Guardians Of The Galaxy Exclusive: Karen Gillan Talks Shaving Her Head & Marilyn Monroe

Karen Gillan claims that, at school, she was a shy child who rarely talked, and that when she [...]

Nebula Guardians of the Galaxy

Karen Gillan claims that, at school, she was a shy child who rarely talked, and that when she first got involved with drama groups it didn't go well because she was too darn quiet, too small and contained. Well, something has changed dramatically in the meantime.

When I met Gillan last week to discuss her role as Nebula in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, she lit up the room and filled every last second with energy or excitement. What follows is her side of our conversation; I only wish I new how to get across the laughter and the sheer zip of her delivery. I've done her disservice, I think, by boiling this down to black and white squiggles on a computer screen.

Karen Gillan: I discovered Nebula more as we were going along. I remember that I did my screen test and it just so off the mark on what the character should be that I learned what not to do from that. James really liked the screen test but it was so the opposite of what I should have done. It was really funny. I played her as Scottish and I was crying. How not Nebula could I be?

James gave me some really good notes, though. He said "Do you want to just try it as Marilyn Monroe?" That's a great note. That's where the breathy American thing comes from. I thought that was a really clever thing. It was the main note and then we just saw the character form pretty much instantly. He also told me that Clint Eastwood and Marilyn Monroe essentially have the same voice. At first I was thinking "No..." but they do! I think Clint might have based his voice on Marilyn's, James was saying.

It's really exciting for me to transform for a role. I don't want to have career playing different versions of myself every time, that bores me. This is why shaving my head was really exciting to me.

Right after shaving my head I fell asleep. That's really interesting to me. I must have been subconsciously really freaking out, and then I fell asleep, there and then, in the chair, for two hours. Nobody woke me up, which is weird because I didn't know anyone on the set at that point, and so I was just the weird, bald sleeping girl. When I woke up I went to my actual bed and slept until the morning... and that's when it really hit me.
I couldn't believe I got my wig back from the crowd at Comic Con last year. I wasn't supposed to throw it into the audience. They said I could take it off but then, in the moment, "Woo hoo!" I threw it into the audience. There were two girls fighting over it on the floor. "Guys, guys, we're going to need that back, sorry" and then they gave it back to a security guard.

I got the role before I'd seen a script and I was waiting for the script for ages. While I was waiting I started to read The Infinity Gauntlet in it, where she screws over Thanos and tries to take over the Universe. When I got to Comic Con I was ready to talk about the character.

I do find the Marvel Universe intriguing but out of all of the comic book films, this is genuinely the one I'd most like to see in the cinema. It's cool because they crossover and you do start to get invested in it, and excited about seeing one character go over into something else.

I think the appeal with Guardians is the tone of it. It's different to all the other Marvel films, it's really funny and the music is amazing. It's not like a good guy being sentimental and saving people, these characters are really dodgy, they're criminals and might turn on you.

All we did in our down time was take pictures of me in the full makeup holding ridiculous items. There are a million photos on my phone, that I won't show you, of me just being ridiculous in the makeup. They'd spoil the illusion.

In sci-fi they could bring anyone back, and with Marvel I'm going to take as many movies as they give me. Because it's Marvel. Nebula seems to dip and out [of the story] so I don't think she's going to take up all of the time in the world. I'd love to see what happens to her, though.

With [upcoming ABC sitcom] Selfie, I was a little concerned about the potentially huge commitment. It could be six years of my life, you know? So that was something I really had to think about. I'd just fallen so deeply in love with that character that I knew I had to do it. It's the story of an addict, dealing with an addiction to social media - it could be anything, it just happens to be social media - and we're going to tell the story of her getting over that.

Big blockbusters dominate what is shown in theatres, and that's probably supply and demand, but you can absolutely watch whatever films you want to, you just have to watch them through a different medium than your general cinema. I don't have a problem with that. I love blockbuster films and at the same time I'll go watch stuff on Netflix that's been made for zero money. I love horror films, and when they made Scream, for instance - one of my favourites - you'll notice that the beginning is a girl watching a home video. They knew a horror film would be more successful on home video. But if you watch the second one, it's set in a cinema because the first one was so successful. I thought that was really cool... though it's not an answer to your question.

My favourite thing about sci-fi is that the fans are so passionate about what you're making. Other projects pay publicists to make people care, but we already have it. I can't think anything worse than people being passive about something you're putting your heart and soul into. And sci-fi fandom feels like a really fun gang to be in.

I don't know about that, Ms. Gillan. Surely a really fun gang would be one with a talking tree and sadistic Raccoon?

Guardians of the Galaxy opens on July 31st in the UK and August 1st in the US. Stay tuned for my conversations with writer-director James Gunn, and Chris Pratt, the Prince Regent of the multiplex; rewind for my chats with Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana and Vin Diesel.