On Saturday evening, one of the most anticipated panels of this year’s Dragon Con was so chock full of super-awesome-yumminess that this reporter wrote faster than a mouse skating on a frozen pond in a cat harem. James Gunn, writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy, and his brother Sean Gunn, who was the stand-in on set for the CGI character Rocket in Guardians, spoke to a packed Marriott Atrium Ballroom on Saturday.
To set the mood, James got the audience to shout, “You Suck, Rooker,” so that he could leave the message for Michael Rooker, who played Yondu Udonta in Guardians. Apparently, Rooker, who is appearing this weekend in Toronto at Fan Expo, had earlier sent a similar, “You suck,” message to James, with the help of, “Maybe three fans.”
Proof, once again, that Dragon Con rocks!
Both James and Sean spoke about using Sean as the on-set stand-in for Rocket. “Motion capture doesn’t work if the face isn’t human-shaped,” said James. “So we referenced him—his face and his body. It gave the other actors on set a reference point to look at, and someone’s responses to play against. Bradley Cooper provided a lot of the acting, and so did the animators. It was the umbrella of Sean, Bradley, [my writing and directing], and all the animators” that brought Rocket to life.
A fan thanked Sean for his versatile work as Kirk on Gilmore Girls, and then asked the actor which Kirk-quirk was the most fun to play. “I love dogs,” said Sean. “In one episode, I had to walk a dozen dogs, so that one.”
James spoke about the way that the movies Aliens and Blade Runner changed the way that science fiction movies looked: dark and dreary to sell that the environments were real. He said he wanted to use the pulp colors from the 1950s and combine that aesthetic with the dark grit of Aliens then blend them into something bold and dirty at the same time. “Everyone on the [production design] team was trying to keep us in the same zone.” He wanted Guardians to be a, “Big spectacle film that also has a lot of heart and love [that] all came together.”
James was asked if there were any songs that he wanted to use for Awesome Mix Vol. 1 but had to replace because of rights issues. “No,” he answered. “Every song I asked for, Dave Jordan [at Marvel] got the rights for.” He continued, saying, “All of those songs were chosen specifically by me.” When asked when we’d learn what songs were included on Awesome Mix Vol. 2 he said, “When Guardians 2 comes out.”
Some of the most moving parts of the panel came at the times when James spoke of his life growing up in Manchester, Missouri, and how that affected not only his personality, but also the way he feels about Marvel comics and specifically the types of heroes that make up the Guardians. “My peeps were the outcasts,” he said. “I never knew anyone from the industry. This whole journey of being an oddball kid who always did what he wanted. We all felt like we were those Marvel characters, those Guardians of the Galaxy. Forgotten characters who felt like orphans and outcasts.”
This reporter couldn’t help but feel as though that sums up the sentiment of most of us who attend conventions like Dragon Con. We are the outcasts who want to be the underdog heroes.