James Gunn’s world has never been more hectic than it is right now.
The filmmaker should come out Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday special November 25 on Disney+, and it’s also in full post-production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, his latest film in the Marvel Studios franchise. Finally, he just became co-president and co-CEO of DC Studios, alongside producer Peter Safran, and the duo are busy planning the next decade of storytelling.
The Holiday Special is about Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) trying to help Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) rediscover his Christmas love, so they decide to give him his favorite actor, Kevin Bacon. It only took Gunn a few hours to write the script for the 44-minute presentation.
“I’ll be honest, I wrote the script in a few hours, so it sort of came out to me. It was very easy,” Gunn says. The Hollywood Reporter. “Everything about filming was easy. Everything about getting people to perform was easy, while Flight. 3 was torture in every way.
Gunn also has an update on Flight. 3the status of in post-production.
“It’s a big movie, and it’s so different from the special because the special is so wacky and crazy. The movie is so emotional, but it was a real joy to make it. So it’s going well,” Gunn shares, “I still have a ton of visual effects shots I’m working on, and of course putting the score together with John Murphy, which is huge. So those are the things I’ve been most focused on. lately.
In a recent conversation with THRGunn also explains the benefits of shooting the special and Flight. 3 at a time.
James Gunn, congratulations in more ways than one.
(Laughs.) Thanks a lot.
So was Kevin Bacon the seed of this idea?
Well, the germ of the idea was just to do a holiday special. I love the holidays and I love Christmas cookies and I love getting together with my family and giving myself presents. It’s my favorite time of year. When I was a child, I loved star wars Holiday specialbut I also liked Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. I always think [How the Grinch Stole Christmas!] is one of the greatest cartoons of all time. So the idea of doing a holiday special with the Guardians was both a really fun idea for me and also something I really wanted to do. And once I sat down and started trying to figure out what the story was, Kevin Bacon’s idea came very, very quickly, and I wrote the whole story in a few hours.
“Introducing Kevin Bacon” is such a funny gag in the opening credits. Were there any guild paperwork you had to navigate?
No, I do not think so. It’s just that Kevin agreed, saying, “Introducing Kevin Bacon.” When we showed him the trailer and it said “Introducing Kevin Bacon” he lost it. He lost it. So we knew we were probably going to make it.
Just out of curiosity, if Kevin wasn’t available for this, which Peter’s (Chris Pratt) favorite musician would you have sent Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) after?
Oh, I don’t know. Peter Quill was quite young when he left Earth, so I don’t know how aware he was. When I was eight, I knew who the Monkees were, but I don’t know who would have been famous in 1987 that Peter would have liked when he was still on Earth. MC Hammer, maybe.
So how is it going Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?
Great. It’s good. It’s a great movie, and it’s so different from the special because the special is so wacky and crazy. The film is so emotional, but it was a real joy to make it. So it’s going well. I still have a ton of visual effects shots I’m working on, and of course I’m putting the score together with John Murphy, which is massive. So those are the things I’ve been focusing on the most lately.
Did you shoot the special immediately after wrapping Flight. 3?
I shot them down simultaneously. One of the great things about the special was being able to introduce things into the movie that I don’t have to explain then at the start of the movie, like Cosmo the Spacedog [Maria Bakalova] or the fact that they live in the Head of Knowhere, their new residence, or the introduction of their spaceship, the Bowie, which in real life is this four-story set. It’s the most amazing set I’ve ever played on, and so we were able to use those sets that we had the money to build Flight. 3, in the special. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had that kind of money to build those million dollar sets.
So are you ready for the flood of articles on a certain voice that Kevin Bacon is doing?
I didn’t even think about it, but I’ve already been asked the question several times today. (Laughs.) I don’t really think about those things, but yeah, I’m ready for people to talk about them. I realize now that it’s something I didn’t really realize at the time. I mean, I knew it was funny when I did it, but you know…
“Gunn left a trail of breadcrumbs the whole time.” I can see it now.
When I saw Sean Gunn’s character, Kraglin, in the opening scene, I immediately thought of you and your siblings at Christmas. What is your favorite Christmas memory together?
Christmas was a big time in my family. My family was a crazy place to grow up, but by Christmas people really calmed down for the most part. Of course, we also have those famous family arguments at Christmas, but there are six of us in my family. So the six of us were sitting at the top of the stairs, and my parents would open those doors so we could go down and open all our Christmas presents or look at the Christmas presents. They were generally unwrapped; they were just below the tree. And so those were fun times, being with my family. And it always gave me the chance to really connect with my family and be there with my family during the holidays. That’s why I love Christmas, and so the holiday special, to me, is completely unironic. It’s funny because it’s not what you might expect, but it’s not ironic because I love Christmas. It’s good.
It was really nice to hear that Smashing Pumpkins song again. Did you think about “Christmas time” soon enough?
Yeah, the music I chose early on. I’ll be honest, I wrote the script in a few hours, so it kind of slipped my mind. It was very easy. Everything about filming was easy. Everything about getting people to perform was easy, while Flight. 3 was torture in every way. And so it was kind of like going back and forth between those two things. It was really fun and really easy, and the score was instantaneous.
On a sad note, it was quite a moment to hear Low’s “Just Like Christmas” considering what’s been going on lately.
Low’s co-vocalist and drummer Mimi Parker passed away a few weeks ago.
Wow, I didn’t know that until now. God, it’s so sad.
So this moment with their song took on a whole new meaning for me watching them, but I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
No it’s OK. Thank you for telling me. My God, wow.
Besides buying their records from Amoeba, can you share your story with the Old 97’s?
They’ve been my favorite band since the 90s, and I’ve seen them live a billion times. I met [lead vocalist] Rhett Miller in 2005 because I put an Old 97 song at the end of Slide, my first film. It plays over the end credits, and Rhett and I have stayed in touch ever since. And so I started writing this song for the start [of the special], “I don’t know what Christmas is (but Christmas is here).” So I had all these lyrics for it, and it kept changing. I wandered around my house, singing into my iPhone and trying to figure out how the song was going to work. And finally, I approached Rhett and asked him, “Do you want to help me write this song?” Because I can’t do it myself. And he said, “Absolutely. And so we started sending tons of recordings and lyrics back and forth, and we wrote this song together.
And after I wrote that song, I was like, “Why don’t you play that alien band?” Why don’t you come on set and perform? And he was like, “Okay.” And then we took a previous song that they had recorded, and they re-recorded it with Kevin Bacon for the end of the show. So Rhett had to play, and he’s never really played before. He said: “I’m really nervous about it. I do not know what to do. So I said, “It’s like when I saw the Doobie Brothers on What is happening!! When I was small. They were terrible actors, but that almost added to the charm. So if you’re a bad actor, you’ll be fine. I don’t care if you’re a bad actor. And instead, he was awesome. He’s great in the role. So it was all really a joy.
Could they actually perform in their costumes and prosthetics?
Yeah, they totally played. It was amazing. These guys are the greatest guys in the world, but they must have been in hell because people complain so much about that makeup when they’re in it. But they never complained once. They sang and played their instruments for eight hours, and they kept coming and going, piece after piece. So they were amazing. They’re just the best guys, not to mention the best music. So hopefully that will attract a lot more people to the Old 97’s.
Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special premieres November 25 on Disney+. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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