do for that from the time I was doing the other movie, and I had ideas for beyond that.” That doesn’t necessarily mean Guardians of the Galaxy 3 because there’s lots of characters in this movie that go in a lot of different directions. And some of the characters I’m most interested in aren’t necessarily Guardians of the Galaxy.

Geeks of Doom: As we all know, comic book films are not direct adaptations of the source material. Some films take some creative liberties with origins, characteristics, etc. Peter Quill’s father is one of those changes that will differ from the comics, can you explain those differences, and why you chose to deviate from the original character?

Gunn: His origins are different in the movie. I just thought there was a more interesting way to go for the Cinematic Universe that was more believable. There’s things in the comic book that, on film, seemed to come out a little too ‘Star Wars’ to me. I’m not a great fan of the name J’son. So there will be a lot of difference. You know, this really is the Cinematic Universe and the fun of it for me, you know I always loved the Marvel Ultimate Comics that presented a different story on the way that the origins story we’re used to were, and we saw characters in a new light and they could show up in different places, different ages, different ways. And I think that’s exactly what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. We see things in a different light. They established that very well at the end of the first Iron Man where Tony Stark says “I am Iron Man.” That was like Marvel Cinematic Universe’s way of saying “we’re different from the comics.”

Geeks of Doom: Music was a huge influence on the film, especially when it came to setting the tone, and telling us about the characters. How much control did you have over the selection of the music?

Gunn: There was nothing I couldn’t get and the songs where one hundred percent chosen by me and only me all throughout the movie. Most of the songs were written into the screenplay. And those that weren’t I chose later on. But I never had any fight on the music. I think those guys originally thought of it as temp music, the songs that I put in there, but at our early test screenings people loved the music. So I was really happy with that because I didn’t want to end up with the newest Britney Spears song. Though I like Britney Spears. So that was the choice with that. I had a very specific type of song I was looking for. A song, for the most part, people might know the music, but they probably wouldn’t know the name of the band, they probably didn’t know the name of the song itself. But some part of you recognized hearing it at Shakey’s Pizza or wherever. And then all of a sudden this song that’s been in the background of your life is pushed to the foreground.

Geeks of Doom: There are some more Easter Eggs from your films that most people wouldn’t know if they haven’t already seen them, but can you talk to us about the strange cocoon that looks like Adam Warlock’s cocoon?

Gunn: Well, there is a cocoon that is exactly like Adam Warlock’s cocoon. I wasn’t really thinking that much when I put that in there. That was actually my idea to put it in there. They were like, “Hey what should we put in?” And I went through the Marvel handbook, and like picked cool things that looked neat, and one of them was Adam Warlock’s cocoon. There’s a lot of stuff in there, and there is also a lot of stuff that people think they have seen that I don’t think are in there.

Geeks of Doom: How did you decide to use Howard the Duck in the after credits scene?

Gunn: Originally, the tag scene was going to be Baby Dancing Groot and we loved it so much, I think we should put it at the very end of the movie. And we had the rights to the Jackson Five song for Baby Dancing Groot and I liked the way it ended with Peter flying away and playing that song. So that worked well at the very end of the movie, but meant we didn’t have a tag scene. And we didn’t have a tag scene to connect us to something else, so I found this footage I had of Benicio that I actually shot for the montage at the end, which originally had Nebula and Benicio and Grandpa Quill, but we cut that for a lot of reasons. And I had that footage, and I’m like, “what could he see?” And I started going through it and I’m like, “he could see something in that box. What could he see in that box?” And I don’t know if it was me or my editor Fred Raskin who said “Howard the Duck” and we started laughing. Then we told Kevin and he started laughing. He thought it was really funny. So that’s really all it was.

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