Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the 15th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The sequel continues the adventures of Star-Lord aka Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) as they travel across the cosmos in search of their next job. Peter struggles to keep his new family together while also trying to discover the secret of his mysterious father and stopping an enemy from destroying the entire galaxy. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand.
We, along with our fellow members of the press, were recently invited to attend the film’s press day and chat with the cast, director James Gunn, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige about the sequel, working with new co-stars, and the future of the MCU. Find out more about the film below.
1 – The New Marvel Kids On The Block
While newcomers Elizabeth Debicki, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, and Pom Klementieff are all fresh faces in the MCU, some of them needed to be convinced to join the prestigious comic book universe. “Well James convinced me, obviously,” said Debicki. “He is extremely persuasive,” Russell admits he never saw the first movie, but after watching it, he understood why it was loved and the massive pressure that came with making the sequel. “Everyone really loved the first movie,” said Russell. “What you don’t want to do is something that makes them not like the second one.”
But that doesn’t mean he didn’t work for the role. “Every time you go to work, you got to make the team,” said Russell. “Doesn’t make any difference what movie, what television show, whatever it is. You have to go in there and hopefully make them feel good about the decision they made to hire you.” He says that “you are only as good as your last at bat.” So his approach to these roles is to want to make the team and be helpful.
2 – Sequel Expectations
As with all sequels, there is this very high expectation that it has to be better than the first. But Vol. 1 set the bar so high, that topping it with a sequel seemed nearly impossible to do. “The primary reason in studying them seemed to be that so many of them just kind of do the same thing the first movie did with a different template,” said Gunn. Fans often asked what would be that dancing Groot or “We are Groot” moment, but Gunn avoided all of those problems by doing something different. “We really tried to let these characters grow and change. We want to watch them become new people and different people in every film that we come up with,” said Gunn. “I think people were surprised by the first movie, people have been surprised by the second film, and to give people something new and something different from what they already had.”
With all the creative freedom at his disposal, Gunn opened up about the working relationship he has with Marvel. “I’ve come to trust that what I like is what works. The great thing about working with Kevin is, we seem to be very much on the same page with what we like.”
3 – Somewhere I Belong
Both Guardians of the Galaxy films have prided themselves in having a ragtag of misfits who are looking for a sense of belonging. This highly dysfunctional family works because they can relate to that fact. And this is something that really resonates with Gunn. “It’s a very personal film,” said Gunn. “I have always felt like I didn’t belong. And fortunately, I have some people around me who maybe helped me feel like I’m not completely alone in the world. I think I grew up with some art, some movies by people from David Cronenberg to Steven Spielberg, movies where an outcast didn’t feel so alone, or music by Alice Cooper, The Clash, for outcasts.” He added, “I hope that that’s what the Guardians does for people. It’s a movie about outcasts for outcasts. There are people all over the world that it touches, and that’s the most rewarding thing about making these movies.”
4 – Geeking Out Working With A Co-Star Father
Geeking out is just human nature. Everyone is susceptible to it. Even Pratt who plays the son of Russell’s Ego. “You promise yourself you won’t do that thing where you geek out, but it’s a little inauthentic if you don’t,” said Pratt. “There’s this really cool thing that I would never have really imagined, looking forward when I first moved to Hollywood, but the greatest part of it is you become somebody’s friend, somebody’s peer, rather than a fan, and that’s really nice.”
5 – Writing The Score Before Filming
One of the most interesting things about these films is that Gunn shares his story with Tyler Bates, the film’s composer, and he will start writing the score to the key moments of the film. “So a year before we start filming James is sharing the story and the script with Tyler Bates and Tyler starts writing score,” said Feige. “A couple of really moving pieces in the movie that he did about a year before, so he could play it on set while they were filming, which no other film that I am a part of does that. It’s really unique.”
6 – Beefcake Clause And Objectification
Minor spoiler, but Peter’s shirtless scene is a tad bit longer than the original. And you have Rooker to thank for that. “That was my request, wasn’t it?” asked Rooker. “That was your request. Rooker, in fact, we didn’t know we were being filmed for that scene.” The director joked that despite all the creative freedom he has over the film, Feige says there has to be a Chris Pratt shirtless scene. “Beefcake clause,” as Gunn put it.
Pratt then chimed in with his own thoughts on Rooker’s shirtless scene. “I will say the greatest shirtless scene in this film by far, though, goes to Mr. Michael Rooker. It’s, it’s no joke,” said Pratt. He then explained how the scene exposed Yondu’s vulnerability and the pain that he has been feeling since the events of the first film.
On the subject of objectification, Pratt says, “Women have been objectified in a way that there’s a pretty horrifying past around it. I don’t know if you’d call it a double standard but I think you have to deal with them separately because there’s a history of objectification that is a sensitive issue.” He sees how objectification can be good for him, and how that might put his grandkids through college. Joking aside, he sees the dangers of objectification.
Gunn agrees. “Chris Pratt is great because he’s funny and he’s sexy and he’s got this vulnerable side, and there’s all these other attributes about him,” said the director. “Whereas women take, men take these women in films and all that they’re about is this one aspect of themselves, that they’re sexual beings, and everything else about their personalities is negated.” This is why Gunn has tried to make the women of the Guardians films full characters. Where Pratt and Saldana play the cool Clint Eastwood type characters, “Mantis is somebody who’s as funny and goofy and weird as Drax and Rocket and our goofy male characters, and that’s a way to combat those stereotypes of what a male and a female actor can be,” said Gunn.
7 – Makeup
A new trend in filmmaking is to use CGI to make older actors look younger. It’s a process that still has yet to be accepted by a wide audience. However, that didn’t apply here. “In fact, they used practical makeup. Dennis Lillard has a lot of tricks, not just makeup. Cosmetics I should say,” said Russell. “You have to create an impression, not an image. There’s stuff that goes into that. You want them to look certain places and not look other places. When you’ve got the help of modern-day abilities with technology, I think it’s a much more natural look.”
Gillan, Klementieff, and Saldana say they had about four hours of makeup. So to pass the time, Saldana just talks her team to death. “I don’t shut up, from 2:30 in the morning until we’re on set and James says ‘Action,'” said Saldana. “There’s not much to do at 2:30 in the morning besides sleep. You can’t eat, you can’t really move around that much because they need your hands and your face and your mouth needs to be shut because if you open your mouth you’re going to get a whole bunch of green paint sprayed into your mouth.”
Gillan sees the process from a different point of view. “It’s sort of become of my like ritual of getting into character and it was quite interesting,” said Gillan. She says she did rehearsals as Nebula without makeup, but that she never quite felt she was in character until she put it on. “I literally get to wear her skin, which is like the closest I can get to her, so that’s kind of cool.”
But the one who probably had the easiest time was Bautista. “It’s about an hour and a half and I literally just zone out for the whole hour and a half,” said Bautista.
8 – Duel Roles
Sean Gunn, James Gunn’s brother, pulled doubled duty once again for Vol. 2, playing both Kraglin and doing the motion capture work for Rocket. Despite playing two different roles, Sean Gunn says the input to both characters is similar. However, the output couldn’t be any more different because there is a team that brings Rocket to life on screen. “Juggling the two things was a very strange and challenging experience for me,” said Gunn. “I love both characters and I’m just really grateful to be a part of it.”
Saldana emphasized her co-star’s importance to the film because he was able to provide a reference for the cast to feed off of. “He gives us all the passion and all the dynamic that we need to have from Rocket because Rocket is the sassiest character of the Guardians,” said Saldana. “Nobody would be able to respond to Rocket the same way if Sean wasn’t playing him.”
9 – Marvelous Women Shattering The Glass Ceiling
This summer will have no shortage of actresses playing powerful female characters in blockbuster films. But Guardians Vol. 2 ties that together with themes of sisterhood and family. “I loved working on all of that stuff with Zoe, I mean, it’s the best, we have such a good time,” said Gillan. “We do, because we’re very opposite to our characters,” said Saldana. “Karen is very feminine, and goofy and a little clumsy, these sets are dangerous, let’s be honest. The grounds are never flat and we’re around wires and everything.”
“But you’re an amazing fighter,” Gillan retorts. “Zoe literally teaches me how to fight while we’re doing it. She’ll be like, ‘Turn your head like that and you strangle someone like that, you’re going to look cool,’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, thank you.'”
On the aforementioned objectification, Debicki says it all comes down to context within the frame of the story. “I have personally never felt objectified and it’s interesting when people ask if you do or because you have to understand that it’s not, well I certainly don’t, sort of, take it with a grain of salt.” She added that it has to have purpose and “progress story or relationship or the image of whatever your character is onscreen.” Which is why she gravitated towards Aeyisha. “She’s powerful and she keeps all her clothes on,” said Debicki.
Feige says there was never any push back to introduce these strong female characters in the MCU. “It was very important to James to include these characters and more than just include them, but also give them their own storyline and have it be more than just their ability to fight or romance with a male character and that’s why I think Nebula and Gamora,” said Feige, “are the, you know, high point of the movie and that relationship is one of the biggest and best arcs of the whole movie is that sister relationship.”
10 – Laugh It Up (Softly)
While Drax is known for his loud manic laughter, Bautista says his laugh is nothing like that. “Everybody knows that I’m like a very understated person,” said Bautista. “I’m a little soft-spoken.” Of course, to get that huge laugh, James Gunn would ask Bautista to project, however, this would prove to be disastrous as Bautista’s nervous energy would cause his eyes to wander. But, it turns out, all of that helped him shape the character. “He was doing it to amuse himself,” said Bautista. “The bigger it got the louder he laughed, so I just kept, you know, bigger and bigger until I lost my voice.”
11- You’re My Hero
When asked if he is familiar with the Guardians or any other Marvel superhero, Stallone simply said no. “I grew up on a different
sort of superheroes, like Elastic Man,” said Stallone. The actor used that lack of knowledge to his advantage as it helped him in his approach to Starhawk. “I wanted to go in there with a clean slate and just do what the director wanted to get done,” said Stallone. “Now I’m starting to catch up on it, but I think this kind of being naïve allows you to be directed in a direction they want you to go, without any preconceived ideas.”
12 – Cosplayers
Cosplaying is just one way of expressing a person’s fandom to any property. No matter how much time or how much money that goes into creating the cosplay, many respect the person’s effort to prove that they are a fan. However, Stallone sees it very differently. “I really want to punch them out,” laughed Stallone. “I mean, seriously. It’s copyright infringement, right?”
Saldana calls it an out-of-body experience. “You feel so lucky that you got to play a character that impacted people or you’re a part of something so special that it continuously impacts people so much so that their devotion drives them to go to these, to these places and they congregate and they celebrate,” said Saldana.
13 – We’re family. Maybe except you.
There are strong themes of family in both Guardians films, and as we all know our Guardians come from different galactic backgrounds. Despite all of that, the actors see the Guardians, as dysfunctional as they are, as regular people. “There’s this increasing desire to belong and be accepted and be loved and not be abandoned,” said Saldana. “I don’t see the Guardians as these awesome, kicking ass superheroes. I see them as these really delicate people that are just trying to get by day-by-day and they found ways through, by being like a-holes.”
“For myself, I think family is the people you care about and people who care about you and just love you regardless,” said Bautista. “They don’t judge you and you don’t have to feel awkward and self-conscious about. They don’t necessarily have to be your blood family.” The actor says you can make anybody your family members and that his dogs are his children now. He adds that there just doesn’t have to be one definition of family.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens in theaters on May 5, 2017. Here’s my review of the movie.