I'm seated on a bus that is taking me to the far reaches of a distant world, both literally and figuratively. We're on our way to Pinewood Shepperton Studios, which is a good 40-minute drive from downtown London. Not only am I in England for the first time, but I'm about to make a journey that few others will be able to brag about: I'm going to meet the Guardians of the Galaxy, on their own turf to boot.
Taking up no less than three soundstages at the legendary studio, Guardians of the Galaxy is taking Marvel Studios to places it's only dreamed of up until this point. Giant space battles, intergalactic police forces, the severed head of ancient celestial beings, and talking "raccoons" with guns bigger than they are is just scratching the surface of this surreal and outlandish flick. The movie is filming under the title “Full Tilt,” which is printed in a style similar to “Heavy Metal” magazine, and while many people have rightfully compared “Guardians” to "Star Wars," it's just as much Marvel's “Heavy Metal” as it is “A New Hope.”
Unlike Captain America and Iron Man, who at least had some name recognition prior to their feature film debuts, the Guardians of the Galaxy don't have that luxury. The group consists of five characters, all more different and unique than the last, and though they're the protagonists of this movie, they're far from “good guys.” The first trailer for the film introduced audiences to the group, but just like Korath the Pursuer when he meets Star-Lord, the reaction was likely a resounding “Who?” That in mind, we wanted to bring you a bit of a different style of set report for the film and introduce you to the Guardians of the Galaxy as the cast and crew of the film see them.
Peter Quill aka Star-Lord
Played by “Parks and Recreation” star Chris Pratt, Star-Lord is the mostly human leader of Marvel's ragtag band of misfits. The heir to the Spartax empire, and son of a single mother, Quill begins the film on Earth as just a 10-year-old kid, but he's quickly taken to a world completely different from what he's used to while still being very human at his core.
“I think at this point he's definitely more informed by who he was on Earth,” Pratt said about the character. “The arc of the character is a very human arc. It's really based on who he was and what was taken from him as a kid and something that he missed and lacks that he has to gain through the course of the movie, that's definitely what we're focusing on.”
Quill's exit from Earth comes in the form of another group of aliens, The Ravagers, led by Michael Rooker's Yondu. Quill will spend his formative years with this group among the stars, and they'll be the primary influence on his fashion choices that we see in the film.
“His costume is a sort of derivative of (The Ravagers),” costume supervisor Dan Grace told us. “And we wanted from the comic book, also from what James wanted, we wanted to build lots of technology into his clothing. So we developed a whole system which will never be explained. But you get the feeling that these costumes, these clothes do something.”
Pratt confided in us that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige called what he was doing with the character “Han Solo meets Marty McFly” and what good is a Han Solo without a blaster? Well Quill's got two of them, and without them not only is Quill defenseless but Pratt thinks his performance would suffer.
“All that stuff makes my job pretty easy actually,” he confessed. “Well it's not easy, but it makes it easier because it's doing a lot of the work. The props, the costumes, the masks, the guns, everything that distracts a viewer's attention from me, I invite. So, just in case I f*** up, please, just look at the guns.”
The blasters were created by hand for the film and they've got a lot of functionality beyond simply looking cool.
“The guys, they produced a maquette from the original concept, and then we were asked to try and put as many moving parts into it as we possibly could to try and assist the visual effects team,” Propmaster Barry Gibbs said. “So the guys put in various motors and electronics to try and get as much practical movement into the gun as possible. So the idea is the top barrel would fire a lethal charge which is added in by visual effects and the lower barrel would fire something like a tazer round. So they're rotating and moving mechanical parts in each. The thing that we didn't consider when we took the project on was that we'd need to make more than one version because they're left and right-handed, we had to produce left and right-handed guns.”
Quill's rogue attitude will land him in hot water throughout the film, including in his relationships with the other Guardians, but it could also lead to potential romances.
“Gamora finds Quill interesting, but he's such a douche,” star Zoe Saldana said with a laugh. “At first he's very immature and it's inconceivable for her I guess to even have a wet dream with him in it.”
Even though Star-Lord is a big character in the comic book basis for the film, he's still mostly unknown to the public at large, but Pratt believes that will help the film more than hurt it.
“I think it probably is helpful that people don't know who he is, because it would be my intention to want to make this my own anyways,” Pratt revealed. “Keep it real and keep it close to who I am and maybe the fact that no one knows these characters, that will be helpful. It probably will be helpful, because if you look at the Star Wars prequels that came out, there's a lot of expectation there, and to shoulder a project with preconceived notions, expectations and all these things, it makes it difficult. It makes it difficult if you're trying to satisfy what people think they know about a character. The very first Star Wars didn't have that problem because it was all brand new, you just take it for what it is. So what I'm saying is we'll be better than Star Wars.”
The lone female of the Guardians, Gamora is a green-skinned assassin known throughout the universe as a fearless warrior and the foster child of big bad Thanos. Sci-fi veteran Zoe Saldana steps into the character's boots for the film and says she learned more about the character from her 11-year-old comic-reading nephew than anyone else.
“He goes, 'Who do you think Gamora is?'” Saldana recalled. "And I said, 'She’s a warrior.' He goes, 'Yeah, but not only is she a warrior, she’s an assassin and she’s very lethal but what saves her is the same thing that can doom her. She has a sense of righteousness. She’s a very righteous individual…' and that was coming from like an 11-year-old boy and I was just like that’s it. That's gonna be like the overall like mojo of Gamora is her sense of always wanting to do the right thing, which is why she compels, she’s trying to ask the Guardians not to sell their souls for money, because if it means that a lot of people will lose their lives then it’s not really worth it, because she’s sort of like the one that kind of starts going in that direction and then everybody else kind of follows too, which is what I like the most about this movie is that we’re all starting like inmates.”
Having already appeared as the blue Neytiri in James Cameron's Avatar, being green couldn't be that big of a challenge would it? Saldana opened up about the process and that just being green wasn't her primary concern.
“I think we had maybe seven or eight camera tests that we had to do. When it came to, you know, all the characters and for mine specifically was how alien do we want Gamora to look like? My thing is what I was thinking was she just needs to be pretty and that’s usually a thing that I don’t think about with other characters that I play, but for some reason because I was gonna be green and I was gonna be like the lead girl, I just wanted teenage boys to find me attractive. I don’t know why, but I really was while we were testing and that’s where I was coming from. Everybody else was just like 'Do we dye the hair? Wig, no wig? What color hair? How long is it?' I'm like 'Pretty. Teenage boys, please.' We gotta get their vote.”
Not only is Gamora the only female and only green member of the Guardians, but she also has an non-traditional space weapon choice: a sword.
“My wrists are very thin so I have this insecurity that I look wimpy with the sword,” Saldana admitted. “It’s so much better to have a gun. I'm more prepared. I’ve trained with SEALs. Like it’s fine, but the moment I'm like with a knife I'm just like 'Oh, god. God, take it. It’s too heavy.'”
Like Quill's blasters, Gamora's sword was created by hand for the character by the prop department and includes an interesting feature that won't be found in other swords: a hidden dagger. Should Gamora find herself in a tight spot in combat she can simple slide the dagger out of the hilt of her sword and toss it at an enemy.
Even though Gamora's deadly reputation will follow her throughout the movie, it's her connection to Thanos that hangs over her like a cloud and likely sows the seeds for a potential sequel rather than the upcoming film.
“I’ve learned now as I'm doing the movie of the importance that Thanos has with all these character in the Marvel Universe. And I thought okay, well she definitely does have an upper hand with a lot of the characters because she was raised by this individual. But in terms of how deep their blood ties are, that will probably put into question in the next movie, because it wasn’t really covered enough in this one.”
Drax the Destroyer
A group of intergalactic thugs isn't complete without their own tattooed maniac, and Drax the Destroyer fills that role for the Guardians. Like the man playing the role, former wrestler Dave Bautista, Drax may look the part of a hardened killer but deep down there's a lovable center.
“I keep like not only thinking this but I keep hearing this over and over, that I was really born to play this part,” Bautista admitted. “I love putting on the make-up and everything and especially the fight. You guys don't get to see the context, but the context is really the icing on the cake. They're really cool, but I can just relate to Drax so much, it's not even funny. I mean, even just the simple things that we have in common. I mean, simple, simple things like the tattoos and the tragedy, because I had a bit of tragedy in my life as well.”
Drax's tragedy stems from the loss of his family, his wife and daughter, who he honors not only in his quest for vengeance in the film but also in the elaborate tattoos and markings across his entire body. Though they may not appear to be significant to the naked eye, the tattoos Drax wears represent pivotal moments in his life, his “soul union” with his wife, the final day of his father's life, and the day his daughter was born - “The only day he ever wept.”
“There's a lot of comic relief to Drax,” Bautista added. “He doesn't realize it, and I don't want to give it away, but there is a little bit of, because he sees something in the tattoos that everybody else doesn't see and that's all I'm going to say about that.”
The process of applying the tattoos to Bautista was an extensive one, which ran anywhere from four-and-a-half to five hours at the start of production, but on our day on the set the team had done it in the record time of two hours and forty seven minutes.
“Compared to four-and-a-half hours, that's a big difference. I wish they were here because these guys are incredible, man, and they're gonna be like the unsung heroes to Drax and I, and I kind of wish I could introduce them to the world because they're just so talented and they're such a fun group.”
The comedic relief of Drax is not only found in his over serious nature, but in other areas as well.
“When I first read the script, there was a few lines that weren't in there, but it was regarding my distaste for shirts. And so I came to rehearsal one day and we're reading through it and then one of the lines about Drax not really caring for shirts was in there. And I looked up at James and he was just sitting there laughing and I decided to say 'I didn't see this line in the script.' He goes, 'Cause I just wrote it in last night.' So it's all kind of little things like that that make Drax really interesting. I think a lot of that stuff, because he's very literal sometimes he just doesn't realize that he's being funny, but he's actually hysterical, you know? I think Drax steals a lot of scenes with that type of stuff.”
Drax's personality not only leads to comedic relief but makes his relationship with the other Guardians even more interesting.
“There’s a scene between Drax and Rocket where Drax goes on about his wife and daughter dying and Rocket yells at him,” James Gunn revealed with a hearty laugh.
“I think Drax is such a drama queen,” Zoe Saldana said smiling. “Can’t shut up.”
“Drax is awesome,” Chris Pratt added. “Not only the character but Dave Bautista the actor. I really just adore him so much and he's very, very good and so unique. I just really love him.”
“I can’t tell you about how good Dave Bautista is,” Gunn later said about the character. “Like there is nobody in the world who could do what he’s doing in this movie ‘cause Drax has this Shakespearean way in which he speaks and he’s this big broad character, and yet he’s also a very damaged and tender soul and he gets a lot of the funniest lines in the movie. And Dave’s able to do all of that and be a gigantic bald dude. I can’t even see how it’s possible that we found him you know and how that happened.”
Head over to Page 2 to learn about Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Nebula, and Ronan the Accuser!