Having been fortunate enough to see an early screening of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I then got the chance to attend the press junket in which the protectors of the universe would chat about life on the intergalactic film set.
The assembled scribes and bloggers leapt to their feet to robustly applaud as the film's franchise stars Chris Pratt, Michael Rooker, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Sean Gunn, Karen Gillan, and newcomers Elizabeth Debicki, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff and Sylvester Stallone joined director James Gunn and producer Kevin Feige on stage. So let's dive right in!
For the new members of the cast, what kind of initiation process was there, if any, and what convinced you to join this ragtag bunch?
Elizabeth Debicki: "James [Gunn] convinced me, obviously. He’s extremely persuasive, not that I needed convincing. And I mean, initiation? My first day on set was when we were shooting in the throne room, and I was obviously terrified of playing this extremely powerful creature ... and I remember sitting up on the throne for a long time and all the Guardians were in front of me. It was so intimidating, and it was about two hours before we spoke to each other. And they all came up in this line to sort of come and say hello. And I was like, please come and say hello to me! Someone say hello. And then that was fine after that."
Kurt Russell: "It was this weird thing, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. The truth is, when I read the script, I wanted to make sure I understood it correctly because I did not see the first movie, since I am not much of a moviegoer. I knew that everybody loved it, though. And at the time, I was doing 'Hateful Eight' stuff and when the details dropped, all of the sudden my phone was dropping with questions. 'That’s great! Are you gonna be Star-Lord’s dad? Are you going to do this?!' And I just went like, 'Guys! I don’t even know what they are talking about!' And when I saw the movie, I immediately started getting it.
"But then I immediately started thinking about how everybody loved the first movie, what you don’t want to do is bring something that makes people not like the second one. So I did feel that pressure and I even told James, 'I don’t want to mess this thing up, and I need your help.'"
Sylvester Stallone: "Oh! Initiation! Sure, we stayed up all night and got slapped by some wet towels! Actually, it was pretty painless. It was really interesting because I was new to the genre. When I walked on the set, you see robots and things and a woman who is seven-foot tall and everything else. I thought it was great. It was a great vacation. It’s better than being up a tree in Burma. You know what I mean? Much better, trust me."
Pom Klementieff: "I had such an amazing time. I had an incredible time with the cast and with the director and it’s one of my best experiences ever, so I can’t wait to do it again."
Everybody loves Kurt Russell and his legacy in cinema. We’re you able to keep your cool?
James Gunn: "It was terrible! He was a nightmare!"
Chris Pratt: "There is this thing that happens where you promise yourself that you are not going to do this thing that happens every time you work with a Kurt Russell, someone who is an icon, who you have known waaay longer than they have known you. And you’ve seen all of their stuff and you promise yourself that you are not going to do that thing where you geek out when you meet them.
"However, it is a little inauthentic if you don’t acknowledge how much of a fan you are of them at first. I didn’t want to go up like, 'Oh, what is it? Kurt? I’m Chris, nice to meet ya.' If you don’t get out how much you love them or how much of a fan you are immediately, then it feels very inauthentic. And it really doesn’t take that long to tell someone how much you love them or how much you respect their work. And for them to go, 'Thanks!' That’s it! You move forward from that point.
"Then there is what happens that I would not have imagined back when I first moved to Hollywood, where you become somebody’s friend and somebody’s peer of someone you were a fan of. That’s really nice. And I think Kurt and I have become friends outside of the movie. And I have his cellphone number and I will give it to each and every one of you!"
In coming back to do the sequel, is there one thing you wanted to make sure that you did not mess up?
JG: "The movie! I just really wanted to continue the film from the first movie. So many sequels are not good. The primary reason seems to be that so many of them kind of do the same thing the first movie did [but] with a different template. So they say, ‘Oh! People like the dance-off from the first movie, so what’s our version of the dance-off here? People like We Are Groot from the first one, what’s our version of We Are Groot?’ And instead of doing that, we really just wanted to let these characters grow and change. We want to watch them become new people and different people in every film we come up with, allowing them to just be themselves and do their thing."
One thing I noticed was the shirtless scenes of Chris were a lot longer in this one than in the first movie.
Michael Rooker: "That was my request, actually!"
JG: [To Rooker] "That was your request. In fact, we didn’t know we were being filmed for that scene. Kevin Feige ... gave me full creative freedom, except there must be Chris Pratt shirtless in this scene. There’s a beefcake clause."
CP: "I will say the greatest shirtless scene in the film by far goes to Mr. Michael Rooker. It’s not a joke. When you see the movie, be sure to pay attention to the moment we see Yondu for the first time. It's, in my opinion, [the] moment that [makes] this film truly transcend the genre."
MR: "I worked out so hard three months before the movie, and I'm thinking, 'Oh my God! I’m going to do this scene!' And it just hit me, two weeks before we filmed it, that in the scene I should not be in shape. And then immediately, I had this grin on my face that said, 'I can eat again!' And I did."
James, the first film was such a hit, and I feel like you had more freedom to take risks with this one and push the envelope a little further.
JG: "The great thing about working with Kevin [Feige] and everyone at Marvel is that they gave me complete freedom on both movies. On the first movie I was a lot more timid, frankly, and I took my first draft in and I went to Kevin, and Joss Whedon was there [too]. There was a lot of humor is the script so I was afraid that it was maybe too funny and then Kevin and Joss said, 'Good, now make it more James Gunn,' and I said, 'OK, your funeral!' 'Cause I'm a little punk rock kid who likes really edgy stuff, so I thought maybe I don’t like what the entire world likes.
"Now I've come to trust that what I like is what works. And the thing about Kevin is that we seem to be on the same page of what is cool, funny and different. So yes, I had a lot more freedom in the second movie, but most of it I feel like was from myself, to completely go there with the story and not stop myself at any point for fear of alienating people. I wanted to be as true to the artistic vision as possible."
The makeup in this film is incredible. What do you do in the hours it takes to get your makeup applied?
Zoe Saldana: "I talk my team to death. I don’t shut up from 2.30 in the morning until James says action. I just go, 'Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah,' and just keep talking. That's how I calm down because there is not much to do at 2.30 in the morning besides sleep. Because you can’t eat, nor move around much because they need you to stand still."
Karen Gillan: "It has sort of become my ritual to get into character. When I was at rehearsals and I did not have to put my makeup on, it did not feel right for some reason, because I was not literally under the character’s skin. So as an actor, it has helped."
Dave Bautista: "I’m ashamed to even talk about it. It’s not really a labor at all. It’s about an hour and a half and I literally just zone out for the whole hour and a half."
One of the things we love about Marvel are the strong female characters. How does it feel to be a part of that, telling the stories of these strong women kicking ass together?
KG: "It’s the greatest. I love getting to work on that stuff with Zoe. It’s the best."
Sean, you have a bigger part in this movie with Kraglin, while also performing motion capture for Rocket. What’s it like to play those two characters?
Sean Gunn: "It’s interesting when you act as both the input and the output. The input is what you do with it on set and the output is what you see on screen. For me, the input is very similar for both characters, but the output is totally different because you have a whole team to create Rocket. So I am just a member of that team. It is interesting in this movie because Rocket and Kraglin have a few scenes that they are in together. So juggling the two things was very strange and challenging. But I love it and I love both characters."
ZS: "I don’t think people really understand what Sean does for the movie with the references and the intonation — he is so limber as well. He manages to shrink and curl up to Rocket’s size. Rocket is the sassiest character of the Guardians and I don’t think we would be able to respond to Rocket the same way if Sean was not playing him. And I know that Sean serves as a perfect reference both on set and in post. Because I know for a fact that whatever you leave behind for Bradley [Cooper] is what he needs to catch up with when we spent four months on set together."
For the returning cast members, what were you most excited about for the sequel? What were you least excited about?
ZS: "My favorite part was the makeup process. I’m joking! 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’m not that deep! I’m OK. 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 [was exciting]. 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! I wanted to be crying with nose goo and everything and James is like, 'You’re like the Clint Eastwood of the movie.'"
DB: "For me 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. 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."
Sean, you were also in The Belko Experiment, which came out earlier this year and was also written by your brother James. If the Guardians of the Galaxy were put into the Belko Experiment, which ones would survive?
SG: "Whoa. Well, probably Gamora."
ZS: "I would?! How?"
SG: "We wouldn’t fight each other. I don’t like to think in those terms. We love one another."
Since we have both Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone in this film, was there any lobbying for a Tango & Cash reunion?
SS: "Well, I can’t stand Kurt Russell, so I made sure my character stayed out of all of his scenes!"
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens in the US on May 5. Are you excited to see it? Tell us what you think in the comments section and check out my review of the film below.