The “Guardians of the Galaxy,” at least the ones we know now, embark on their MCU farewell tour in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” It’s one last ride as they fly away together into the forever and big and beautiful sky. Though this highly dysfunctional family will never be the same, everyone involved, including director James Gunn, reflects on what made this ragtag crew of misfits so endearing and what they will miss most about making these films.
ThatsItLA had the chance to participate in the virtual interview with the cast and crew of the “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” But before we get to their thoughts, we will share what James Gunn had to say about leaving a legacy that was ten years in the making behind.
Though the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films have been about family, Gunn sees the entire cast and crew as his family. Which is maybe why we see a lot of them in other films. He’s comfortable with working with those people again and again. And that is a sign of family and friendship. “I’ve been really good at hiring non-jerks. Not only not jerks but people who are actually positive, compassionate, loving, kind people,” Gunn said about the casting process. “And so I’ve just grown incredibly close to these people. I really love them, and it makes making movies a much more pleasant experience.”
Though James Gunn has been able to bond with his “Guardians” family, his best memories are not of those going to premieres or attending press junkets but of having those smaller moments by “talking to Sean [Gunn], doing “bits with Chris [Pratt] offset, watching Chuck turn in an amazing performance, goofing around with Pom [Klementieff] wondering what the hell she’s talking about.”
While the press conference was clearly full of love and laughter, there was also a sense of poignancy, knowing that James Gunn won’t return to these characters for a long time. “I’m going to miss the characters,” he said. “I really, truly love these characters. Um, I love all of them. I think there’s certain ones that I have a special fondness for, especially Rocket. And yeah, the saddest part of all of this. I’m going to see all of these people again, they’re all friends of mine, but I’m not going to be writing the characters again, at least not in the near future. And so that’s a real sadness.”
Though Marvel Studios has had trilogies before in “Iron Man,” “Captain America” “Thor,” “The Avengers,” and “Spider-Man,” but “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the first to be an end where we will never see this group together the way there are ever again. “We’ve had trilogies before. We’ve had a number of them, actually. And I was thinking, why does this feel so different, and so much of a passage of some sort,” Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, said. “And it’s because it was Guardians really was the first movie that was completely outside the realm. Of course, it tied in with Thanos and Infinity Stones, but the Avengers were not in it. And then we weren’t setting up Tony Stark’s next adventure or Captain America’s.”
And Feige credits a lot of that success to James Gunn going all in on humanizing the Guardians, who were seen as outsiders in their debut. “It was really our attempt of saying, ‘we don’t want to do a superhero. We don’t want to just do superhero movies, we don’t want to just do Ironman movies or Avengers movies,'” he said. “And we wanted to do, as James said earlier, a big space. So and it worked in a crazy way entirely because of James Gunn.”
Another part of what James Gunn has done to make these characters so wonderfully endearing is that he was able to humanize these aliens and their human leader by treating them as misfits, orphans, and outsiders bonded by terrible tragedy to become something far greater. Outside that, Gunn also wanted to ground their surrounding world and the massive sets with practicality.
“The sets are really good,” James Gunn said. “But we like practical sets. We’re out in outer space. We’re in these incredibly strange places, and when it becomes too much CGI, it ungrounded us a little bit. So having the audience, the crew, and the cast being able to be in the place, it’s cool. But also, I think it looks good on, you know, on the screen to be able to do practically what you can.”
Feige echoed those sentiments with an example of one of the smaller moments where the “Guardians” are trying to fit into one car. While it may look grounded, the camaraderie between everyone sets an emotional tone. “Talking about being grounded in sci-fi. You know, one of my favorite moments in this movie is you driving a car,” he said. “All the characters in the car, those shots in the back in the backseat, you turn around. I mean, for some reason, it feels like I’m in the car with my friends. That just feels so fun and cool. Would we have done anything? I don’t know how we could have.”
Though the “Guardians” are far more mainstream now because of their cinematic popularity, they have a fanbase that originated long before they made their MCU debut. And part of that love back then to now is what made Feige nervous about getting these characters right. “The goal has always been to do justice to the audience members who have loved these characters their whole lives, and to audience members who’ve never heard of these characters, or who heard of them for the first time in the trailer,” he said.
At the time, the Guardians weren’t nearly as popular as the Avengers, so one would think that being a group of outsiders with a small fanbase would give Marvel Studios the creative liberty to tell new stories in new ways. However, Feige trusted Gunn’s commitment to telling the story correctly. “On the flip side of that, there are people who go well. People don’t really know the Guardians. So you really have a lot of leeway to do new things, which you do,” he said. “But James was constantly going to the comments and constantly referring to the comments and constantly building off of the storylines. So people who didn’t know these characters from the more recent run or the early run saw things they could get excited about.”
For Sean Gunn, James’ brother, playing the on-set Kraglin and on-set Rocket in many of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, emphasized the importance of collaboration. “It takes a team of people to create Rocket, and I’m a member of that team,” he said. “I think of the creation of Rocket almost like a relay race where James takes the baton and the character he’s created and passes it to me, and I work with the cast on set and do the first part. Then we hand it to the visual effects team, and they start to put the whole thing together, and then you give it to the anchor, you know, and Bradley makes the whole thing work.”
Playing the on-set Rocket was a reminder of how important the creative process is. “The whole experience of acting is about giving and not about yourself. You want to become an actor because you think that you’re special. You become an actor because you think other people are special. And, so the idea of trying to give what I have to the creative process, I’ve never felt that more fully as I have, trying to be a part of that process collaboratively with all these other minds over the course of these three movies. So just being able to really try to do that is a reminder to always try to do that. That’s what makes it that’s what makes it great. That’s what makes it work: that is when we can all work together towards the same goal.”
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” opens in theaters on May 5, 2023.