I didn't know if that was part of why you were being so secretive about it, is because you didn't want if people found out the name of this person have that idea be something different than what you were putting on the screen.
James Gunn: Maybe.
In addition to Kurt's character can you talk about Mantis and what dynamic she adds to the group?
James Gunn: Well, I think Mantis is as odd and strange as Pom is. And I think she is an incredibly unique character. And I think she's funny as shit. And she's really funny. And she's also a little creepy. And she's great. She really is great.
I remember when we were auditioning Star-Lord, you're asking for this straight white dude and we screen tested 25 guys and it was really hard finding somebody great because, honestly, a lot of the really great guys in that age categories become movie stars. And to be auditioning Asian actresses was awesome. Truly, we screentested four actresses who all four of them were totally incredible. It's just Pom happened to fit the role the best, but it was a really amazing experience. And honestly, truly, an example of there's a lot of actors out there who don't get the opportunities of these lead roles that a regular white dude does.
Besides an obvious working relationship how would you describe the relationship between Mantis and Kurt's character? In the film. I mean, she's his-
James Gunn: She works for him basically. That's it. I think it's very interesting to watch the relationship between Mantis and the other characters. Because like them, she's an outcast. I think the relationship between her and Drax is very interesting because they're both complete oddballs.
What about her relationship with Peter, and their dynamic?
James Gunn: It's more of a relationship to the group as a whole, but I think she relates a little bit more to Gamora and Drax then she does to Peter.
What's different about your villains this time around? What's the dynamic-
James Gunn: I think the main thing that was different, and this is really important to me, was to be able to make the story one where the personal story of the Guardians and the villain agenda plot was all about one thing. And that was important to me. It wasn't like "oh, here's our characters on journey with each other while they're fighting this big bad that's doing whatever he or she is doing, and just that's it."
You know, which honestly, the first movie if there was one thing that I- It's fine, but it is, kind of, two separate stories there's Ronan taking over this planet and murdering the universe, and then there's these guys who through that journey get to know each other and come together. In this movie all of those things are a little bit more interwoven. It really is all one story. And that is, to me, a lot more satisfying way to tell a story.
When you were coming up for the treatment for this whole thing, or the pitch, it seems like this is about family. The core theme of this whole thing. At least from what we can tell. Do you come up with that theme before you start writing this, or does that theme come out and you work the villains in? How does that happen?
James Gunn: It's a step by step thing. Probably the first thing was the larger science fiction concept. The science fiction concept. The movie's more science fiction than first one was. It's still a space fantasy. They still have jet-packs. Gamora has a sword and shit they would never have in space, but it's more of a science fiction concept behind it. So I think, that's what came first and then the theme started its way into that. That would, sort of, push me forward in another direction. Then maybe I'd have a character moment that would push me forward in another direction. Then an ending that pulls. So it really is going step by step in terms of what affects me the most.
One of the things that I thought was really interesting about the reception of the first film was that people with autism really embraced Drax. Like in a big way. Did that impact you, writing the character this time?
James Gunn: It really did. Not only Drax, but the characters in general. Groot. And I think outsiders as a whole reacted to the Guardians, which is what ... Listen, that's what I am. That's what I feel like. But it's being able to tell those stories for those people is what really the only reason I give a shit about any of this, frankly. And the only reason I would ever put myself through this is to be able to bring people together, and make people feel like maybe they belong a little bit more than they would feel before they saw the movie.
So we were saying how lucky She and Karen feel to have sisters in the movie, and also when we were talking about Pom she was like "I didn't want Mantis to be sexualized, and a sexual character." So can you talk about those portrayals of women and having them really standalone and have their own storylines?
James Gunn: For me it just strictly comes down to one thing, which is trying to make all the characters be equally characters. To have the equal amount of weaknesses and strengths, to have the equal amount of foibles. Do I think my writing as a whole has always done that? Yeah, completely. We have four primary female characters in this movie. Is that a cool thing? Yeah. And do I think that it's cool that we have Pom- One of the things is that Mantis is just as weird and screwy as Rocket and Drax and Groot; who are all just nut-cases. Being able to have that dynamic, to me, is what's cool about having the female characters more than having the strong females, I guess.
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that you and Chris together created Star-Lord into this, almost- For kids, I have a twelve and eight year old, and he's Han Solo to them. He's almost Indiana Jones. So, coming back to him a second time, tell me about some of the challenges of just figuring out what the next steps for him are, and how do you maintain... He's the leader of the team, but it doesn't seem like this is his story. It does seem like it the whole team's story.
James Gunn: It is the whole team's story, but there's a big huge part of it that's his story too. When I was writing up the first movie I wrote the whole backstory of where Peter came from, who his father was, why did Yondu pick him up from the planet. I wrote all that stuff, and there was a part of me that thought about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, maybe there'll be a story in between the answers to that story. And I said "I don't know." How long am I going to be around for? I don't know, let's just go for that story. So, that's a big part of what this story is. Those other characters are now major characters in the movie; Nebula, Yondu, these characters that were tertiary characters in the first film.
Does it help or hurt that Chris Pratt becomes a movie star, like a huge star, in between.
James Gunn: It's Chris, so he's my buddy, so it doesn't hurt me! It helps the movie because he's a movie star. So it's great, but my and Chris' working relationship is incredibly close. But just honestly, just as friends it's a great thing to have on set that I didn't have last time. Last time I had Rooker and my brother and now I have Chris and Zoe especially. It's nice to have that aspect of it for me, because making a movie is a lonely endurance test.
Does Michael Rooker get jealous?
James Gunn: Uhh...
James Gunn: [Laughs] Yeah, he might get a little jealous.
[Laughs] Outside at the very opening of the movie we saw one image of - Could you talk about the set pieces, we haven't really heard much about the action in the movie, how many scenes there are, how big it gets. When you think about the end of the first movie, that's a pretty huge set piece. So could you talk about how long-
James Gunn: Oh my god! I really set out to write a more intimate, personal story and I think it is, and then somehow in the midst of writing this more intimate, personal, emotional story the set pieces got five times as big. Like really. I feel great about it. Honestly, I've been focusing a lot on it because I think that I want this movie to be better in every aspect. And that includes that it's funnier. The emotion works on a deeper level, which is probably the most important to me frankly. And then the fact that the action is bigger and more exciting.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) release date: May 05, 2017