Next week we’ll finally be seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and chatting with director/writer James Gunn and the cast without the extreme secrecy we dodged through last April when we visited the film’s set in an old, derelict conference center in Atlanta.
Our conversation with James Gunn on that set visit – the current gatekeeper of the Marvel cosmic – opened with a jolly good conversation where he and others straight up played mind games with us, dancing around the identity of Kurt Russell’s character. In the concept art in the Pinewood Studios war room and on Kurt Russell’s chair, he was named “J’Son” when we know from what James Gunn has stressed for years, there is no J’Son in the MCU because he hates the character name and story.
Of course, it was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con last summer that Russell is playing Ego the Living Planet – something I told everyone on set the night before we got there – but it wasn’t something they wanted to get out early. Or at least, something they didn’t want to have to start answering questions about while we were there.
I hate to put you on the spot, immediately, right-away but let’s just get this out of the way. After we had done some stuff and seen some stuff today we went back and were looking around – you had said on Twitter that there is no J-Son in the MCU – So when this eventually comes out and Kurt’s character’s revealed, how do we reconcile where that is?
James Gunn: I say the same thing, there is no J-son in the MCU.
So now we have we understand how that makes sense.
James Gunn: Think we aren’t prepared for you guys? Think anything we did today is real?!
James Gunn: We hate each other. [Laughs] There is no J-Son in the MCU.
So how does that statement reconcile with what we think we know?
James Gunn: It’s what you think. I mean, John’s [Pisani, Unit Publicist] standing right here, but I’ll just come out and say it, there’s no J-Son in the MCU. That’s for you.
That’s legit? Okay.
James Gunn: Yeah, that’s just what we’re using right now.
Unit publicist John Pisani: It’s like you said, that concept art is changing.
It was less the concept art. The chair, I think Kurt even used-
James Gunn: Oh yeah, I call him J-Son all the time. That’s what we do.
James Gunn: But I also want to make clear, here’s the thing you get stuck with, he isn’t J-Son. He isn’t named J-Son in the movie. That’s just flat out the case. But here’s the thing, we’ll probably all know who the father is by the time this movie comes out. ‘We’ meaning you guys, because the movie really isn’t about that. It’s not about this big reveal of who the father is. It really is about the story between the different characters, and so it’s not about that reveal. It’s not about there’s this big shock moment. We’re probably all going to know by the time the movie comes out. It happens pretty close to the beginning of the film. It’s not something we reveal at the end of the film. So it’s something that’ll come out eventually. I think it’s just we want to choose the time when that comes out. And hopefully we’ll be able to do that.
We were talking with Kevin Feige earlier today and he mentioned that you came in there with a 64 page treatment, something in that range-
James Gunn: Yeah.
How much has the script evolved since-
James Gunn: I’ll say one major thing that happened during the treatment phase, not even during the script phase, during the treatment phase there was another character that was a major character. That was a part of the treatment. Although it kind of worked generally in the story, I got to the place where there were to many characters. I think Civil War handles a lot of characters really well, but they’re minor characters, and in this movie every character has their own arc, their own thing. And I thought it was one character too many, so I took one of the characters out of the story about half way through the treatment phase. But the eventual 70-page treatment, which is what it was, is what this movie is, and it has changed very, very little. And there’s been almost no changes in the past three or four months before shooting; minor, minor lines here and there. We did rehearsals and some things I changed because of that. Now who knows, we may get into post and go “oh my God, let’s change everything,” I hope that isn’t the case, but I’ve been really fortunate.
And part of it is because I knew on the last movie we did do a lot of changes later on. We did some changes in production. We did some changes in post-production, and I knew this time I was really fortunate to have such a headstart on the script. And to make that story really strong so we could have that from the beginning. And so that was something I focused on, was really dialing in the screenplay, the dialogue, everything before we ever even came here to Atlanta.
It sounds like a big part of Nebula and Gamora’s arc is dealing with the residual trauma of being raised by Thanos. So why not have Thanos in the movie?
James Gunn: First of all, it’s about two sisters. It’s not about the sisters and their father. It’s about two sisters and what were the sisters’ problems with each other. And yeah, some of those things were caused by being raised by the ultimate abusive father. But it really isn’t about Thanos, and frankly I just wasn’t inspired to put him in the movie. I kind of go with my gut on these things and it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. It wasn’t the most fun part of the movie last time for me, and I just didn’t really want to do it this time. And again the relationship with Thanos has nothing to do with it. It’s not about their relationship with Thanos. It’s about their relationship to each other, and what is that. And that was interesting to me. And I thought that was important to our story, and that was important to our characters. What happened with them in the past. There’s a lot of stuff that happened in the past that affects our characters presently.
Same thing with Rocket. Rocket’s past is very important to the present story, but it’s not about how it affects him, it’s about how it affects his relationship with the other Guardians.