In August 2014, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY blew us away. The irreverence, the humor, the 70’s soundtrack – it was so different from previous Marvel films. Yet the one thing you took away from it was the unexpected attachment to these five Guardians: Groot, Rocket, Star Lord, Gamora and Drax. In that first film, they had just learned to work together and form a “family” unit themselves. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2 picks up where the first left off. Three months have passed and our five heroes are tested on just what happens when outcasts become “family.” Continue reading for more from the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2 press conference, and click here for our spoiler free review of the film.
The director of both films, James Gunn, was on hand at the Los Angeles Press Conference to discuss this theme, along with Kevin Feige (head of Marvel / Producer) and the entire cast. In fact, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2 has so many cast members, the press conference was broken up into 2 parts. First, we heard from Director James Gunn, Kurt Russell (Ego), Chris Pratt (Star-Lord/Peter Quill), Michael Rooker (Yondu), Elizabeth Dibicki (Ayesha) and Kevin Feige (producer).
First, James Gunn clarified GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2 would not be a re-hash of the first film.
James Gunn: I wanted to continue the film from the first movie, you know. So many sequels are not good. The primary reason in studying them seemed to be that so many of them just do the same thing the first movie did with different template. People liked “We Are Groot” in the first movie, what’s our version of “We Are Groot”? And instead of doing that, 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.
James Gunn and the other writers achieved that by inviting new characters into the fold. Kurt Russell joins the cast as Ego, Peter Quill’s mysterious father. The press were quick to ask Kurt Russell about coming back to the Disney family.
Kurt Russell: I feel like I do have a special relationship with Disney, but the truth of the matter is, every time you go to work, you’ve got to make the team. Doesn’t make any difference what movie, what television show, whatever it is. You’re only as good as your last at-bat. I wanted to be helpful, wanted to be good, and I was very, very fortunate I ran into a team that had a terrific manager. [James Gunn] really knows his world. He also knows how to execute. He has cast these people perfectly. Perfectly. And it was gonna be hard for me to measure up to that, I knew that. And asked him a lot of questions, drove him a little bit nuts.
It’s good to hear that Kurt Russell has such a strong work ethic. He was just trying to make the team. Meanwhile, Chris Pratt (Peter Quill) was the one who was intimidated to work with the new guy!
Chris Pratt: You know, you have this opportunity from time to time if you’re lucky to work with someone like Kurt Russell. Someone who’s an icon, someone that you’ve known way longer than they’ve ever known you and you’ve seen all their stuff. And you promised yourself you’re not gonna do the thing where you geek out, but it’s a little inauthentic if you don’t, because if you just go in there and you be like, ‘oh what is it, Kurt? Hey, nice to meet you. Chris.’ And I don’t acknowledge the fact that how much I love him and what a fan I am, if you don’t get that out of the way, then it feels a little inauthentic. So I think I did that immediately, and then that takes, it doesn’t really take that long to tell someone that you really love them, you really respect their work, and for them to go, ‘yeah thanks.’ And then, that’s it.
At that point, you move forward and there’s this really cool thing that is probably the one thing I never would’ve imagined looking for when I first moved to Hollywood, but like the greatest part of it, is you become somebody’s friend and somebody’s peer rather than a fan. And that’s really nice, and I think Kurt and I have become friends. We connected on a lot of things outside of just the movie.
That connection shows in the film. The two definitely have some great onscreen chemistry, which allowed their characters, Peter Quill and Ego, to develop together.
James Gunn had great freedom to explore the world and characters in both GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. He had no problems from Producer Kevin Feige. If anything, it was “just allowing myself to completely go there with the story and not stop myself at any point from fear of alienating people. I wanted to be as true to to the artistic vision and especially as true to the characters as possible in this film.”
Now we start to get to the heart of the film: the family. A member of the press wanted to know, for James Gunn and the cast, if there was ever a moment where they didn’t feel like they belonged. And what does family mean to them? I loved these answers:
James Gunn: I feel like that always. I never feel like I belong. I feel like Rocket, you know. For me it’s a very personal film. 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, and just as importantly, I think I grew up with some art, some movies, by people like David Cronenberg to Steven Spielberg. Movies where an outcast didn’t feel so alone. Or maybe I was this little kid in Manchester, Missouri who felt like he was completely alienated from all his peers, and by listening and, hearing music and watching movies, I felt a little bit less alone, and I hope that that’s what the Guardians does for people. It’s a movie about outcasts for outcasts. And there’s people all over the world that it touches, and that’s the most rewarding thing by far about making these movies.
Speaking of family, let’s talk about the baby of the film: Baby Groot. The moderator asked what they used as a reference for Baby Groot and if they knew how adorable he was going to be.
James Gunn: Yeah, we had a statue of little Groot, so we had a nice maquette that we had made and there were great times and moments on set. When we just have this adorable little statue we would have standing there, and we’d have the scene and all the stuff would be going on and these guys would be acting their butts off and really putting their hearts and souls, and all of a sudden Chris would look over at that little guy and go, ‘damn it, he’s gonna steal the whole movie! Groot’s gonna be trying to get a bug while I’m crying about my father?’
Well, he wasn’t wrong. Baby Groot does steal the show when he is the primary focus. But what about men stealing the show? Chris Pratt has a longer shirtless scene in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. Is there a double standard for sexual objectification for men and women? Chris Pratt jumped in with a quick answer.
Chris Pratt: You know, it’s a good question. I think it hasn’t hurt my career. You know, we are objects. It’s true. We are. We’re props. You know, shine a light on us, they paint us up with makeup, and they take a camera, they point it at us. And half the time, what ruins it is us talking, so we’re props in a way.
And as a man, I can say that, but I have to be careful because for generation, for millennia, women have been objectified in a way that there’s a pretty horrifying past around it, so it is a little bit different and there probably is, 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. So I can say objectification is good for me because when I turned my body into an object that people like, I got paid a lot of money. And now my grandkids are gonna go to a great college because of the object, you know. But you have to be a little sensitive about that because there are also really great roles, there are a lot more great roles probably, classically written for men than there have been for women.
James Gunn: Yeah, I think that’s part of the issue is that it’s not about being sexually attractive or being thought of as a beautiful object, even. It’s about a fact that many women in films today are reduced to being only that. And when Chris Pratt looks beautiful onscreen, or Chris Evans looks beautiful onscreen, or Michael Rooker looks hideous onscreen, people still go, ‘well, what’s that guy like? What’s his personality?’ Whereas 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.
I think one of the things that we’ve tried to do with the Guardians films is to allow the women to be full characters. I think adding the character of Mantis – she 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.
Elizabeth Debicki: As the woman on the panel, I just wanted to say that I think it’s a really interesting question, but it always has to be about context. And for me as an actress, whenever I’ve made the choice to do something like that, it’s always about the context you’re shooting it in, about the story, about what you’re trying to say with your direction with the other actors, and I have personally never felt objectified. What you do on film has to have purpose always. It has to progress story or relationship or the image of whatever your character is onscreen.
Kevin Feige: There’s lots and lots of great female characters in the comics that we want to bring to life on screen and it was very important to James to include these characters and more than just include them, 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 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.
After these heavy-hitting questions, it was time to say goodbye to Star Lord and welcome the second half of the GUARDIANS 2 cast. Producer Kevin Fiege, Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Karen Gillian (Nebula), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Sean Gunn (Rocket reference, Kraglin) and… Sylvester Stallone (StarHawk)!!
What an honor to see Sylvester Stallone in person. Known for his ROCKY films, 80’s Action Movies and so much more, it’s clear we weren’t giving him enough credit. Stallone was excited about being in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2 for a very specific reason.
Sylvester Stallone: Well, you know… early on in my career I just always became fascinated with mythology and Joseph Campbell and you know, Man of a Thousand Faces and so on and so forth. So when I started doing Rambo, there was an evolution that takes place and each generation has to define itself and find its own heroes and find its own mythology. And this is the new, this is this generation, and maybe even the next generation’s mythology and when Kevin invited me onboard I said, “This is interesting because I haven’t gone here.” So I said, ‘yeah, let me visit. Let me drop in here and see what’s up, where the future’s going, you know? And it was great. And it got me out of the house from my three daughters, which is really…thank you. That’s why I gave you my salary back.
Now, since more women from the film have joined the panel, it’s time to talk makeup. Just how long did it take to go from normal human to green-skinned Gamora, blue-skinned, half android Nebula or antennaed Mantis?
Karen Gillan (Nebula): I think we’re pretty even on our makeup times.
Pom Klementieff (Mantis): How long is yours?
Zoe Saldana (Gamora): Four hours.
Pom Klementieff: Mine is four, too, three and a half to four and a half.
Zoe Saldana: It can take a long time. I talk my team to death. I don’t shut up, from 2:30 in the morning until we’re on set and James says “Action.”
Karen Gillan: For me actually it’s become of my ritual of getting into character. I did this rehearsal as Nebula one time, not under makeup and I just didn’t feel like her. It’s like an imperative part of the process for me now. I literally get to wear her skin.
All this talk about makeup and characters got Richard thinking about cosplay. He was able to ask the next question, how do all of the actors feel when they see cosplayers dressed as their characters? Cosplaying as either Rocky at some conventions or Uhura or just Guardians of the Galaxy characters, how do you feel when you see something like that? Stallone jumped in with this zinger:
Sylvester Stallone: I really want to punch them out. I mean, seriously. It’s copyright infringement, right?
Can there BE a better answer than that!? We just weren’t expecting it! Then Zoe Saldana, the talker, jumped in:
Zoe: You have like an out-of-body experience each and every time. And you always use like different stages in your mind thinking like, it’s like Wayne’s World, “We’re not worthy!” You feel so lucky that you got to play a character that impacted people; 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 places and they congregate and they celebrate. You know, but I still have a hard time believing that I’m here. I’m a geek from Queens. I grew up in like a two-bedroom apartment and I’ve done three science fiction movies and I guess by running away from boxes I found a good place and space for me to feel happy and free.
There it is again, that feeling that you’re an outcast when you were young allows you the freedom to find your true place in the world.
Let’s focus on the relationship between Gamora and Nebula, a relationship that is further explored in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. Once again, Zoe took the floor:
Zoe: I think that what I loved the most and it may sound selfish but definitely the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. I’m one of three sisters. I have been itching and yearning to see more of a female presence in action films because I love action films. I love watching The Equalizer and I’ll watch that 50 times over any kind of dramatic piece. And so to have a film with three female characters that are adding such unique qualities to the film and they are very relevant and their relationships are explored deeply. I was appreciative and super excited and in a way anxious because I know that Gamora is a much more reserved character, so we couldn’t make it a soap opera like I would have wanted to.
Karen: I just feel genuinely so invested in Nebula, I care so much about her and I feel like I’m her lawyer and I’m here to explain to everyone why she’s justified in being a really mean villain and she is. And for me that is just to do with her backstory and her relationship with her father and her sister and so I was just so excited to explore that in the second movie.
Gamora and Nebula explore their relationship on film, but what about the relationship between cast members?
Dave Bautista: Yeah, for me as well, it was really a luxury to come back into a recurring role, not only where I was comfortable with the character, but I was also so comfortable with my cast members, because they’re people that I love and care about and I knew they weren’t going to judge me so I didn’t have to feel self-conscious about anything that I did. I mean they just accept me for who I am and they appreciate me and they also are confident that I will deliver for them and so that was my biggest luxury in this.
Moderator: How similar is your real-life laugh to Drax’s?
Dave: No, it’s nothing like it at all. Everybody knows that I’m like a very understated person; I’m a little soft-spoken. But James is very big on you know, Drax being just larger than life and projecting, he’s constantly telling me project. The laugh we came about just by complete accident. It just happened. I was laughing and he said, “Can you do it louder?” and the louder, I started laughing; the louder I could hear him laughing. So I just kept, you know, bigger and bigger until I lost my voice!
Unfortunately Dave Bautista didn’t demonstrate the laugh there at the press conference. However, it’s time to dive into that theme of “family” one more time. A member of the press wanted to know “what does family look like to you?”
Zoe: You know, the reason that I love Guardians is that all of these characters look different. Whatever color of their skin or fur on their backs is sort of like describing to you how different they are in the inside from each other, and yet there’s this increasing desire to belong and be accepted and be loved and not be abandoned. 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 a-holes (a defense mechanism). So I’m very familiar with that sort of aspect of a family, you know, to keep looking within, because there is a very special person behind all that tough skin. So that’s what family is for me. What’s family for you?
Dave: I think family is just, it’s people you care about and people who care about you and just love you regardless, that don’t judge you and you don’t have to feel awkward and self-conscious. They don’t necessarily have to be your blood family. I think that’s what it is and I think that’s the message of our film, that even though families may be dysfunctional, it’s still at the end of the day, do you love this person? Do you care for this person? Would you do anything for this person? And if that answer is yes, then they are your family.
You can be a part of that family when GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2 opens at a theater near you on May 5th, 2017. See you there!
For those of you keeping track, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the 3rd film in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe behind Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange. For more family entertainment news and reviews, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagram, twitter and “like” our facebook page too.