If The Avengers are Marvel’s equivalent of a rock supergroup — think Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young but with six-packs — then what does that make the Guardians of the Galaxy? ”We’re the Sex Pistols,” says Zoe Saldana, sitting outside her trailer at England’s Shepperton Studios, where the superhero movie was shooting last summer. ”We’re the renegades. We’ll come in drunk, we’ll save the day, but check your wallet — we might have taken it.”
Not only are the Guardians less well-known than the likes of Iron Man and the Hulk, but the movie introducing them is set almost entirely in spaceships and on distant planets. They’re also just plain weird. Saldana plays the green-skinned assassin Gamora, wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista is the gray-skinned behemoth Drax the Destroyer, and Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt is the self-proclaimed Star-Lord, Peter Quill.
The other two? Well, that’s where it gets very…CG. Bradley Cooper voices a genetically enhanced raccoon-like creature named Rocket, and Vin Diesel breathes vocal life into a walking tree, Groot. Says Diesel, ”Groot’s a bad mofo from Planet X.”
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige admits that this tale of obscure, off-kilter superheroes represents its biggest roll of the dice since the original Iron Man. ”But we like that the Guardians are unfamiliar to people,” he says. ”I didn’t know who Indiana Jones was before I went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark as a kid. I didn’t know who Luke Skywalker was. Really, it’s about making a great movie.”
That’s good, because the supporting characters are a freak show all their own: the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), Nebula (Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan), and the Collector (Benicio del Toro), who was introduced to audiences during the closing credits of last year’s Thor: The Dark World. Finally, there’s Marvel’s baddest bad guy, Thanos, who was glimpsed at the end of The Avengers. (No word yet on who will be playing the motion-capture character, but director James Gunn describes him as ”the head of the snake.”)
If you’re confused by all this strangeness, Pratt invites you to join the back of the line. ”James will say, ‘No, Chris, it can’t be that way, it doesn’t make sense,”’ the actor says. ”And I’ll say, ‘You know there’s a f—ing talking raccoon with a machine gun in this scene? Why does that make sense?’ And he’ll say, ‘Because!”’
So, Mr. Gunn, what exactly is Guardians about? ”It’s an origin story of a bunch of characters who have lived life pretty selfishly, and they come upon a cosmic responsibility and have to face up to whether they are heroes or not,” says the director, whose last film was the low-budget superhero comedy Super. The plot hinges on a mysterious orb that Ronan wants for nefarious purposes and the Guardians come to realize is highly dangerous. ”They have to make a choice, whether to save people and sacrifice themselves or continue to be the bastards they’ve always been,” Gunn says.
The three non-CG Guardians actors know about making sacrifices for the greater good. Both Saldana and Bautista endured upward of five hours a day in the makeup chair, while Pratt had to lose the pounds he piled on for his role in last fall’s Vince Vaughn comedy Delivery Man. How did he do that? ”Tons of meth,” he deadpans. ”And honestly? Anyone can do it. If you have access to super-clean meth, you can drop a lot of weight — and teeth.”
Marvel is tight-lipped about whether the Guardians will intersect with the studio’s other characters, but Gunn lets slip that you will for sure be seeing more of this bizarre band of bros. ”We’re definitely connected to Avengers 3,” he says.
Meet The Guardians
1. Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Chris Pratt
He was abducted from Earth (specifically, Missouri) at age 8 and ”raised in a group of thieves and smugglers called the Ravagers,” says director James Gunn. ”He’s good with the ladies and a little bit of a dick and very lucky.”
2. Groot, Vin Diesel
Basically just a walking tree who talks, but only one sentence: ”I am Groot.” ”He’s very innocent,” says Gunn. ”He just wants to be liked by Rocket and do the right thing.”