It’s not often that you get to talk to two big names Marvel executives at the same time, but this is special. Sitting down for the James Gunn And Kevin Feige Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Interview was not only fun but a bit flattering. Director James Gunn and Marvel President Kevin Feige not only really enjoy talking to our group, but they also gave a few teases along the way. They give us a look at the making of both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1 and Vol 2, as well as a little bit of what to possibly expect in future Marvel films.
Director James Gunn
I have often said, especially after speaking with James, that I would love to live inside his brain. Even for a day. The man is so creatively brilliant that it’s almost not fair. However, I am thankful, for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1 and Vol 2 are his brainchildren. His vision that takes a lot of trust from Marvel, the cast and the crew of the film. After visiting the set of Vol 2 last year, I saw firsthand how much is his vision and what was tangible on the set. Needless to say, most was his vision, and what a vision he has! This video is from the first movie, but it gives you an idea of the personality behind the film.
President of Marvel Kevin Feige
I have only had the opportunity to interview Kevin a handful of times. He is always a pleasure to speak with, and I mean, he is the Walt Disney of Marvel. Equally as brilliant, however, he’s obviously just as intrigued with the mind James has just the same. Take some time and enjoy the laughter and inside thoughts for two of Marvel’s greatest.
James Gunn And Kevin Feige
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Interview
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 yet, you may want to come back to this interview after. There are some spoilers in this post and I encourage you to come back after you have seen the movie.
James: Oh, my God. (Laughing) Hello.
Kevin: You’re the best.
James: You’ve done these with this group before, right?
Kevin: Of course.
James: And this is my favorite part of making the Guardians movies, it is meeting with the Mommy Bloggers. That’s no joke.
Kevin: It’s true.
James: That’s a hundred percent true.
James: It’s like, you guys are the best because it’s like, totally, like, real and —
James: not so…you know…
James: Hollywood-y, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You know. They’re trying to get the —
Kevin: Hot scoops?
James: “What’s the hot scoop?”
Well, we still want the hot scoops. (Laughing)
Kevin: Well, you’ll actually get them.
James: See, because you guys aren’t so —
Kevin: Exactly, exactly.
James: –greedy, we give you the hot scoop.
Kevin: You know.
So, then, tell us about Adam. When are we going to see him?
James: Well, in the future.
So, James, can you tell us anything about the process of choosing the music for this one?
James: Sure. I mean, you know, listen. I have a list of about 500 songs, which I think of as, like, Guardians-type songs that Meredith Quill might really love. When I’m going through, and I’m writing the script, I put the songs into the script where they seem to fit. Sometimes I don’t have a song that seems right on that list, and so I have to go out and search and listen to a bunch of stuff, and see what I like, you know. And — but eventually, it’s all baked into the organic story of what’s happening in a movie, in the same way you put sugar in a cake.
But they had that — there was one song that came from — do you know this? — from Twitter.
James: Wham Bam.
Kevin: Oh, yes.
James: I had never heard that song.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
James: And all of the time — I mean, there’s nothing I get more tweets about than “you oughta put this song in Guardians of the Galaxy.” But that’s — those are the nice ones. The mean ones were, “If you don’t put this song in Guardian of the Galaxy, I’ll never talk to you again.” I’m like, “Okay, don’t talk to me.” But it’s — but they always say, and they’re always songs that I know well, ’cause I’ve studied my Seventies music, especially since starting this series, and somebody sent this song by this band called Silver, called “Wham Bam.”
And I’m like, “I’ve never — what is that song?” And I went, and I played it, and I’m like, “This is a really cool, like, total Seventies pop song that is so different.” And then I was like, “Is this, like, a fake song?” I thought it was a modern band with, like, a retro vibe.
Kevin: Right, right.
James: Had to go and do some research on it, and found out that it really existed, and then I put it in the movie. So, I wish I knew who that Twitter person was, and maybe —
Kevin: Somebody could find it. That’s a fun idea.
Kevin: What’s so amazing, and it was like this on the first one, and held to it on the second one, a lot of screenwriters put song suggestions into their scripts, and almost none of those songs end up in the actual movie. And when James did that, I think even maybe on an outline in the first movie, and certainly in an outline on the second one. On the first one, it was like, “Oh, that’s cute. He thinks these songs are gonna be in the movie. We’ll see.” Every single song. It’s not just the movie. But what’s perfect for the movie. And then on part two, I knew better. So, would listen to the song as I’m reading the outline, and then later the script. And that sort of pool of songs that he has comes in handy. There’s a Guardians of the Galaxy theme park ride that is opening soon at California Adventure that features songs that James suggested as well, and a few other places coming up in the future.
James: That’s a hot scoop.
Kevin: I guess it is. There’ll be songs in the Guardians ride.
James: Yeah, the songs are chosen by us. I remember when we did our very first test screening. Because we had written all of the songs into the movie, and they were all in there, and then all of a sudden, one of the first comments was, “The music is great.” And I remember you going, “Oh. Thank God, thank God.”
Kevin: Because the whole movie was built around the songs.
James: And it’s like if people said “the music is weird, we hate it,” then that would have been big trouble. Would have been like saying, “take out all the jokes. Take out the raccoon. We love it all but the stupid raccoon.”
Kevin: Right, exactly. (laughing) Exactly.
James: So, I write a very in-depth treatment. It ends up being about 70 pages long. That number’s a little bit high because I put a bunch of photographs in there, sort of, you know, things that make us know what the feel of things is.
But it’s more like a 55-page draft. But it goes very much into depth, in the dialogue, every beat of the story, what’s happening. I like to do that first. But with that, I have a disk that I give to the four, five people that read that treatment, and that disk has all of the songs on it that are in the movie.
So jumping into Chris and Zoe’s relationship, it’s slowly unraveling. And we didn’t get the kiss. I thought we were going to go there but —
Kevin: Chris and Zoe’s relationship?
I mean, Gamora and Star-L-ord.
James: I was gonna say, I do not see that happening. If that’s going on behind my back for the past five years, I would be really surprised. Rooker and Pratt? Maybe. A little more believable. Pom and Karen, maybe. Um…
Their relationship is growing. Was that the intention and why are we taking that slow route? Or, is it even ever going to get there?
James: Well, I mean, I think that — and this is a spoiler, so be careful with the way you guys release this stuff.
Kevin: Oh, boy.
James: But at the end of the movie we have a moment between the two of them, where I think something is acknowledged, you know. And Zoe and I talked about this for a long time last night at the premiere, at the party after the premiere, and there was a time when we had a lot of discussions and talked about having a kiss in the movie. But we tried to treat these characters with such respect and such love.
And I don’t think Gamora is a character who would be swept up in the moment by passion, and if she was, I think she would have to deal with the ramifications of that. I don’t think she would be easy on herself about it. And so I think at the end what we see between the two of them is such a truer love story. Where she loves him, and he loves her, and she acknowledges that at the end of the movie, but that’s a love that’s based not only on attraction but on a deep friendship that the two of them have.
A partnership that we see at the beginning of the movie that they’ve changed a great deal. At the beginning of the movie, they’re great friends. She’s a great support to him when he’s making this decision, and he respects and loves her. And so I think to see that emotional part of their movie of their relationship, is a culmination of what their relationship is in the movie, it is more powerful than seeing a kiss that is romantic and would make us feel happy and feel good but wouldn’t be as true.
Kevin: It’s the difference between a truthful, emotional moment, and a Hollywood moment, and that was very savvy of James to navigate that.
When the Guardians meet the Avengers, how will the whole team dynamic fit into a supporting role?
Kevin: Well. I mean, as with all of the connectivity between our characters on various films, you have to be careful about it. I mean, we never want it just to seem like characters are popping their heads out of windows and saying “Hello” and then going back in.
James: It’s a whole movie of Stan Lee cameos.
Kevin: Exactly. Believe me, it’d be easier to do it that way, but it wouldn’t be as satisfying. So a big role, a small role, regardless of the actual screen time that any single character has, and I think you’ve seen this in the Avengers films, and in Civil War last year, it’ll be very meaningful and very important to the story that we’re telling.
And it’s being shot right now with a lot of those interactions. It’s very exciting.
James, the scene with the Ravager captains at the end with Sylvester Stallone, is there a possible storyline there?
James: Absolutely, I’m excited about those guys. I love those guys. I mean —
And could that be like, maybe, an early Guardians team?
James: Well, they’re based on the original Guardians in the comic books. Stakar, Charlie 27, Alita and an earlier iteration of the Guardians. Like Yondu is. And that is something that we shot in post because I woke up one morning, and I was like, “Oh my God. This could be so fun. What if we made an even weirder, more screwy, more dysfunctional Guardians?”
James: And I went to Kevin, and I’m like, “Can we please do this?” And Kevin was like, “I love it! It’s my favorite thing ever.”
So we went out, and we shot it with Sly and the gang. And Michelle Yeoh who I’m a big fan of, because I’m a big fan of old, Nineties Hong Kong movies, and she also happens to be a great person. Ving Rhames, who I knew from the Dawn of the Dead movie I did a long time ago. So it was something I’m excited to possibly pursue. Whether or not that’s something, they’re small roles, or we see them pop up in the way we see Howard the Duck pop up again in this movie.
Or whether it’s something where we sign Sly to a ten-picture deal, and we do —
James: –12 movies, with the solo Mainframe movie.
James: Yeah, so, who knows?
Kevin: Who is the voice of Mainframe?
James: Miley Cyrus. A scoop. That’s a real hot scoop. Miley Cyrus has a cameo in the movie.
Kevin: Mainframe’s the talking metal head at the end.
James: I’m a hundred percent serious. I was watching The Voice, and I’m like, “She’s so likable.” And her voice is awesome. I’m like, “She’s got the best voice.” And then I wrote this thing, and I went in, and I said, “Kevin, what do you think about casting Miley Cyrus as the voice of Mainframe?” And he was like, “Well, I’ll see if we can get her.”
James: And then I got her to do it.
Speaking of cameos, your parents were in it too, right?
James: Yes. My parents. Well, you know. In that scene, my parents are in, so is my brother his wife, my two nephews and my niece are all in that scene.
Yeah, so, you know, I kill a lot of my family members. It’s not quite “aww.” It’s more like, y’know, “grr.” No, yeah. That’s my parents. That’s my dad; they’re credited in the credits as “weird old man” and “weird old man’s mistress.” Which my mom loved.
Kevin: I saw you pointing that out —
James: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. My mom loves being the mistress. [LAUGHS]
We’re all very touched by your dedication to your parents.
James: Oh, thanks. Thanks. Well, you know I think the first movie is about a relationship from a mother to her son, and the second movie is about a relationship with father to a son. It just may not be the father that we expect it to be. And they’re all very imperfect characters, but, you know, my parents loved me. My parents would be the first to admit it was not the easiest upbringing, but they loved me. And I think at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important, and I think that’s the point of the movie.
These characters love each other, and as hard as it is for them to express it to each other, and even more so with a character like Rocket, who has almost an impossible time taking it in at all — that’s what the movie is about.
So, with the introduction of the Zoon — and that was hilarious by the way because I think that’s something everybody forgot about — is there going to be an evolution of the music becoming more Eighties-Nineties?
James: Well, it’s not about becoming Eighties-Nineties. We’ll have to wait and see exactly what the music is, but where that Zoon came from, and what that Zoon is, and that gives us a different relationship to the music, and with what we go forward.
Kevin, you have the gift of picking the right directors. How do you pair the directors with the movies?
Kevin: Well, there are a lot of meetings, and it’s a leap of faith, to some regard. And a lot of it is, “is the vibe — and do we want to spend, in a worst-case scenario, three years together, and in a best-case scenario, you know, ten years together? 12?” But we have a great team at Marvel Studios. And in the case of Guardians it was executive producer Jeremy Latcham, and now executive producer Jonathan Schwarz who did the first round of meetings, and they were the first people James met and sort of pitched the notion of this weird space movie with raccoons and trees. And as James — what was it? Were you driving home after that meeting?
James: Yeah, they pitched that idea to me, and I was driving home after the meeting, and when I said goodbye to them I thought they were making a huge mistake. And I’m like, “You guys have done a great job so far as Marvel, but, you know this is Bugs Bunny in the middle of the Avengers, and you’re gonna look like idiots.”
So I kind of smiled and shook their hands, and I went home, and I didn’t really think I was going to take the gig, or that wasn’t being offered the gig, but I didn’t think I was going to pursue it in any way. And then on the way home, it like, it hit me. It really, really hit me. It was like seeing the first poster in my head on the way home. I realized what this movie could be, and how it could bring color and heart into a big, franchise film, and create the kind of space opera that I’ve wanted to do my entire life, so that’s how it started.
It’s funny because I was just talking to somebody, and I think you know Kevin, but Chris Pratt often gives me a lot of credit, and a lot of gratitude, and he does, he owes me his life. And —
James: — because, without me, what would he really be doing? He’d be eating chili dogs, you know — no, but I love Chris, and I’m lucky that I’m good at casting. I’m able to see something in these actors that maybe somebody else doesn’t see.
I’m not sure everybody would have seen in Dave Bautista what I saw, or Pom Klementieff. But in the same way, I think Kevin cast me. I gave Chris an opportunity, and Kevin gave me an opportunity. And it’s that same thing of seeing, you know, I had all of these very weird web shorts. That my brother went in and he said, “I guess you got this job because of whatever these web shorts,” and they were like, “Oh, no, we really like those web shorts,” you know. So they saw something in this eclectic stuff that I was doing that could be applied to a mainstream film.
Kevin: You flew to North Carolina where I was working on Iron Man 3 at the time. And Jeremy and Jonathan were like, “We think we might’ve found somebody who’s really exciting,” and he came in with that passion. And clearly he was a great writer, and clearly had done interesting work on a smaller scale. But even just wanting to do a space opera like this —
Kevin: — your whole life, which, by the way, is the only reason we wanted to do Guardians, is because we wanted to do a space opera our whole lives, and thankfully, it worked.
James: Yeah, and also, if you remember, I storyboarded the whole opening action sequence because I wanted Kevin to know that I was a camera guy. I’m a visual guy. I’d been very harnessed by lower budgets before, regarding what I was able to shoot. And I wanted them to know that I knew how to put a scene together.
And so I drew my own storyboards, and did this stuff, and put together a large packet about visual references. I put together actors who I thought would be right for the roles. My number one choice for Gamora was Zoe Saldana, who is on that list. And so a lot of this stuff all came from that meeting. It’s weird. In the first Guardians movie, the Guardians say, you know, “Maybe it’s time to actually give a sh!t about something.”
Kevin: Right, right.
James: And this is being completely honest. It’s like, I had a lot of success doing things in Hollywood, and I always considered that my strength was that I didn’t really give a shit. Like, you know, I would go in, and I would pitch something, and I’m like, “Well, if I get the job, then I’m gonna get money. But if I don’t get the job, then I don’t have to work for a little while, and you know, I’m very lazy.” And so this fact that I didn’t care, I always thought it was my strength. And for the first time in my life, I really wanted the Guardians of the Galaxy gig.
That honestly had never happened to me before. I had never done it. And so it was a new experience for me in caring, and it’s so funny because that’s exactly what the Guardians are about.
Kevin: Yep. Yep.
James: That same thing.
Read more of my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Posts
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 in theaters now!
*I was invited by Disney/Marvel to attend a special press trip to share my experience with my readers. All opinions are my own.