Vital Thrills got a chance to talk to the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 cast and crew about the highly-anticipated May 5 release. This is the final Marvel Studios film (for now) from James Gunn, who has recently taken over the DC Studios alongside producer Peter Safran.
Present were stars Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Maria Bakalova, Sean Gunn, Will Poulter, and Chukwudi Iwuji, as well as director James Gunn and producer Kevin Feige.
Gunn spoke about having perspective on the films almost 12 years since he was hired on. He said: “People think of making a movie from the perspective of what it’s become culturally. And yeah, absolutely, I don’t think I could’ve dreamed that. I mean, I could’ve dreamed it. I’m not gonna lie. Like, I had hopes. I felt really good about it from the beginning. I felt like we were doing something different.
“I felt like, you know, the world kind of needed a space fantasy that was different from ones we had seen before. So, I was very pleasantly surprise when my greatest hopes did come true. But I think in terms of the story that we were telling over the three movies, I think that, I did have sort of a sense of how it was gonna go from the beginning.”
In terms of what he’s learned over the years, Gunn said, “Well, I think it’s changed me in so many ways. I mean, everything I’ve learned from Kevin and Lou. I think also, in terms of just this family of people, I’ve been really good at hiring non-jerks.
“Not only non-jerks, but people who are actually positive, compassionate, loving, kind people. 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.”
He continued, “So, my main memories are not going to the premieres or, you know, going on these press junkets. It’s being on set and having the little moments. It’s doing bits with Chris in between sets. It’s talking to Sean. Watching Chuk turn in an amazing performance. Goofing around with Pom, wondering what the hell she’s talking about.”
Gunn also said he’s going to miss the characters. “That’s the saddest part for me, is I really, truly love these characters. 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 gonna see all these people again. They’re all friends of mine. But I’m not gonna see the character. I’m not gonna be writing the characters again, at least not in the near future. And so, that’s a real sadness, yeah.”
Chris Pratt reflected on where Star-Lord is right now. He said, “He’s a guy and there’s a wonderful monologue that Bautista gives that, you know, comes from Mantis that Quill is a guy who needs to learn how to swim. He’s been hopping from lily pad to lily pad, woman to woman, and relationship to relationship. I think that’s a pretty human condition. I think, oftentimes, we find ourselves in our relationships or in the affiliations we have with a team or a family or whatever. And he has been lost.
“So, yeah, in the beginning, he was running away from the death of his mother, but he got to pretend to be this character based on these pop culture icons of his childhood of the late-’80s. And so, he was dancing around, but all of that was really, he had found himself there. But it was kinda B.S., you know? And then he found himself with the Guardians of the Galaxy. And then he thought he could find himself with who his father was.
Pratt continued: “So, he’s a guy who’s constantly been searching for who he is. And then he found it again in his relationship with Gamora. And so, when that’s stripped away from him, he’s a guy who’s realizing that all of these various people that he’s found that are Quill, none of them have been the real him. And so, he is, he’s lost. And that probably does mean that he’s sad.”
Pratt was asked if he’d do three more films with Gunn. “First of all, I’d jump at the opportunity. Making movies is really fun. When you get to do it with people that you love, it’s even more fun. That’s the journey, right? The destination, it sometimes sucks. You have this great time with all your friends and you get together and you work hard. And then you see the movie and you’re like, ‘Boy, that movie sucked. But, hey, that was a lot of fun to make it,’ you know? With James, it’s been both the journey and the destination have been glorious. The films are incredible. I don’t know how he does it. And so, just selfishly, I’d be willing to deal with a terrible journey to get to this destination.”
Karen Gillian’s Nebula has changed over the course of several films. Gillan said of her character, “I think post-Thanos, being eliminated from her life, she’s starting to flourish a little bit more and she’s starting to have a lighter personality and she’s a little more willing to show vulnerability.”
She joked that she had to face away from Nathan Fillion, who was moderating the chat, because of her outfit. “I’m sorry that I’m cocked away from you. My outfit is a really weird one and I can’t face the other way. I don’t want my body language to seem like I don’t like you, because I do.”
She also spoke about what’s changed for her after the films. She said, “Definitely my understanding of what it’s like to be a scapegoat sibling. That’s interesting. I’m an only child. Yeah. Because Nebula was definitely that. She was never the golden child. And so, I never understood that because I’m an only child. And so, that was a really sort of interesting exploration for me. So, now I just have so much respect for people that have gone through that.”
Kevin Feige spoke about the journey of the films. He said, “You know, 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? And it’s because ‘Guardians’ really was the first movie that was completely outside of the realm. It tied in with Thanos and Infinity Stones. But The Avengers were not in it. And we weren’t setting up Tony Stark’s next adventure, or Captain America. And it was really our attempt of saying, we don’t wanna just do superhero movies.
“We don’t want to just do Iron Man movies or Avengers movies. And we wanted to do, as James said earlier, a big space movie. And it worked in a crazy way. It worked entirely because of James Gunn. So, it just feels like this trilogy, and James writing and directing all three of them, it represents something unique within the pantheon of the MCU, that I’m very proud of.”
Gunn spoke about the big sets and said it helped avoid too many effects. He said, “Yeah, the sets are really, really big. But we’re out in outer space, right? So, it’s like, we’re in the incredibly strange places. And when it becomes too much CGI, it ungrounds us a little bit. So, I like it both for shooting and having the crew and the cast being able to be in the place. It’s cool. But also, I think it looks good on screen to be able to do practically what you can.”
Gunn said that when he looks back, he probably wouldn’t change anything. He said, “I don’t know that we would’ve. By the way, talking about it being grounded in sci-fi, you know, one of my favorite moments in this movie is you driving a car, right? It’s all the characters in a car, those shots in the backseat and you turn around. I mean, for some reason, it feels like I’m in the car with my friends, that it just feels so fun and cool. Would we have done anything? I don’t know how we could’ve.”
Feige was asked about being nervous to approach films like this because of fan love for the characters and the knowledge about them that they have. Feige said, “It always makes me nervous. But 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 or in the poster. Which, for Guardians in particular, was certainly the majority of the audience.
“Now 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, but James was constantly going to the comics and constantly referring to the comics and constantly building off of the storylines. So, people who did know these characters from the more recent run at the time, or the early run, saw things they could get excited about. And just as important, people who never heard of this crazy spaceman with a tree and a raccoon.”
Pom Klementieff spoke about what Mantis has brought to her life. “Oh, my God. I mean, for me, it’s not Mantis. It’s like, Mantis and James Gunn. James changed my life. And get to play Mantis, I got, I mean, she’s an empath, you know? So, you have to have a deeper connection with everything and everyone. So, it’s, like, beautiful to tap in and create deep, profound, and layered emotions, you know? And yeah. And then I got to be super weird, which is really fun to do, too. It kind of comes naturally to me, I heard.”
She continued, “No, I love playing this character and I’m so grateful for James to have given me this opportunity. And to get to play with all these incredible actors. And I think each character, they complete each other, too, you know? And I remember James telling me that Mantis was kind of like the glue that kept the Guardians together in some ways. I think it’s beautiful and I think the world lacks a lot of empathy, too, you know? Yeah, so it’s a beautiful message, too.”
She also mentioned the music for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. She explained, “I mean, we had this, like, slow motion walk, right, with the music, ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn.’ And they were blasting the music on set. It was so cool and you felt so cool with the Guardians of the Galaxy costumes. And just, like, walking, slow motion. It’s fun because, like, also, Mantis’ journey, she evolves so much throughout the movies. And she gains so much confidence. At the beginning, I was more, like, bug-like, doing little hand gestures, like Mr. Burns or like a fly.
“And then, I was like she spent more time with the Guardians, you know, so she’s more used to being around other people. So, she’s less doing, weird stuff. And she’s more like walking and fighting all these things, you know? So, that was cool to do.”
She also talked about how Mantis is different in the films. “I think it was so interesting to give a different version of Mantis. I mean, in the comic books, she was great, too. She was very powerful. But kinda similar to a lot of other female characters in the Marvel universe or in other superhero movies. So, I think it was so interesting to give a different take on a female character and make it give more comedy and more awkwardness and something different.”
Sean Gunn spoke about playing Kraglin (he also does mo-cap for Rocket and the voice of young Rocket in the third film). He said, “I think that, just like all the Guardians, that Kraglin had to kind of figure out what his place in the family was. And one thing that really impresses me about the movies is how I do feel like, in a way, that the journey of the cast has mirrored the journey of the characters, in a way.
“And that for me being there in the first movie and feeling like, oh, I’m the director’s brother and I’m here and I’m kind of on the outside. And Kraglin is just kind of on the peripheral and he comes in and says his things here and there. And then learning that, over the course of the movies, that I felt as much at home with all these people, that I felt fully accepted and a full member of the cast and of the group.
“And that’s what happens with Kraglin over the course of the movies. And so, that’s really special and really cool for me. But yeah, Kraglin was with Yondu and Quill from the beginning. And was sort of like, why am I on the outside? And his journey to learn why he belongs is my favorite thing about him.”
Chukwudi Iwuji plays the High Evolutionary and spoke about his character. He said that when he was called by James Gunn, he said his reaction was, “Homer Simpson, the blink. You know, when Homer doesn’t know what to say and doesn’t understand what you just said. And the camera stays on him and he keeps doing that. That’s what it was.”
He said he got the news while filming a dance sequence for HBO‘s Peacemaker, which he was filming at the time. “I just sort of blinked for a while and mumbled something. And he said, ‘It’s great. I’ve already spoken to Kevin about it. We’ll get together at my place or something. We’ll put something on camera and sent it to them.’ And I thought that was gonna happen in the next few days. I think it was, like, six weeks or five weeks before I actually got the screen test done.”
He was asked about getting into the mindset for the character. Iwuji said, “Because between James telling me he wanted me to play the role and doing the screen test, I had a lot of downtime. You were filming an episode that I wasn’t in in Peacemaker. So, I was in Vancouver at the time. And so, to answer this question is, the first thing that’s written when you meet him is him listening to space opera. So, immediately I knew classical music was gonna be a big part of this character. Because I didn’t know where I was gonna go with him. I thought I would just listen to a lot of my favorite arias and classical, and sent them to, and they actually, one or two of them made it onto the film.
“So, a lot of finding this guy, for me, was saying, there’s something. If he’s listening to opera and he’s in space opera and he’s this mad scientist sort of person, I just thought of someone that doesn’t sleep. That’s someone that’s obsessed with it, listening to this music. He needs the music as he wanders through his castle at night. And I thought very deeply about Henry IV. He has a great speech about, ‘Heavy is the head that wears the crown. How many thousands of my poorest subjects that at this moment, are asleep.’ And I sent that to James.
“So, that’s where, it’s like, it wasn’t really about specifically how do I play the character written. It’s like, how do I bring this guy into the room. Because I knew that would be taken care of in the script, the motivations and the moments and stuff are impeccably written. Because he deals with character. So, it was about, who is this guy before he turns up on the set, you know?”
Will Poulter plays newcomer Adam Warlock. He said he was made to feel very welcome. “I was nervous from the outside looking in. I think because I was a really big fan of the Guardians movies. And within the Marvel universe, this was the trilogy, as it now is, of films that I was kind of the biggest admirer of. And so, you look at something as a fan, and you think, that’s cool, to be able to appreciate that as a fan, you know, for what it is. And that’s what it will always be. You don’t imagine yourself being a part of it. So, that in itself was exciting. And then to have an experience characterized by all of these lovely people making me feel so welcome.
“And something that I thought was gonna be really scary actually just being really good fun, you know? I think because of what James said is so true, that, you know, he makes a point of making set a really fun environment and then surrounds himself with really great people. So, across every department, not just the acting department, but, like, every department, there are wonderful people, and it just made the experience so, so fun. Which is really, really important. ‘Cause there’s pressure and as a new kid, I was pretty scared, so that made it easy.”
Maria Bakalova voices and mo-caps the role of Cosmo the dog in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. She said that she’s even more excited now than when she got the part. She said, “When I was auditioning for the part, I was like, ‘How can I play this?’ And it was so interesting, because you can make it to be a little bit more over the top, ’cause she’s a puppy and she has more energy. And then when I got the call, I think that was actually the first call that I’m getting, ‘You got the job!’
“And then, when I found out that I can be on set, actually, and work with a mo-cap suit, and imagine that I’m a child again and use my imagination to be like, ‘Okay, today I’m going to be a dog. Tomorrow I will be a flower. The next day, I’m going to be a butterfly.’ It’s interesting, we tend to forget about imagination when we grow up. And it’s been just incredible.”