EXCLUSIVE: Dave Bautista & Zoe Saldana Talk Auditions, Lunchboxes & More Ahead of Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy

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It surprised many but the Guardians of the Galaxy did not touch down at Comic Con this last weekend. Even when Marvel wanted to announce their sequel, they didn't have any actual interplanetary space rogues on hand to greet the crowds and had to throw over to a video of Chris Pratt and James Gunn in London.

What were they doing over here, on this little green island next to France? They were talking to the assembled members of the European press, and luckily for me, I made the cut.

So while I missed Comic Con this year, Marvel still kept me busy. I not only spoke to Pratt and Gunn, but also Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan and, paired as a team, the hushed and thoughtful Dave Bautista and mile-a-minute Zoe Saldana.

Here's some of what Bautista and Saldana had to tell me about making this movie. Bautista picks up the story at the very beginning, before he even knew he had the role.

Dave Bautista: It went on for months but it felt more real each time I went in. They wouldn't exclude me from the role but, at the same time, I had a fear that if I didn't get the part, I was now so emotionally invested I was really going to be heartbroken. There was that battle within myself but also, reading into all of the internet rumours. "This guy's got the part, this guy was offered the part." So it was three and a half months of torture, then even after they told me I got the part I wasn't allowed to acknowledge it publicly. I had to just sit on it.

Zoe Saldana: You might think that some of the films I do have a lot in common because they take place in space, but they're very different from each other. The characters are very different and the technology is very different. If anything, Star Trek and Guardians are more similar but Avatar stood on its own ground, with motion capture and being shot in 3D, not being converted. I was dealing with a very sensitive technology that was very time consuming.
With this one, the levity that the script had, the cast of all underdogs, and the character I was playing, all felt new for me. Also, the director had a different temper. There was this energy of a first time big budget that you miss getting from more experienced directors.

DB: All of us would feed off each other and get lost in the moment. Some of it comes from the direction, but a lot of it was the chemistry between these cast members.

ZS: But also appearances will always be deceiving. When Dave is walking towards you for the first time you think "Jesus Christ!" but on set he's such a subtle, excellent actor. You would think that because he's so big and he comes from wrestling world that his acting is going to be "Rah rah!" but it's actually so subtle and natural. James would explain a scene or a beat to Dave and then the next take, he'd have it just right. He's such a natural. He really is born to do this. Some actors come and they're really [turned up] high like Tom Hanks and... I don't know if this is true, but I love this story even if it isn't. When they shot Forrest Gump, the first couple of days shooting they scratched off and they did it all over again because it was just a little too much and they wanted him to just calm down. It takes a really wise director to understand how and actor will give you the levels that you need, and when to push the one that needs a little pushing, and to pull down the one who is on too high a frequency.

DB: I can't give Sean Gunn enough credit. A lot of my scenes, in particular my emotional scenes, are with Rocket and so, on set I was working with Sean. He was professional in the way he went about this. I've worked with actors who would have just read this off the page but Sean, even though he knew that, at the end of the day, he wasn't going to get the credit for being Rocket, but he was so submerged into this character. Even when we weren't shooting he was off at the side, looking at his iPad watching videos of Raccoons. He was so emotional and he didn't hold back at all, he dumped everything into this character. It's kinda frustrating that I feel like he's not getting the notice.

ZS: It's impossible to not talk about the contribution he gave to this movie. I don't know if it's a Gunn thing but they were both very passionate about their craft. Even in the way Rocket smiles - I don't know if there are enough pictures of Sean on the internet, but he looks like Sean. And this is to not discredit the work, and obviously the notoriety, that Bradley Cooper brings to the role.

DB: He was awesome.

ZS: Exactly. When I heard Bradley's voice on the movie the first time I went up to James and said "I can't tell apart when it's Sean or Bradley." Thank god that Sean left a trail for Bradley to use as a reference. James said "We didn't even watch Sean as a reference." What this has done is given James a point of reference on who Rocket really is, that thug from some urban neighbourhood, like he grew up in Brooklyn or Philly.

ZS: In the acting we were assholes, we need to be rude to each other, needed to want to kill each other, but in real life, from the moment we shook hands, we had fittings together, we had meals together, and when we started shooting, there was no ego. But we were all underdogs. I feel that had you brought in a name or... I suppose sometimes you may have an ego on set, and it depends on personalities, but James was not only looking for the right kind of tone for the characters, he was also looking for great people to work with and spend the summer with. And that's what makes him a Leo.

DB: Of course I was intimidated at first. Zoe was the last cast member I had actually met and she was the only one I was really worried about. The movie I worked on before, I had a bad experience with the lead actress, she just complained about everything, bitched about everything, bad bad bad, just diva, me me me, give me this, give me that. I had not met Zoe and I didn't know anything about her and I was thinking "Man, I hope she's not a diva." My first experience with her was when we drove up for rehearsals and my driver said "That's Zoe in the car behind us." She jumped out of the car and shouted "Batista!" and gave me a big hug right off the bat.

ZS: I thought he was latino. Batista! He was like "I don't speak Spanish." And I said, "Oh really, you're one of those latinos" and he said "No! I'm not latino."

DB: And then we go to know each other, and she learned I was going to be the quiet guy and accepted me for that. We always had a lot of fun. I told her and Chris that my most fun on set was watching those two interact with each other. A lot of times when we were not shooting they burst into some kind of song and dance routine, were singing and laughing, they're both so witty. Every day on set was a lot of laughs.

ZS: But I'm telling you, Dave was so quiet. You just want to climb up on him and have a conversation on his shoulder. I always waited for him to finish eating and then ate his leftovers.

DB: I believe I have the one and only Guardians of the Galaxy lunchbox.

ZS: Where did you get it?

DB: From James. It was a wrap gift. For a while I had it hidden because they weren't releasing any images and now I've recently moved so I have all my stuff packed but when I get it out I will take a picture and put it online, for sure.

ZS: My husband and I bought him a big butt book from Taschen. I realised he has an affinity for big butts.

There you go; from auditions to big butt wrap gifts in ten minutes. Stay tuned for my interviews with the rest of The Guardians throughout the week. In the meantime, we can play guessing games about whichever actress that was Bautista was telling tales on.

Guardians of the Galaxy opens in the US on August 1st, while my fellow Brits will get to see the film one day early, on July 31st. It's tremendous.