Marvel is preparing to kick off one of their biggest years as a studio to date this week with the theatrical release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Picking up just a few months after the events of the first Guardians, the sequel follows the characters as they try and escape the wrath of some vengeful ex-clients, and Peter Quill’s life is thrown into disarray when his biological father shows up, promising to have answers to all of his son’s questions.
In addition to all of the returning cast members from the first film, Vol. 2 features a number of exciting new additions to its cast in Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, and more. Just a few weeks ago, Disney invited us to attend the official Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 press conference in Los Angeles as well, so here are the most exciting pieces of information we learned from the massive event.
For returning writer and director James Gunn, one of the biggest hurdles he faced making this Vol. 2, was trying to avoid the clichés and reasons that most other massive sequels in Hollywood wind up being disappointments.
James Gunn: The movie? I don’t know. You know, listen, I just wanted to continue the film from the first movie, you know. So many sequels are not good. The primary reason in studying them seemed to be that so many of them just kind of do the same thing the first movie did with a different template, and so they say, ‘Oh people liked the dance-off in the first movie, so what’s our version of the dance-off? People liked “we are Groot” in the first movie, what’s our version of “we are Groot”?’ And instead of doing that, we really tried to let these characters grow and change. We want to watch them become new and different people in every film that we come up with. And I think allowing them to be themselves and do their thing, I know that sounds strange because I’m writing what they say, but sometimes I’m just letting it happen inside my own imagination and letting the characters go where they wanted to go. I think the thing that I didn’t want to mess up, was just trying to be a rehash of the first movie. I think people were surprised by the first movie, people have been surprised by the second film, and to give people something new and something different from what they already had.
When asked about his shirtless scene in the film also, Chris Pratt took the opportunity to reveal what one of his favorite moments in the entire film is:
Chris Pratt: I will say the greatest shirtless scene in this film by far, though, goes to Mr. Michael Rooker. It’s, it’s no joke. There’s this really beautiful – I can talk about things that happen in the movie, right? When you do see the movie, be sure to pay attention to the moment we see Yondu for the first time. It’s, in my opinion, a series of wordless, you know, pictures that truly are when this film transcends the genre. I’m not joking, it sounds like I’m doing a bit and I’m really not. We were just talking about this. It’s so beautiful, because – Is it bad to talk about why I thought it was so great?
I want you to come to your own conclusions and stuff, but, Yondu is shirtless. He’s essentially naked and really vulnerable. And you see that he’s just like had sex with these like crazy robot prostitutes or something from space. And there’s this look on his face, he never says a word, but you feel his pain. You know that he’s hurting inside, you know that he’s lonely and you know that he’s vulnerable, and then immediately you cut to him walking, in, fully clothed with his Ravagers behind him and this sense of power, but because you saw him naked you know what’s going on inside of his mind, and that, that pathos carries the entire arc for Yondu through the whole movie. I was just talking to James. It’s beautiful, man. It’s so good. And he doesn’t even say a word. So that’s, that’s way better than a guy who’s like, ‘I’m gonna take my shirt off and sniff this, put this one on.’
Obviously, this isn’t Kurt Russell’s first time working with Disney either, though, the veteran actor says that each experience is always different depending on the film:
Kurt Russell: I feel like I do have a special relationship with Disney, but the truth of the matter is, every time you go to work, you have to make the team. Doesn’t make any difference what movie, what television show, whatever it is. You have to go in there and hopefully make them feel good about the decision they made to hire you. That’s just the way it is. You can’t walk in there and go, ‘Hey, done a bunch of stuff, you’ve all seen it, haven’t you? So we’re good, right?’ It’s like, so what? You’re only as good as your last at-bat. So I just wanted to make the team. I wanted to be helpful, wanted to be good, and I was very, very fortunate I ran into a team that had a terrific manager. He really knows his world. He also knows how to execute. He has cast these people perfectly. Perfectly. And it was gonna be hard for me to measure up to that, I knew that, and I asked him a lot of questions, drove him a little bit nuts.
James Gunn: He does. He talks a lot. He’s got to discuss everything. It’s like wrestling with a playful bear every day on set.
Despite how many risks he took with this sequel too, James Gunn said he didn’t have to really fight with Marvel or Kevin Feige about keeping anything in the film:
James Gunn: The truth is, the great thing about working with Marvel, but especially Kevin – who I have an especially close bond with, and who is an incredibly important person in my relationship to film – they gave me complete freedom on both movies. On the first movie, I think that I was a lot more timid, frankly. You know, I took my first draft on the first film and I went to Kevin and Joss Whedon was there, and there was a lot of humor in there, and I was afraid that I was pushing the comedy, that it was too funny, and you know, Kevin and Joss said, ‘Make it more James Gunn.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, it’s your funeral.’
But people seemed to like that. And so, I thought I was, I’m a little punk rock kid who, you know, likes sort of edgy stuff and I thought, what I liked may not be what the entire world likes. But I’ve come to trust that what I like is what works. And the great thing about working with Kevin is, we seem to be very much on the same page with what we like, that’s sort of popular and commercial and traditional, and what we like that’s edgy and funny and different. So yes, I had a lot more freedom on the second movie, but most of it I feel like was from myself, just allowing myself to completely go there with the story and not stop myself at any point from fear of alienating people. I wanted to be as true to the artistic vision and especially as true to the characters as possible in this film.
You know, there’s one thing in the movie that I won’t bring up because Kevin may not, in part I won’t bring up because I may be wrong and Kevin was right, and in part, because I don’t want to embarrass Kevin if I’m right. But there was one thing in the movie that we disagreed on. Only one thing in the whole movie and Kevin let me have my way. And I appreciate it.
Kevin Feige: Good luck guessing what it is.
James Gunn: It’s a very small thing. You’ll never guess what it is.
Kevin Feige: They’re gonna think it’s like some big arc. It’s the smallest thing.
One of the biggest questions fans have about the sequel is the inclusion of Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar/Starhawk, which James Gunn and Kevin Feige said was actually a product of Yondu having a bigger role in the sequel:
Kevin Feige: Yeah, they’re definitely the original Guardians. That was the fun of it, and when James had the idea to do more with the Yondu character, who was also an original Guardians, the notion that he had a team once like Peter does now, that it’d be fun to see them. And [Ving Rhames] is definitely Charlie 27. Where we see them in the future, time will tell.
James Gunn: You know, I think that with all the post-credit scenes on this movie, that are all funny and fun, I think most of them are things that we hope to see continuing on in the MCU. Now whether that’s a supporting roles in future movies or whatever, I think it would be great to see those things and those characters show up.
Yondu isn’t the only character with more screen time in the sequel either, with the Ravagers playing a much bigger role in the story, and for Sean Gunn, that meant he would be dedicating even more time to playing both Kraglin and Rocket on set.
Sean Gunn: Well, it’s interesting, you know, I mean I played two roles in the movie. When you act there’s both the input and the output. The input is the work you put into it and what you do on set and then the output is what you see onscreen, so for me, the input is very similar for both characters, but the output is, is totally different because it takes a whole team of people to make Rocket. So, you know, I’m just a member of that team. But yeah, it’s interesting in this movie because Rocket and Kraglin have a few scenes that they’re in together, so juggling the two things was a very strange and challenging experience for me. But I love it. I love both characters and I, you know, I’m just really grateful to be a part of it.
While joining this level of a project might have required a bit of an adjustment for most actors, Sylvester Stallone just sees the MCU films as this generation’s version of Rambo and Rocky:
Sylvester Stallone: Well, you know, early on in my career I just always became fascinated with mythology and Joseph Campbell and you know, Man of a Thousand Faces and so on and so forth. So when I started doing Rambo, whatever, there was an evolution that takes place and each generation has to define itself and find its own heroes and find its own mythology and this is the new, this is this generation’s, and maybe even the next generation’s mythology and when Kevin invited me onboard I said, ‘This is interesting because I haven’t gone here.’
I mean, I’m kind of earthbound, I’m terrestrial. You know what I mean? This is something that takes place in a whole other sphere where James and the Marvel people have created their own world, their own reality. So I said, yeah, let me visit. Let me drop in here and see what’s up, where the future’s going, you know, and it was great. And it got me out of the house from my three daughters, which is really… Thank you. That’s why I gave you my salary back. My pleasure, my pleasure.
Zoe Saldana’s favorite thing about returning as Gamora in the sequel too, was getting to delve deeper into the sister relationship with Karen Gillan’s Nebula:
Zoe Saldana: My favorite part was the makeup process. I’m joking. I think that what I loved the most and it may sound selfish but definitely the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. I just, 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 okay. 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, three female characters that are adding such unique qualities to the film and they are very relevant and their relationships are explored deeply. 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 was like, “You’re like the Clint Eastwood of the movie,” and I was like, “Who’s that? What’s that?” But anyway, that was my favorite. And my least favorite was obviously the makeup process.
Fans love the Guardians franchise also because of its focus on strong, independent female characters, which Kevin Feige assured was something that Marvel was always onboard for:
Kevin Feige: No push back and I think we always, there’s lots and lots of great female characters in the comics that we want to bring to life on screen and it was very important to James to include these characters and more than just include them, give them their own storyline and have it be more than just their ability to fight or having a romance with a male character. That’s why I think Nebula and Gamora are the, you know, high point of the movie and that relationship is one of the biggest and best arcs of the whole movie, is that sister relationship.
Dave Bautista: I’d like to add one thing to that because you know, I keep hearing over and over that women are so happy to see these strong, sexy, feminine characters and trust me, that the men are happy to see them as well.
Having worked on the Guardians, Star Trek, and Avatar franchises now, Zoe Saldana revealed the other iconic sci-fi property she’d love to be a part of:
Zoe Saldana: Dune. I was Lady Jessica like every other Halloween. And when I wasn’t Lady, when I wasn’t a Bene Gesserit, I was a ninja. So I would, I would love to be in Dune. And I heard that Denis Villeneuve is thinking, he’s revisiting and I hope, I hope he, he decides to do it, because I’m one of those people that I don’t, I think that David Lynch did a great job, but I was six when I saw Dune, so, yeah, it would be Dune.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens in theaters on May 17th.