The galaxy has been guarded once again. That ragtag group of misanthropic intergalactic outlaws – among them, a raccoon, a green lady, and tree – re-assembled for the fifteenth Marvel romp with usual irreverent humour and colourful action. With Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 now in cinemas around the world, we turned to returning director James Gunn for a few unanswered questions that he was only too happy to answer.
Massive spoilers from the start.
1. Peter Quill’s celestial parentage was planned from the beginning
Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill – aka Star-Lord – finally meets his father in this film, in the form of Kurt Russell’s Ego. Gunn had this lineage planned out from day one, though he wasn’t always sure it would be Ego. “I knew before the movie who his father was,” Gunn says, reminding us of Meredith Quill’s dialogue in the first movie’s opening scene. He even knew the dark twist to her story: that Peter’s father was responsible for Meredith’s death. “I knew that before I started the first one,” Gunn says. “When she’s talking about ‘a being of pure light’, that was the man who killed her. That was always part of what her story was in my head.”
2. Vol. 2 is about James Gunn and Chris Pratt’s own egos
Russell’s Ego is a celestial being who certainly lives up to his name. But Gunn notes there are also parallels with his own confidence boost after unexpectedly getting a hit on his hands in 2014. “In the wake of the first movie, [Chris Pratt and I] experienced this tremendous lift in our egos,” he explains. “He was the chubby supporting actor on a sitcom (Parks & Recreation). I was a guy directing cult low-budget movies. Suddenly I could direct any movie I wanted. he could star in any movie he wanted. Everyone wanted stuff from us. The movie is in a lot of ways about us and our relationship to that ego and not being destroyed by it. That’s the personal story of Vol 2.”
3. Peter’s relationship with his mother is the most important element of the movie
Like an Italian mafia movie or the Fast & Furious franchise, it all comes back to family in Vol. 2. The familial relationships drive most of the main character’s motivations – but, like the first Guardians, the key is ‘mummy issues’ rather than ‘daddy issues’. “The most important primary relationship in both of these movies is [Peter]’s relationship to Meredith Quill,” asserts Gunn.
4. Kurt Russell was de-aged digitally – but so was Laura Haddock
Marvel wowed us in Ant-Man and Civil War with their Benjamin Button CGI wizardry, digitally knocking years off Michael Douglas and Robert Downey Jr., respectively. The miracle youth cream technology reaches new heights here, with Kurt Russell returning seamlessly and wrinklelessly to his Used Cars era. But viewers may not have spotted that his co-star in the scene, Laura Haddock, also had some minor computer-generated make-up. “We actually aged down Laura a little bit as well,” confirms James Gunn, noting that the 31-year-old Haddock was playing a teenager in the film’s opening scene. “Meredith Quill is in her late teens, very early twenties at most, and Ego is still in his thirties, so there’s a significant age difference there.”
5. Kraglin is not a part of the new Guardians line-up
Yondu’s sad departure at the end of the film sets the stage for his trusty second-in-command, Kraglin (played by Sean Gunn, brother of James). We see him assist the Guardians (and attempt, with middling success, to operate Yondu’s fin), but James Gunn insists he hasn’t joined the team. “I don’t think he’s part of the Guardians,” Gunn says. “I would call him an adjunct member of the Guardians. He’s... around. He doesn’t have voting rights.”
6. Groot is not quite a teenager in the post-credits scene
In one of the five (count ‘em) post-credit stings, we’re treated to the sight of Groot – now having grown far taller than his adorable baby size – acting like a petulant yoof. He is not, however, quite a teenager yet, according to Gunn. “He’s adolescent Groot,” he says, chuckling. “Not yet a teenager. More like tween Groot.” Everyone’s favourite tree will have plenty of time to grow up properly in the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War dust-ups.
7. David Hasselhoff was the most starstruck the film crew had ever been
One of the film’s funniest moments when Ego, shifting his form to one that his son would aspire towards, briefly takes on the form of one David M. Hasselhoff, who Gunn recruited for a “couple of hours” to shoot a brief cameo, and also recorded a rap song which plays over the closing credits. Gunn can’t speak highly enough of the former Mr Michael Knight. “He’s the nicest guy,” Gunn says, and uniquely, “the first guy I ever worked with where people were starstruck on set. The crew formed a big line to get their picture taken. I think the sound department made Zardu Hasselfrau shirts!”
8. A fan theory influenced Stan Lee’s cameo
Like all Marvel movies, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 has an eye-winking Stan Lee cameo. But this one is mildly significant – it seemingly confirms a long-running fan theory that Stan Lee plays the same character in all the MCU movies, and that character is Uatu, aka The Watcher. Stan Lee is The Watcher, one of an alien race that observes the universe and records all its events for posterity. “Stan Lee is The Watcher!” chuckles Gunn, who filmed Lee’s cameos for several other MCU movies in one day. As Gunn puts it, he got the idea from the fan theory itself. “[The idea came from] the fans – this “Stan Lee is The Watcher” theory. I love the Watchers. It kind of makes sense. It kind of doesn’t make sense too!”
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is in cinemas now.