Guardians of the Galaxy: From the Set of the Marvel Studios Adaptation

rocket n groot

Rocket and Groot

The most inhuman members of the Guardians are in fact the ones that everyone loves the most. Rocket Raccoon and Groot, though entirely CG members, are the heart of the team and the film.

“I think Rocket is a great character and not just in a way that you would think,” Chris Pratt revealed. “There's a lot of heart there. James did a great job of looking at Rocket as a real character rather than a cartoon character. So when you see the story unfold, you should feel bad for anything that was created out of nothing. There's a sense of loneliness and this inner pain that Rocket feels that hopefully the audience will empathize with that makes him a really sympathetic character but also so bad ass because he's a raccoon with a machine gun.”

At the time of our visit, actor Bradley Cooper had just signed on to voice the role of the character, but someone else was taking on the role during filming, James Gunn's brother Sean Gunn. Sean not only provided motion capture for the character on the set but also the voice, giving the other members something to work off of during a scene. 

“It turns out it's kind of the same as it not being CGI,” Pratt said about reacting to 'invisible' characters. “You're still kind of just standing there, looking at something and pretending and saying the words, you know? It hasn't been that hard. I think it would be a lot harder if we didn't have Sean Gunn playing Rocket…So much of what actors do is just listening and responding and so when you're working with a great actor, even when they're off camera it's very easy, just to listen to what they're saying, respond, understand that they're listening to you, there's this connection there that just happens when you're talking to people. That's been really great with Sean, like I said a lot of the stuff that happens with Rocket, there are moments of real drama and real emotion, and he has committed so hard to it so when he's off camera I'm responding to someone that I feel really bad for rather than like a tennis ball.”

Though he may appear as a grizzled cartoon character of the group, Rocket is far from it.

“Rocket to me is really the heart of the movie,” James Gunn revealed “He’s this tortured little beast who’s completely alone in the world and has been torn apart and put back together and turned into this little thing and yet he’s still really funny. And so you need somebody who can do both sides of that.”

Gunn went on to reveal the extensive process the production went through in finding the right voice for the character.

“We auditioned a lot of actors for the role and we auditioned a lot of voice actors for the role, and we were completely 100% willing to go with somebody that was a no name. A no name’s a rude term, but somebody who was not a famous person. And the truth is voice actors usually seem too cartoony and seemed like somebody out of a Pixar movie.  And the actors it was hard to get just the voice right and Bradley is really the guy. He is the guy, he is Rocket.”

rocket2

Groot on the other hand, despite being another pure CG character, couldn't be more different from Rocket. A sentient tree-like creature, Groot is the sweet and lovable member of the Guardians, who is only capable of saying one phrase: “I am Groot.”

“I think (Gamora) is intrigued by Groot,” Zoe Saldana said of the character. “At least I am. There’s something about this. He’s such a human and he’s the most inhumane physically character out of all of this but he has this sense, this compassion that really… I was reading the script and I worked with James in terms of how can we get them to kind of interact. I know the word 'interact' is very little with Groot or Rocket but there was something very interesting about Groot that if she needs to soften herself, then Groot is definitely a subject to study.”

Fans of the comics know that Groot takes on many forms, from tiny twig Groot living in a ceramic pot to giant Groot. Gunn revealed that we'll be seeing some of this in the film, but don't expect to see the tiny version of Groot on screen.

“Groot’s a little bit different. He’s able to grow in this movie.  So he’s able to grow and use his limbs. He’s a pretty threatening, powerful dude and he’s also like a puppy. He’s more of an animal than Rocket is.”

Though he may have the role now, while we were on the set of “Guardians,” Vin Diesel had yet to sign on for the part which Gunn seemed hesitant about despite Diesel openly discussing the role in public.

“Vin’s a unique dude,” he said. “He’s his own kind of animal.  And so I think that’s cool. I respect that. He’s his own thing.”

The pairing of Rocket and Groot is one of the core relationships of Guardians of the Galaxy, especially in the source material, and fans can expect to see that relationship play out on the big screen.

“The dynamic in the movie is similar in some ways to the Abnett and Lanning relationship and different in some ways,” Gun revealed. “Groot is really the only friend that Rocket has, but Rocket bosses him – he treats him like his slave, he’s not always that nice to him. But I think that Groot has an innocence that none of the other characters really have. They’re very co-dependent I suppose.”

ronan and nebula

Nebula and Ronan 

Even though it's chock full of intergalactic heroes, don't be mistaken, Guardians of the Galaxy has its fair share of bad guys one of which is Karen Gillan as the cybernetic space pirate Nebula.

“She is a Lieutenant of Ronan the Accuser,” Gillan revealed. “And the daughter of Thanos and sister of Gamora and they are on this Holy Mission to kind of cleanse the Galaxy of all that is weak, and that's kind of her ultimate objective and that's what's been drilled into her from when she was a kid.  So she's kind of brainwashed by these people. She wants to impress and achieve and be as strong as possible.  That's her ultimate goal.”

“I call her 'Clint Eastwood onscreen. Hello Kitty off,'” James Gunn says. ‘Cause every scene is like 'Okay I’m gonna kill you.  Bla-bla-bla-bla-bla.'  'Cut!' (high-pitched laughter).”

Gillan's outfit and make-up is the most elaborate and impressive of the characters I saw on the set of the film. From her blue skin to her cybernetic arm, the entire piece is insane and makes her one of the most visually unique characters in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The process for getting Gillan into her make-up began as a five-hour-a-day trek that has since come down to about four-and-a-half hours. Not only does the role require her to endure hours of make-up application, but Gillan also shaved her head for the part.

“I was told before I even auditioned that the actress that got this role would have to shave her head,” Gillan recalled. “And I didn't think I was gonna get it, so I was like, 'Absolutely I'll shave my head, sure.' Then like three screen tests later, I was like, 'Oh God, this might actually happen,' and then I got the part. Then I sort of thought about it seriously, and I was like, 'I absolutely want to shave my head for this because the opportunity is too good to pass it up.'”

As Gillan already said, Nebula and Gamora are sisters–not blood relatives, but they were raised by the same purple Titan–and this will lead to some interesting sequences in the film.

“It’s complicated,” Saldana said about their relationship. “I think to me that’s the biggest heartbreak I guess for Gamora is the fact she wasn’t able to save her sister. Gamora and Nebula have very, very similar paths. They were abducted from their families. Their parents were probably killed in front of them, so were Ronan’s, but Gamora wants to change. She’s just different. She’s never really had it in her. I think that Nebula definitely was born with a sense of wanting to taste blood, so for her she doesn’t want to move and that’s something that’s very frustrating for Gamora, because I guess there’s this big responsibility that she feels to Nebula and Nebula doesn’t see it that way, doesn’t love her back in the same regard.”

nebula fighting

In preparing for a fight between herself and Saldana, Gillan admits that her constant practice, in a bit of meta-irony, turned her into a fighting machine just like Nebula.

 “We've had a very, very epic fight sequence where I had to train for it because Zoey was shooting so she couldn't train as much as me…I had to train for two months. Every day that I wasn't filming to be able to do this fight sequence. So it was like an hour a day basically, and they were like, 'In order for something to be second nature, you have to do it 6,000 times.'…So now I think I could fight only if they hit me with a Court request basically.”

On the other side of Nebula is another blue-skinned villain, Ronan the Accuser, as played by Lee Pace.

“He's the scariest thing I've ever seen,” Gillan admitted. “Oh my God, he is so intimidating and also, he is really tall. He's just like one of the creepiest, scariest villains I've ever seen.”

Ronan serves as the primary antagonist for the film, and he rides around the galaxy in the Dark Astor, a Star Destroyer-like ship with a double helix design.

“It's big, foreboding, and awesome,” producer Jonathan Schwartz told us. “It's about three miles long, it's massive. We're going to see quite a bit of it in this movie. It gets involved in a lot of cool action set pieces.”

We were actually able to walk onto the bridge of the Dark Astor, which looks like a mixture of the Chamber of Secrets from “Harry Potter” and Ridley Scott's Alien. A massive set, the Dark Astor bridge is unlike any set that has been constructed for a Marvel film and stretches the length of two soundstages. A throne sits in the middle of the room, a seat designated for Ronan, and along the side the pilots of the ship rest–the influence of Alien is seen even further as they all look like the Space Jockey from that iconic sequence. Though to fully take me out of being on this alien ship, I spot Ronan drinking from a juice box and I think maybe he's not that bad of a guy after all.

Head over to Page 3 to learn about the planets and aliens we'll see in Guardians of the Galaxy!