Behind the Scenes of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ with the Film’s Stars

Guardians of the Galaxy Cast Press Conference
Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (Photo © Marvel Studios)
Disney and Marvel Studios pulled off one of the bigger surprises among the movie studios represented at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con. Scheduled to bring the stars of Captain America: The Winter Soldier to the event along with representatives from Thor: The Dark World, the gathering of fans in Hall H were also treated to a surprise Q&A with the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy. Joining director James Gunn to talk about the 2014 release which just started shooting were Chris Pratt (‘Star-Lord Peter Quill’), Zoe Saldana (‘Gamora’), Benicio del Toro (‘The Collector’), Lee Pace (‘Ronan The Accuser’), Michael Rooker (‘Yondu’), Djimon Hounsou (‘Korath The Pursuer’), and Karen Gillan (‘Nebula’).

Following their appearance in the standing-room only Hall H, the group took part in a press conference with the media.

Guardians of the Galaxy Press Conference:

James, is there any chance you might make an announcement soon about Rocket Racoon or Groot?

James Gunn: “Pretty soon. Not now-ish. [Laughing] Tomorrow, next week-ish, next month-ish.”

What’s the basic moral premise and conflict of Guardians of the Galaxy?

James Gunn:Guardians is about a family coming together. It really is about a group of individuals who have acted selfishly – and only as individuals – throughout their life. And they learn something about themselves that makes them heroes.”

Chris, what was the extent of your training to get your body into the physical shape it is now?

Chris Pratt: “Oh, man! It was about six months and a combination of different things, like lifting weights, cardio and really strict nutrition. It’s some really boring stuff. Basically, I cried 40 pounds off and the rest was being hungry and running a lot.”

James Gunn: “He’s doing really well, too. His birthday was about three or four weeks ago and I happened to be there and they brought out a tray of vegetables that spelled happy birthday.”

Chris Pratt: “If any of them was sharp, I would have used it to cut my wrists.”

James, your previous films have more of an R-rated tone. Are you keeping more of a darkly comedic tone with this film?

James Gunn: “I don’t think of it as darkly comedic. I do think of it as me, I’ve gotta say that. There’s a lot of James Gunn in this movie, and it’s a strange thing. When I turned in the first draft to Kevin [Feige] and Marvel and Joss [Whedon] and they read the first draft, they were all really happy, which made me happy. That was a really good day. And their biggest note was, ‘More James Gunn,’ which freaked the hell out of me. So, I gave them more James Gunn and that’s what’s in the movie.

I think it’s a really unique movie. But with every movie I do, I’m speaking to a certain part of myself and I’m speaking to a certain audience. With a movie like Super, I’m speaking to a specific person that that movie means a lot to. I really appreciate everybody who loves that movie. When I’m doing a movie like Guardians, it really is for a much broader audience. It’s for everybody. It’s a movie we can go see on a Friday night with everybody else in the city and really enjoy ourselves in a different type of way. And I appreciate both of those types of movies.”

What has your experience been like on set with this big budget?

James Gunn: “That it’s easier. With a movie like Super, there are a lot of people on set who I think I can do their job better than they can. With a movie like this, we worked really hard to find the best, whether it was the best actor for each of these roles, which we worked really hard at, but also the best production designer, the best composer, and the best costume designer. They all make my job a lot easier on this movie then it’s been in movies past.”

As actors, is it intimidating at all to step into these roles that people might not be as familiar with as they are with some of the other characters in the Marvel universe?

Zoe Saldana: “It’s exciting! Of course you’re nervous, but I would be cautious to use the word intimidating because I don’t want it to be interpreted like I feel inferior. I feel very excited to be joining the Marvel family of superheroes. I do believe that Guardians have bigger powers, in a way. If we were up against Captain America or Thor, we’d totally kick his ass.”

Chris Pratt: “All the Marvel movies thus far have been received so well because they were such famous comic books, but I think they were great stories. Iron Man is Iron Man now because of Iron Man the movie. It was a comic and certainly people knew it, but they love it and they go back to it because it’s great storytelling. It’s the same thing with this. This is a really cool story. Marvel knows what they’re doing and they know how to tell a story and they know how to make this movie. I really don’t feel intimidated.

If you told me, ‘Chris, you have to go adapt Guardians of the Galaxy into a movie on your own,’ I would be super intimidated. But when they’re like, ‘We’re doing it and we’d love you to be a part of it,’ it’s like, ‘Wow, great! I’m along for the ride!'”

Has anybody gotten hurt on the film?

Zoe Saldana: “Well, we still have 85% of the film to shoot, so we could. I think there is going to be a great deal of soreness and muscle cramping and sweating, but it’s going to be great. We’ve all been training for it and rehearsing, and had endless conversations with our director, as well as talking to every department that’s building us together. [Some of us] have so much make-up to do, constantly, with retouching, every single second. There’s a lot of work put into it.

I’m just excited to be doing something different. This is sort of like the anti-hero hero movie. When you meet these characters, they’re thieves, they’re rebels, and they’re assassins, but they’re going to be learning very big lessons. Because it’s a James Gunn interpretation of Guardians, the levity will be very abundant, and that’s what keeps it awesome. My 10-year-old niece just visited the set and when we both walked into one of the sets they had built, we both had the same expression and we were both drooling. It was insane!”

Dave, how strong is Drax The Destroyer and can he beat up Hulk and Thor?

Dave Bautista: “I would have to say yes on that.”

Zoe Saldana: “Have you seen his hands? For the love of god! If it’s raining, I just tell Dave to put his hand over my head.”

Dave Bautista: “This part is, by far, the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. To be a part of this is really a dream come true. I really come from nothing; I’m a poor kid from the streets. What I’ve been able to achieve has really just been through hard work and not letting anyone tell me that I couldn’t do something. I always try to encourage people to just pursue your dreams.”

Has your previous experience with WWE and the live shows for RAW helped prepare you for doing film roles?

Dave Bautista: “No. Going on auditions, for me, is the worst thing in the world. It’s just terrifying. I perform in front of 100,000 people but this is so much more intimate. There’s just so much attention right there on you, and it’s absolutely terrifying. This is new to me. I’m still a student at this. I’m not afraid to let people know, ‘This is new to me. I’m still learning.’ I’m not afraid to go up to people and pick their brains and ask for advice. To me, that’s how you get better. That’s how I’ve gotten better at everything I’ve ever done. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.

I’m learning a lot every day on this film from the director and from the crew and even from the producers. That’s what it’s all about for me. To me, that’s how you stay young. If you’re pursuing something that you love and you’re learning something new every day, that’s the key to youth.”

For the actors, what is your favorite weird and wonderful aspect of your character?

Michael Rooker: “There’s a lot of me in Yondu. When I first read the script I noticed right away that there are some aspects of Yondu’s existence within this universe of ours that were very, very close to me. For example, the tough love that I have towards some of the other cast members. I’m very much like that in my life, as well. I hardly ever do make-up in the movies I’ve done, except on James Gunn movies. This one is about two-and-a-half hours. To me, that’s a very interesting aspect. When I get mad, I turn red. When I get embarrassed, I turn red. When I get turned on, I get red. And I want the audience to see that, in the character. So, if the character is getting mad, getting upset or getting turned on, you’re getting to see that in the facial tones and the skin tones. That’s what I enjoy about acting. It can be very subtle like that. With a lot of make-up on, you can’t see a lot of that, so I prefer to have no make-up at all. But, not in this one. I’m very excited to be involved with this.”

Djimon Hounsou: “I play Korath who is a humanoid. I have a 4-year-old son who loves all the superheroes from Spider-Man to Batman to Iron Man. He’s got all the costumes. And one day he looked at me and said, ‘Papa, I want to be light-skinned so I can be Spider-Man because Spider-Man is light-skinned.’ That was a shock to me. I’m extremely excited to be a part of the Marvel universe so that I can provide a diverse outlook of superheroes or bad guys in those stories. It’s important for us to be part of that, and specifically for me. That was my in ticket to the Marvel world and I’m excited.”

Lee Pace: “I play Ronan The Accuser and it’s a character that’s been around since 1967 when he first walked into Fantastic Four. So, there’s a lot of incredible story that I’ve gotten to research. If you call reading comic books research, I guess I’ve been doing my job. I start work this week filming the character and I’m just really excited to make a villain that is complicated. There’s a core to him where you can find something that you can understand. I don’t know. He’s pretty bad, though. It’s the early days so I’m just putting the first wall up and we’ll start there.”

Dave Bautista: “I play Drax The Destroyer who is also a pretty bad dude. Drax is full of rage and he’s full of honor, and he’s very literal. I think the best thing about Drax is that he’s hysterical without meaning to be. That’s what I love the most about Drax.”

Zoe Saldana: “I play Gamora. The weirdest thing about her is that she turns green when she blushes, she turns green when she’s mad, and she turns green when she’s turned on. And what’s wonderful is that she has grown up in an environment that has misrepresented how she truly feels inside and she’s going to discover that, hopefully.”

Chris Pratt: “For Quill, without blowing too much of his origin or anything like that, there’s a petulance to him. He hasn’t really been held accountable as an adult. He’s been able to be free in space and do whatever he’s wanted to do. That’s really fun because it means that he’s slept with all these super weird aliens. That’s my favorite weird element of the character. It’s just very wonderful.

But, my favorite moment that I’ve had was when I first donned my full wardrobe in the costume department. I put it on and it was just like, ‘Wow!’ I wore it and I thought that was pretty wonderful. All of a sudden my walk changed a little bit and I had a little extra bob in my head. That was pretty cool.”

Karen Gillan: “I play Nebula and she looks pretty weird. One of the most interesting things about the character, for me, is her very strange and complex relationship to Gamora.”

Benicio del Toro: “I play The Collector and he collects things, like I do. I think it’s pretty cool that he’s got his own personal zoo.”

James Gunn: [Laughing] “We were talking about something about collecting stuff and how you [Del Toro] get excited when you get something new to collect, and then all of a sudden you look at me really serious and you go, ‘You know, I was the first kid in my neighborhood to have an alligator.'”

James, as they expand the Marvel universe, will there be a connection between the Guardians and other Marvel movies?

James Gunn: “Well, we have Thanos. Thanos is the thing that connects us to the Marvel universe, at this point. In the future, we’ll see what happens after that. But right now we’re connected to the rest of the Marvel universe because of three seconds at the end of The Avengers.”

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Guardians of the Galaxy opens in theaters on August 1, 2014.

-By Rebecca Murray

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