Guardians Of The Galaxy Exclusive: James Gunn Says Marvel Let Him Do Whatever He Wanted, Gives A Shout Out To Jim Starlin

Sorry to drop a timewarp mindbender on you, but when I was at the Guardians of the Galaxy junket last week, the order in which I conducted the interviews is not the order in which we've been publishing them. Chris Pratt, for example, warmed up the seat for James Gunn but while we're keeping Pratt back for later, I'm going to share Gunn's comments with you right now.

I mention this because I can't leave out Gunn's opening comments. In he came, bold as brass, with all the confidence of a man who just made Guardians of the Galaxy, and he asked, "Did you just speak to Pratt? He's a real jerk. He's very shy, but underneath that layer of shyness, is a real asshole."

These two obviously have a very sparky relationship, a pair of real live wires crackling away non-stop. It seemed only right to start the conversation by talking about the lightning bolt moment when Gunn first knew he wanted Pratt to be his Star Lord.

James Gunn: When he first started reading the role I knew I wanted him, but before that I didn't think I wanted him at all. But once he started, I knew he was Peter Quill. Honestly, I was very inspired by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and how when I saw that movie, Downey Jr. filled up that character, finished him off and made him entirely his own. What was written on the page for Iron Man in that first movie was great but the way Robert did it was even better. So Peter Quill was funny on the page but I wanted somebody who could do it as funny as it was on the page but then also blow me away. Chris was the person who "filled it up."

Bradley and I were very specific about what Rocket sounded like and what he was. I knew what Rocket was from the very beginning. It wasn't too long after we started shooting that Bradley came on board. If you were to hear Sean do the [Rocket] voice on set it was very much the same as Bradley in the movie, just with Sean's voice instead. The accent is very similar, the rhythm is very much the same. Bradley's voice then fills out that character better than Sean's. Sean was very, very good at his piece and helping to create that character but his voice wasn't exactly what I think Rocket's voice is. Rocket's voice had to be a little bit deeper in some ways.

Dealing with Sean on this movie was probably the thing I enjoyed the most, and dealing with Michael Rooker, my very close friend. Sean and I lived together through filming and he helped me create Rocket, and a lot of what you see on film is him acting as Rocket. He's a great character because he really is the culmination of a bunch of different people. This makes him feel more full and real to me, because there are so many people involved in the creation of that character.

When Joss said "I think I want more James Gunn," I added the 12% scene, the one where they're arguing at the beginning of the third act, right where you're never supposed to have a long scene like that. I let myself go more in all of the directions where I had thought they were going to freak out over the opening credit scene where Quill is dancing and singing. I thought they were going to freak out over all kinds of stuff. Instead, the things I thought they were going to complain about became the things they liked the most about the screenplay. For that I feel very fortunate, that there's some weird, mad sorcery at play because I don't know how I was able to do everything and that Marvel actually liked it and I'm sitting here today talking to people who actually liked the movie.

It's great to have The Avengers on your side. The fact that The Avengers had Thanos and we have Thanos, it's great to be connected. I never thought of it as a handicap, that's a fact. And it's also fun, and Joss even said to me last night, "You said that line about 'If the Avengers are The Beatles, The Guardians are the Rolling Stones' and I hate that because it's true." I said "Why don't you like that? I actually like The Beatles more than the Stones in real life" and he said "I know, I like The Beatles more too but The Rolling Stones are cooler." I guess that's true.

Really, Nicole's script is very different. The story is different, there's no walkman, the character arcs are very different, it's not about the same stuff.

This film is pure entertainment, and I don't think Marvel are afraid of delivering entertainment. There's a lot of personal expression in this movie and we do a lot of edgy, different things, it's still totally entertainment. Making the most fun movie possible with the most heart possible is what I set to do from the beginning. I didn't set out to make anything with any point other than to be as fun as possible, and maybe making sure you like the person you came to the movie theatre with a little bit more on the way out than on the way in.

Ben Davis. I saw him last night for the first time. He's a great guy and he's shooting The Avengers now. Joss took all my people. He took Charlie Wood, my production designer, he took my 1st AD Jamie Christopher. But I took his costume designer and he took her back. One of the things I feel most grateful for is that, when I first started writing this I wrote a nineteen page document about the visuals, exactly what it would look like, and the people I surrounded myself with, they all had that groundwork for what they did and they all took it, understood it completely and then made the film look better than I could have by myself. That's been a really fulfilling thing about this movie, and frankly makes me scared about doing the next one.

The colour palette is really about how in the late 70s Alien came out and then in the 80s Blade Runner came out and they created a whole new aesthetic that was pretty genius, especially Alien. Since then, though, it's like people just stopped there. Most science fiction movies since that time have had that same sort of look. I wanted to return to the bright colours I loved from the 50s and 60s, not to mention movies like Flash Gordon which was a huge movie for me as a kid. And when we get those bright colours back, to take that look, tarnish it, dirty it up and bring it down, to keep that pulp feel while keeping it very grounded. That paradox is in play throughout the whole movie.

Really early on somebody said "What other comic book movies would you like to do?" and I said three things: Thunderbolts, which is Marvel; Hit Monkey, which is Marvel; and We3 which is actually Vertigo, a Grant Morrison book that I really love. That was true, but I think I did a lot of what I'd want to do with Thunderbolts in this movie. Thunderbolts is about bad guys becoming good guys and that's what this movie is, if not to the same degree. I find that story interesting - the story of people who are assholes finding something good inside themselves that they didn't know was there.


If you read Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Guardians of the Galaxy comics you can see that, while their story is not the same, the mix of characters and the humour we have is all in the Abnett and Lanning run. And I have to give a shout out to Jim Starlin who created a lot of the look, through the stuff that he wrote, through Marvel Cosmic. He created Thanos. That era of stuff was an influence on the look of the movie. Quill's vision at the end of the movie, that stuff is directly from those comics.

I like to be considered for major stuff and when I think about movies I want to do in future, there are people who have expressed interested in my stuff in the past and that's always who I would go to first. I don't like being the flavour of the month and I don't like people who wouldn't take a meeting with me two years ago but now want to make my next movie. I like being wanted, but if you like my thing, you like my thing, and if you just want me because of where I am now, then I don't care. The thing about Kevin Feige that I love is that I've known Kevin, he pitched to me what the Marvel universe was going to be before Iron Man came out. We liked each other then. He let me do my thing and I'll be very loyal to him because of that.

If Kevin is on board with your creative vision, like he was with mine from the very beginning, then you have the full go ahead. I got lucky. I don't know why I got lucky. I don't why I got Guardians of the Galaxy, I don't know why I got to do whatever I wanted. People keep saying "Marvel's this, Marvel's that" and I just think "They let me do whatever I want. I don't know what you're talking about."

Kevin would jump in and plus my ideas. Hugely. I'm trying to think of an example but I'm used to giving myself most of the credit. There are little things that I cut out, and Kevin talked me into putting them back in. One of the reasons Kevin and I get along are that we're total perfectionists. We're never happy and we're both willing to cut anything to make the film better. But listen, I'm funnier than they are, so they let me do my thing and it was borne out because when audiences saw the movie, the stuff I thought was funny was the same stuff audiences laugh at.

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I can't thank Gunn enough for his time, and for cramming it so full of candid, interesting tidbits.

Guardians of the Galaxy is in cinemas across the UK and US and much of the rest of the world right now. It's James Gunn's brain in widescreen, supersaturated Marvelvision. Don't miss it.