With Reporting by Eric Ditzian
In less than a month, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will finally get to embrace the "universe" part of the equation.
That's because "Guardians of the Galaxy" blasts into theaters in August, bringing an all-original space epic loaded with action, adventure, heart and humor. The film follows a fivesome of rogues, assassins and mercenaries, brought together by forces beyond their initial comprehension, compelled to stick together to save the world. They're the unlikeliest heroes in the land, and judging on early buzz, they just might be the unlikely heroes of the summer blockbuster season as well.
MTV News was on the set of "Guardians of the Galaxy" last year, and here's what we learned:
1. Chris Pratt Kind Of Enjoys Prison
Pratt, who plays Star-Lord, has already opened up about a whole bunch of "Guardians" secrets. But here's one thing he hasn't talked too much about: going to prison.
A significant portion of "Guardians" takes place inside of a prison, where Star-Lord and the other members of the super-team first meet each other. On the set of "Guardians," Pratt spoke out about the massive, practical set used to shoot the prison sequences, a set that's "as big as a warehouse" featuring "prison cells all the way around and a giant tower in the middle."
"You are in a prison," he said. "You are not happy."
But there's some joy behind bars as well; Pratt recalled one scene in the film where a fight breaks out in the prison, with the camera panning down "to a second level and you see these ominous prisoners grab someone and drag him into a cell and then it goes down even further … and the shot ends on my face looking around and taking it all in."
"I don't want to give away [too much] but you'll know this shot. It was so surreal," he said. "It's been five months of moments like that. It's really, really crazy. I'm like, how much does this cost per second?"
2. Dave Bautista Likes To Play With Himself
And he's had practice! As a longtime professional wrestler, Bautista's used to seeing his likeness in plastic form. But with "Guardians," Bautista steps into a whole new world, as he sees his image transformed into a wide range of action figures and related property, albeit with a scarred, green hue — thanks to his turn as Drax the Destroyer, the hulking alien assassin.
"It was always one of my favorite things, the action figures and the video games when I was with WWE. You know, I'm not a gamer, because I would literally go out and buy the games just so I could play myself," he laughed. "You know, I knew we were going to have like 'Guardians' action figures and stuff like that. But I didn't know we were gonna have Legos!"
As much as he geeks out over Lego Drax, it's hard for Bautista to identify only one thing about the "Guardians" experience that makes him geek out the most.
"I wouldn't know where to start," he said. "It's just all so cool and it's … this is a way to stay young, man. Stuff like this, you know, it just totally brings out the kid in you."
3. Zoë Saldana Rocks Out With A Different Kind of Avatar
Step aside, Neytiri. Even though Saldana is once again playing a space-dwelling alien badass in "Guardians," her character of Gamora couldn't be more different from her "Avatar" persona. In fact, Saldana didn't consider Neytiri at all when approaching Gamora, the lethal daughter of Thanos.
"I understood that for Neytiri, the dehumanization of myself was absolutely crucial because these creatures, these species, came with a very specific requirement from James [Cameron]," she said. "In this one, because it's sort of like a dark comedy, we're kind of like the Rolling Stones of the whole Marvel Comics."
In fact, if there's an Avatar that Saldana modeled Gamora after (aside from Mick Jagger), it's someone much closer to her in real life: her 11-year-old comics-obsessed nephew.
"He's the only person I know that reads the Guardians," she said. "Basically, he asked me, 'Who do you think Gamora is?' And I said, 'She's a warrior.' And 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."
Wise words from such a young lad.
4. How "Guardians" Director James Gunn Achieved Nirvana
The long take that Pratt described for the prison sequence, and Saldana's comments about the Guardians as the Rolling Stones of the Marvel Universe, certainly align with Gunn's take on the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Gunn spoke about the various long takes in the film, and likened them to not just any musical experience, but to the creation of a Nirvana song.
"For me, making this movie is a little bit like a Nirvana song," he said. "It's slow and long, and then big and fast, and slow and long, and big and fast. And I really like those moments — sort of going really small to really big."
In embracing his inner Kurt Cobain, Gunn said he's found a balance between the big-budget expectations everyone has going into "Guardians," and the slower character-rich moments that everyone will talk about leaving the film.
"Both are important, and it's a way to make the movie work together as a whole," he said. "It's a pretty cinematic film, and for me, it's been really exciting."
5. Creating A Rocket Out Of A Gunn
James Gunn isn't the only Gunn on the "Guardians" gang. Indeed, there's one member of the superhero squad that isn't credited on the poster, despite his character being front and center.
While most people will walk away from "Guardians" talking about Bradley Cooper's work as Rocket Raccoon, it's James' brother, Sean Gunn, who played the character on the "Guardians" set. Thanks to Sean's work, actors like Pratt and Bautista were able to fully invest in a gun-toting, trash-talking, weaponized raccoon — no easy feat for even the most imaginative of actors.
"I think it would be a lot harder if we didn't have Sean Gunn playing Rocket," said Pratt. "When you're working with a great actor even when they're off camera its very easy just to listen to what they're saying, respond, understand that they're listening to you, there's a connection there. There's this flow that happens just when you're talking to people. And that's been really great with Sean because 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."
"He's so in to this part," added Bautista, "and he's really, it's such a shame that he's not going to be Rocket Raccoon, because he is, I mean to me he is and he's making the part."
Still, James Gunn is first in line to stress that Bradley Cooper more than has what it takes to bring brother Sean's work to the end zone.
"Rocket to me is really the heart of the movie. He’s this tortured little beast who’s completely alone in the world and has been torn apart and put back together and create — turned into this little thing," said Gunn. "And Bradley really is the guy. He's the guy. He's Rocket."
"Guardians of the Galaxy" arrives on August 1.