Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, And Benicio Del Toro Talk “Guardians of the Galaxy”

guardians of the galaxy image chris pratt interview

Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel movie ever.  It’s got a lot of laughs, plenty of action, and most importantly it has heart.  Another part of what makes this film so great is that even though it is connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you need no prior knowledge of any of the source material.

The film has such a whimsy feel to it, that it will leave you singing and dancing.  It practically bursts with energy, and will have you cheering for a talking three who can only say “I Am Groot.”

We were recently invited to the press junket for Guardians of the Galaxy, where director James Gunn talked about coming aboard this project, and setting the emotional tone.  Chris Pratt talked about the weight gain and training, while Zoe Saldana and Michael Rooker reminisced about punching Pratt. We also get learn what it was like for Vin Diesel to voice a tree, and what were some of Dave Bautista and Benicio Del Toro‘s favorite songs from the film are. Hit the jump for more.

These are some fairly unknown characters even though they exist in the Marvel Universe, what attracted you to do this project? Was bringing new characters a daunting task a daunting task or was it liberating?

James Gunn: It was liberating. It was – for me I would have had a harder time fitting into the regular Marvel scheme of things. This gave me a chance to take what I love about Marvel movies and Marvel comics and create a whole new universe, which is really what has been the most exciting thing for me my entire professional career. When I was a kid, I was obessessed with different planets and different solar systems, and I used to created for every single planet, a different alien race with a certain kind of head, and a certain kind of house, and a certain kind of water system, and I would draw these pictures, and I had hundreds of these pictures, out of that that box, for me this really means this going back to that childhood box and fun universe.

During your acting career, did you ever fear that you had to be cast as the tree?
Vin Diesel: The phobias. The phobias. The nightmares. Yes, when I was a child actor, I had the fear I would be cast as the tree. And this was a way to face my fears head on. And I am delighted that I did.

Michael [Rooker], who is more of a bad ass: Merele or Yondu?
Michael Rooker: That’s a simple question. You get a simple question, you get a simple answer. You know what, there’s so much, their very similar in their nature. Their true believers in tough love. You know. Merle with this brother, and Yondu with this lovely son. Surrogate. I will answer your question. Yondu is pretty damn powerful. Merele close inside maybe, but I don’t think Yondu can be messed with.

Chris you have had you fair share of gaining and losing weight for parts, do you relate to your female colleagues when they deal with media scrutiny?
Chris Pratt: Do you mean like – are you saying I am responsible for giving men body image issues? That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever sad to me. No, I can’t say I relate to what women go through in Hollywood. I am sure I can’t relate. I do know what it is like to eat emotionally. To be sad, and to make yourself happy with food, and then almost immediately ashamed, and to try to hide those feelings with food. And it is a viscous cycle, and it is a very real thing. So I know it is like to have body image issues. I also know that if you just work hard, and enlist the help of good coaches, and be coachable, you can actually obtain that. And I offer courses, it’s like $4,500, anyone who has those issues, get in contact with my people, and we will just set it up, and I will walk you through it. I don’t really offer courses.

What kind of research did you do for the comics to get
Pratt: I didn’t – I was aware of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but James didn’t tell me to read any of the comics. In terms of the attitude for this one, and kind of the whole process for me for this one, was just trusting James [Gunn], really. ANd just taking big swings, and sometimes falling flat on my face. The big challenge for me was just trying to ignore the embarrassment of being an actor, it’s a pretty embarrassing thing to do. I mean you got people pointing cameras at you, and hundreds of people trying to be great and almost every time you’re not. There’s one moment where you are, and the editor will tape through all the shit to find it and move it. The challenge is not find the attitude, but willing to go for it and try different things with a director you can trust. So the attitude thing is something that I wasn’t intending for, it was something James intended by getting me to do different things.

What were you willing to prove that you were perfect for this role?
Pratt: People didn’t see me – I wasn’t sure if I saw myself in this kind of a role. What is really nice about this movie is that we did something that has never been done before. People didn’t see me – I wasn’t sure if I saw myself in this kind of a role. What is really nice about this movie, and I believe that this is that- we believe we did something that has never been done before, and I think anyone who has seen this movie would agree. I never have seen anything like this before. So I don’t think I was right to do anything that was similar to something that was done before. I wouldn’t have been right to do those – other movies. So maybe people would not have seen me in this role, but that’s because they didn’t have the vision that James [Gunn] had for what this could be. And so, he just told me in the audition: “I am just looking for someone to come in and own this, and do their thing. “ And at the time I was having an identify crisis as an actor, and I didn’t know what I was, if I was an action guy, a comedy guy, and I thought I could do a combination of both, but there is nothing out there like it, and maybe I have to develop something. And my manager kept saying: “Guardians of the Galaxy, man.” I said: “ Alright, maybe you’re right, let’s go meet on it.” And then James [Gunn] said, I wanted somebody to do their thing, and part of me thought, alright I’ll do my thing, and if it isn’t right: that’s okay. But now I have an idea what that thing was for this movie.

Gunn: We had screentested at least 20 people, you know big stars, no names, looking for the right person, because I really wanted somebody who could embody this character, and take it beyond what was on the page, in the same way that Robert Downey Jr. did for Iron Man, essentially. And no body blew me away, plenty of people were really good, plenty of people were great, but nobody blew me away. And Sara Thinner (SP) our casting director really deserves the credit for Chris [Pratt] in a lot of ways, because she kept putting his picture out in front of me, and asking me: “What about this guy? Why don’t you meet with him?” And I was like: The chubby guy from Parks and Rec? You’re stupid.” And she kept giving it to me, kept doing it. And finally she like– I don’t ever remember agreeing to see Chris, I just remember her saying: “Okay after this guy, Chris Pratt is here.” I was a little mad, like I didn’t want to see him. And then Chris came in, and started to read, and this is 100% true, 20 seconds I was like: “Holy S***, that’s the guy we’ve been looking for. He had this thing that was himself, and sometimes, a role and a person were meant for each other, and that’s what I felt this was, and I turned around to Sarah Thinner (SP), and said: This was the guy. And I’m like Chubby or not, if he’s chubby, the world will have to be ready for the world’s first chubby superhero.

This film was action packed, funny, and it had a lot of heart. Can you talk to us about the inspiration behind the emotional journey.
Gunn: Honestly, well to me what the movie is about is a couple of things, one is the son’s relationship to the mother, and how it manifested itself throughout his life. The second thing is, we live in a world where everybody is cool and act tough, and put out fronts and everyone is so cynical. There’s a cool contest on the Internet, and everyone is proving who can be snarky and stuff, and this movie is about allowing yourself to care, and allowing yourself to give a shit. And so naturally that is an emotional thing for me. And thirdly, I feel in love with these characters as I was making the movie. I fell in love with these actors as I was making it. I think my natural sort of sensitivity to that to characters, to the actors, was automatically expressed in the film. It is a film about family.

Let’s talk about the music, how did you integrate into the film so well?
Gunn To me before I writing the script, there was a script before my script, and it didn’t 100% speak to me, so I wanted to make some pretty major changes, so I rewrote the whole script. And the very first thing that I though of was the idea of the walkman and the cassette tape, which is really this persons connection to his home planet earth. And that was the emotional center of the film, the maguffin of the film was this orb was what everyone was chasing after, the emotional center was this walkman, and so it was a natural part of the screenwriting process to all those songs you see in the movie, you know: “Hooked on a Feeling,” you know, Red Bone’s “Come and get your love,” they are all written into the film, they are all a part of the screenplay. So they were there from the groundfloor up.

Zoe, Gamora and Nytri are bad asses, can you compare and contrast the two?
Zoe Saldana: I feel that they are very different. Nytri grew up ina house where she was loved as a child, Gamora was taken, sort of like The Lost Boys of the Sudan. She was taken from her village, from her planet, and was forced into a life of violence and crime, and there is that pain that follows her where she goes, but there is that last hope that she can possibility get away. I did try to find some similarities, but I don’t think they would play together in a playground, Gamora is a hustler, Nytri doesn’t’ even know how to lie, and I wanted her fighting technique to be very different. Obviously, you show up and you are the last person cast, and everyone is just ready to go, and the stunt coordinators already designed the fights. They already have the stuntwomen working on what you are going to do, and then you come in and add some of your last little tweeks, and I just didn’t want Gamora to be like your typical action person that’s very martial artsy that does those Underworld jumps and lands on the ground breaks and shit. I wanted her to be a little more graceful, and teek, and classy with the way she fights. My husband, one of his colleges, was showing us – as I was sort of doing research for Gamora, she was showing us her last collection of work because she wasn’t ready for the public. But she basically recorded this bullfight from Spain. Dancing a duel, a fight, and sort of leading the bull with his cape. And she shot it at Super 60, which is 60 frames per second, and so it is super slow, and I have never seen anybody move so so smoothly. And it was just a seductive dance. And I thought, well, that’s Gamora, she’s a woman, and she has be very seductive in the way that she tricks her enemy to falling to their own death. And I thought that will be very interesting to, I never done that. So when I told that to James he said: “Oh, yeah yeah go, go for it.” It was hard telling the stunt people because it was so hard, and they think that girls are so stupid. So when you walk into to this testosrone rehersal place, and say” Well she does fencing, she’s a bull fighter,” they are kind of like qua?” Then they realize that I didn’t have a choice, and they adapted it.

Gunn: I got five different messages from you from different platforms, when you came up with this bullfighting at 3am. One phone I got a message, then I got another message on another phone that was sent to another phone. I got one message on one e-mail, then I got another message on another e-mail. And then a DM on twitter.

Benicio Del Toro, can you explain what you deicison was behind taking the role of the Collector?

Benicio Del Toro: Well the hair for sure. You know James [Gunn] made me feel that I can explore it. I work with four actors, two of them weren’t there. And so I had a lot of fun with Chris [Pratt] and Zoe [Saldana]. What I do remember was that I can explore the characters, every way I would want to, and James was very supportive of taking chances and trying different things. I felt like an animal who was in a cage and it was only when you open the door, and when he comes out, he’s attentative, and wants you to take chances, and James was very nice to allow me to “go,go, go.”  That was a great feeling.

Gunn: Benicio is like on of my favorite actors in the world, and was so so excited when he did this, but one of my favorite momets in the movie was when he came into my office, he was here for his fitting, and he sat down with me, and we were talking about the character, and how we saw the character, and where we were coming from. And then he goes to me and goes: “You know when I think about it, I think about when I was a little kid I was the first kid to have a pet alligator.” And I thought “This guy is my friend for life.”

Chris and Zoe can you talk about the physicality of the training
Saldana: Actually I stepped down from the training. I’ve done so many action movies, and I was looking at last summer thinking: “Omg, I’m in love, I just want to go to Italy and chill and eat pasta. And all of a sudden James calls and says “Hey you want to be in Guardians, and be green, and work six days a week, and do five hour sessions of make up, and be an alien again.” I wasn’t sure, but I did it. Once I figured out where she was going to be spiritually, there’s muscle memory with all the things that I’ve done, the past seven or eight years. I was able to relax with my body and work with the stunt coordinators, unlike on other films that I’ve done. I remember that it was really funny because Chris was like, “I know that you’re very stunty and agile, but just be yourself and go with it.” But around the third take, he was like, “Just take it easy on that. There’s your mark, baby. Just stay on your mark. Don’t go over because, when you kick me, it hurts.”

Pratt: Yeah, she wacked me really good, a lot of times. She can knock you out, I guarantee it. She’s a real athlete, she’s got a very strong kick. She’d hurt [Vin] Diesel, too.

Rooker: You were always saying, “A little harder! Go harder!”

Pratt: No! He punched me so hard, twice, in the movie. I don’t even know if it made it into the movie. It was so hard that I felt my organs shake. I had Rooker knuckle prints on my body, but it helped. It’s the best acting that I’ve ever done.

Vin, Dave, and Benicio, what is the appeal of the Marvel universe and particularly this new film?

Dave Bautista: I didn’t look at it so much as Marvel. I was very familiar with Marvel, obviously, and of course, I realized that they had the winning formula and that their movies were very well done. But, I really looked at this as something new and completely on its own. It’s just original and fresh. I looked at it from strictly the standpoint of Drax. Once I realized who Drax was and how much of an emotional roller coaster his character would be on, I just fell in love with him.

Del Toro: I’ve done a lot of movies, and you really never know. You do a movie and you think that it’s great, and then you see it and it doesn’t work. This is something that is the opposite. I loved working with everyone, and then the final product was a great movie that I really enjoyed. I got pulled in, and I think the credit is to everyone involved, and James because he just really did an emotional thing. All of the senses are tapped. I really, really enjoyed it. I’m very happy to be in a good movie, and any actor will say the same thing. That’s my feeling on it.

Diesel:  I’m new to Marvel.  This whole thing started for me with a social media wave that was adamant about me doing something with Marvel, but there really wasn’t a six-month window to do a character at Marvel.  So, when Kevin Feige called me and said that he and James were talking about me playing a role, I had no idea what role it would be.  And then, they sent over a book of conceptual art, and I went into my living room with my kids and opened up the book, and I asked the kids what character they wanted daddy to play.  They all pointed at the tree, so I knew that was a good sign.  For me, it was at a very important time, when I did this movie, because it was in December, and it was the first time I was coming around humans again and working again.  There was something very therapeutic, in my personal life and my professional life, after dealing with death, playing a character that celebrates life, in the way that Groot celebrates life.  

I took my kids to a screening to see this movie, and now they walk around the house reciting lines from Star-Lord, Gamora, and all the characters.  Something very beautiful happened in playing this role, that as an actor, I never would have imagined, and that is, when my kids see trees, they refer to the trees as my brothers and sisters.  The idea of being associated with trees like that is remarkable.  It’s so much more gratifying than you would ever imagine.  I was really lucky that that specific role came up and that, when I went to breathe life into the role, I had a director that was willing to indulge in the way that he did.  I felt like I was the last person there, so I got to see all of the performances, and I was so blown away by the performances.  It felt almost too good to be true.  And then, I was recorded the three words, day in day out, for four days.  James sent me a script where the left-hand side of the page said, “I am Groot,” and the right hand side of the page would have a whole paragraph about what that meant.  I walked into that situation and saw somebody that cared so much about every little nuance of that character.  It was so refreshing that being a perfectionist wasn’t a bad thing.  Unfortunately, in Hollywood, there are those directors that have some contempt for actors.  We’ve all experienced that, in one way or another.  To have a director that loves his actors is something that you can see in the film and in the fruits of that labor.  You can see that translated in the film.  When you watch this movie, you can see a director who loves his actors, and it shines through the movie, in my eyes. 

Gunn: No one will ever understand, from the bottom of my heart, how much Vin Diesel brings to that role.  I sat and watched the movie a billion times, with my voice in there and with my brother Sean’s voice in there.  And when Vin came in and said, “I am Groot,” it really filled out that whole character.  That’s really quite incredible.  I couldn’t believe it.  When we started cutting it in, because it made that character.  That was a CGI character, suddenly complete.  And it still doesn’t sound like Vin to me, it sounds like Groot.  And there was a weird, strange energy in the room when he was doing it.  A lot of people have felt, after seeing the movie, that Groot is this emotional character, and we even felt it while we were shooting.  I’m eternally grateful for that performance, and a little freaked out by it.

James and Chris, can you talk about the Kevin Bacon reference?  Are you a big Kevin Bacon fan? 

Gunn:  That reference led to some of the most fun moments in the movie.  Chris and I have a very similar sense of humor.  When you’re on set with me and Chris, it really is one long bit.  A lot of the funniest moments in the movie were things that one of us started off, and then the other one added to, and then the other one built on that.  And the Kevin Bacon reference was that.  Chris came in and he said, “What if he thinks of Footloose as a legend?”  I said, “That’s funny!,” and I started laughing.  But, sometimes he would come to me with something that wasn’t so funny.  I added the Kevin Bacon aspect to it, and he added something else.  And then, we added the part with the Zoe and Kevin Bacon and the stick.  It was just one of those moments.  I happen to be friendly with Kevin because he was in my last movie, but I don’t think he knows yet that he’s in this.  I’m really excited for him to see it. 

Pratt:  Yeah, that sums it up.  It’s true that we have a sick sense of humor, that’s the sense of humor that, if someone were a fly on the wall, they would maybe think that we were mass murderers.

With such a great soundtrack, what are your favorite songs in the movie?

Gunn: One of my favorite songs of all time is, “I Want You Back,” by the Jackson 5, which is in the movie. My favorite song in the movie, strangely is, “Come and Get Your Love,” by Redbone, which is when the whole idea of the mixed tape started cementing.

Rooker: I don’t know music.

Pratt: The music was one of the first things that I requested, because it is the emotional center of the character and this movie, and Peter Quill has been listening to this thing non-stop, his entire life. I have a few albums like that, in my life, where I know all the words, and I wanted to be that familiar with the music, by the time we shot the movie. So, I had it sent to me and while I was working out, I just listened to it in order, on repeat, over and over. Some of the songs, I really love, and some, I really fucking hate. I incorporate sweating on the StairMaster to “If You Want Piña Coladas.” One song that really worked for me was “”O-o-h Child.” That has a beats-per-minute that’s perfect for my running pace, so that when I was running and that song came on, it put me at a nine-minute mile.

Saldana: For me, it’s “Cherry Bomb.” I’m such a fan of The Runaways, and it’s when they’re finally getting their courage and their chutzpah to do something to save the day. It’s such a great song for them to prep to.

Diesel: I loved all of the music, I had so much fun with the music, I thought it was such a testament to the movie. This is the closest Marvel will ever get to a musical. The movie starts with an emotional tone, very quickly, and watching Star-Lord kicking aliens makes you feel like you’re going to have a really good time. I’m singing the music, every day. Most of the time, when I walk into an interview, I start singing, “Hooked on a Feeling.” The coolest thing was when my three-year-old son was watching the movie, “Hooked On a Feeling” came on and he was at the edge of his seat. This is the first time that he’s ever gone to a movie, and that we’ve ever gone to a movie together. Obviously, he can’t see Riddick, or any of the others. So, he scooted to the edge of his seat and he squinted, and then he started singing, “I’m hooked on a feeling / I’m high on believing.” Watching him do that, just melted my heart. So, we listen to the songs at home. It’s remarkable how a soundtrack can be so important to the storytelling and the experience. I think the music is going to make people see this movie a lot. The music is going to make you want to go see it again. You have so much fun in the movie, and it’s music that you want to share with your kids, anyway. It’s great because of that. So, I love all of the songs. I just thought it was an incredible collection.

Bautista: After Vin, anything that I say is going to sound boring. I can’t sing. I don’t have any kids at home to talk about. Actually, my favorite song in the film is “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” It’s such a feel-good song, to begin with, but it’s also a feel-good scene. We finally come together. We’ve a family. We’ve all found each other. We survived, and we’re out to find some other trouble get into. It’s such a feel-good moment, and the song fits perfectly.

Del Toro: I like them all. There’s a Bowie tune, “Moonage Daydream.” I like that one because it introduces The Collector.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy opens in theaters on August 1st.


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