Clearly Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn is overjoyed at the success of his Marvel movie. “It's just an amazing moment for us,” Gunn told Movie Fanatic. Guardians of the Galaxy won the box office with an astonishing $94 million in its first weekend and Gunn is quick to spread the credit around when it comes to the film’s success.
Bringing these Marvel characters to the screen was freeing for Gunn. “It was, frankly, liberating. I think I would have had a harder time trying to fit into the regular Marvel scheme of things,” Gunn admitted.
“This gave me a chance to take what I loved about Marvel movies and Marvel comics and create a whole new universe.”
When Gunn was a child, he was obsessed with the different planets in the solar system. “I used to create, for every single planet, a different alien race with a certain kind of pet and a certain kind of house,” Gunn said.
For the Guardians of the Galaxy director, making this movie was like coming full circle. “I would draw these pictures and I had hundreds of these pictures and had them in a box, and really to me this was like going back to that childhood box and creating this fun universe.”
There are many elements that made this a fantastic film. But, we have to start with the casting of Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, aka Star Lord.
“We had screen tests of at least 20 people, big stars and no names, looking for the right person because I really wanted somebody who could take it beyond what was on the page in the same way Robert Downey, Jr. did for Iron Man. And nobody blew me away,” Gunn said.
Gunn is quick to credit his casting director who kept putting Pratt in front of him. “Plenty of people were really good. Sarah Finn, our casting director, really deserves the credit for Chris because she kept putting his picture in front of me. I was like, ‘The chubby guy from Parks & Rec?’ Gunn said and laughed.
“I don't remember ever agreeing to see Chris. I just remember her saying Chris Pratt's here. I was a little mad! Then Chris came in and he started to read, and within 20 seconds I was like, ‘Holy (expletive), that's the guy.’ That's who we've been looking for.”
Emotions run high throughout the film, seen all over this Guardians of the Galaxy extended trailer. That was an integral part of whether the film would resonate, the director reported.
“The movie is about a couple of things. Number one, the movie's about a son's relationship to his mother and how it manifests itself throughout the rest of his life. That to me is an emotional thing. It's a film about family,” Gunn said.
“The second thing is we live in a world where everybody's supposed to be cool and act tough and put up fronts and everybody's so cynical and there's a cool contest on the internet who can be the most, you know, snarky and whatever. And this movie is about actually allowing yourself to care. That's a naturally emotional thing for me."
Then, there’s the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack which is technically a mix tape left to Quill by his dying mother. Gunn effortlessly intertwined the music into the action and emotion. And all the while the soundtrack was not simply an excuse to put songs in, they each played an integral role in each scene that they were featured in.
“When I started writing the script the very first thing that I thought of was this idea of the Walkman and the cassette tape was really this character's connection to his home planet of Earth. And that was the emotional center of the film,” Gunn said.
“The McGuffin of the film is this orb that everyone's chasing after -- the emotional center is this Walkman. And so it was just a natural part of the screenwriting process. All those songs that you see in the movie were all written into the film. They're all part of the screenplay. So they were there from the ground floor up.”
And lastly, although he only says three words in the entire movie – “I am Groot” -- Gunn saluted Vin Diesel and his power adding countless layers of emotion to three simple words.
“No one will ever, ever understand from the bottom of my heart how much Vin Diesel brings to that role because I sat and watched the movie a billion times with my voice in there, my brother Sean's voice in there, and when he came in and said, ‘I am Groot,’ it really filled out that whole character and it's really quite incredible,” Gunn admitted.
“I think a lot of people have felt it through seeing the movie that Groot is this emotional character. I'm really eternally grateful for that performance and a little freaked out by it!”