James Gunn: I think Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is about the characters and these characters that are in it are themselves funny. So it wasn’t so much of me wanting to pack in the comedy, it was just letting the characters and these actors here fully express themselves so that the humour can come out in a natural way. And it is interesting that you speak of Asia because a lot of the films that influence me, growing up and today, are Asian films. Whether they are the films of Korea or China or Japan, I really have found that those movies deal better then American films with that mix of action and comedy. And I think that hopefully Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a way that will sort of mix that eastern influence with the western influence of Marvel.
POPCulture Online: Dave, are you aware of your crazy fan base here in Singapore?
Dave Batista: It feels weird you know, somehow everywhere I go, people walk up to me and they know me but I don’t know them. Inside I feel like I am a normal guy and somewhat an introvert so all these are surprises to me (Zoe cuts in that he is always very shy).
POPCulture Online: How physically demanding was the role of Drax?
Dave Batista: The easy part was the physical side as I am a physical guy and working out is sort of my thing and my release for my therapy so physically it wasn’t as tough as stretching myself as an actor as it is still new to me and it is such a large role. When I was on stage with some of the most talented people in the world (actors and directors), it was more challenging from the acting point then the physical point.
POPCulture Online: Zoe, what was the audition process like for you for this role?
Zoe Saldana: This time around you would think it is easier when you get a phone call by a director who says that you are the only choice for this character so please read the script and tell me what you think and it would be awesome to have you on board.
You feel very blessed and the first thing you feel is flattered, super blessed and your ego gets a little peaked as well, and the second thought is absolute panic because if you say yes means a lot of expectations as well on your shoulders because the work that you have done before has brought the attention of this awesome director and he is relying on you to deliver what he has seen you deliver before that he thought was so cool.
So I was a little nervous when I said yes and he told about the 5 1/2 hours of makeup everyday and they told me about shooting the movie for 5 months and 6 day weeks and there was going to be a lot of action and fighting and rehearsals and I thought ok… Yes. But I wouldn’t want to realise what I was getting myself into and it ended up being a great experience because it had everything that I grew up wanting movies to have. It had action, it had comedy, it had a lot of imagination and the story was really complete. All the characters had such a beautiful journey from the beginning to the end, individually but also as a collective. And I thought this is a great ensemble picture to be part of.
POPCulture Online: Can you tell us more about Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy?
James Gunn: I really think that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie for everybody, a movie about the Galaxy, I think that we are living in a time where there are so many problems in the world, there are so many problems between different countries around the world and Guardians is really about a group of outcast, a group of people that feel like they don’t belong, coming together, finding something within themselves that they didn’t know was there, something heroic, something wonderful and simply something good. And I think this is a movie about the good in all of us, no matter what country we come from, no mater what part of the world we come from, no matter if we are rich or poor, it is a movie about the love of ourselves and each other, and finding the good within ourselves. And if there is anything that makes this movie worthwhile, you know making it, spending 2 years of our lives doing nothing else but this film, it is for people to be able to walk out of the theatre feeling a little bit better about themselves, feeling a little better about the person they sat next to in the theatre, and feeling a little bit better about the world in general. And I hope that is something we can do and that we can continue to protect not only the united states but the whole world and the entire galaxy and I hope the guardians can continue to do that after this film. (Zoe: Part 2 everybody).
POPCulture Online: Zoe, how does it feel being the only female in the main cast, fighting for the guardians and all that?
Zoe Saldana: It feels great and empowering because I know it brings out and delivers a very strong message to young women that besides being beautiful and delicate flowers, you can also channel your strength and not be afraid of it. And it is very rewarding that you know you can climb a tree or grab a weapon and even though we are in the world of make believe, you can see yourself doing all these things and you feel very empowered. I am actually very happy to say that I am not the only female in this cast, that Karen Gillan did an amazing job, and it was great knowing that I was sharing screen time with not only amazing male actors, but also with female actors. Because sometimes being the only female can get a little lonely.
POPCulture Online: Would you to see your sister join you in Guardians 2 maybe?
Zoe Saldana: I have two sisters and it will awesome if both of them can join and the two of them can learn to fight.
James Gunn: Karen and Zoe were a lot of fun to watch on set because they have a huge fight scene. With these two super power females fighting each other which is like two female Clint Eastwoods talking and battling it out and all going and I will go on set and say “cut” and they both go (James tries to imitate the two females giggling to which Zoe says it is true).
POPCulture Online: So James, now that you made a crazy multi million dollar blockbuster for a major corporation, are you ever going back to making movies like Slither?
James: I made that movie for a major corporation also, I made that for Universal, it was a smaller movie. You know, I really do what I feel like doing at the moment and so I’m not sure what I am going to do next. It could be another marvel movie or something else that comes up at the last minute. I pretty much do what I believe and I don’t approach a small movie like Slither or Super any different from Guardians of the Galaxy. I do everything I can, fully with my heart, as true as I possibly can and I have been very fortunate in my career so far to have producers, like Marvel, who have let me have free rein to do something really creative and excellent even thought it is made for something with such a large budget.
POPCulture Online: Of all the movies in the Marvel Universe, it feels like Guardians of the Galaxy has the most obscure source material in the comics. Did you feel extra pressure to prove that this could work or were you encourage by the oddball nature of the premise and went nuts with it?
James Gunn: I feel like because Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics are not as well known as say Capitan America or Iron Man or The Avengers, I felt that it gave me a lot of freedom to really create a cinematic version of Guardians of the Galaxy. And I think that Guardian of the Galaxy is more at home on screen then it is in the comic books and it is first and foremost a cinematic property. So I felt that it really gave me a lot of freedom to really do something interesting with it and create lovable characters like Zoe and Dave and you know everyone in the galaxy and Gruut.
POPCulture Online: It is interesting now that the Marvel Universe is so big, especially that this is the last Marvel movie before we go into The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, how much did you work with Joss Whedon on this and how much pressure was there from Marvel to get this movie to the next space of the Marvel universe?
James Gunn: Well I felt like I am very fortunate in creating the first leg of the Marvel cosmic brand of the Marvel comics, so our hope would be to be able to create many more movies in the Marvel cosmic universe. I think Joss and I have been friends for a long time, Joss read the script and gave me notes on the script and the biggest note he gave me was to make it more James Gunn. So I said it is your funeral and that is what I did. So that was Joss’s input basically and also we had worked together in casting Thanos as he is going to appear in stuff that I do as well as stuff Joss does. Other then that, I pretty much had free rein and it was not so much of having to make this movie lead somewhere but creating a really great foundation so that it could lead somewhere because we don’t want to just film it as that, we want to create something of sustenance that we believe in and very exciting and really true and give a lot of answers. And some of the answers we leave unanswered so that there are places to go for the Guardians to go on adventures together.
POPCulture Online: A lot of leeway was given this time but for Drax as a character throughout the comics, he has been played many different ways. Strong as a space hulk, dumb, not so bright, very bright so what kind of Drax are we going to see in this movie?
Dave Batista: That was the hard part in the beginning as there was no reference to Drax and Drax has changed so much throughout the years and his heart and souls and now it is kind of weird now and I’ll be the reference for Drax in the comics. But the greatest thing for Drax is that he is a very little character which leads to a lot of good laughs. I always say that Drax is a warrior but at the core of Drax, he is heart broken because of his family. He is a very honourable guy but he is very literal and in the movie, you see the psychopath side where I don’t think Drax knows it is wrong to kill people (Laughs), he doesn’t see anything wrong with it, but that is the great thing about Drax, he has got a heart bigger then his brain, he is just a very broke character and at the core he is just heart broken.
POPCulture Online: We know that both Zoe and Dave had to go though hours to get your makeup done, so what was going through your minds to while waiting and what did you do to pass the time?
Zoe Saldana: It was 5 months so I am pretty sure at month 1 there was lots of things going through my head and month 4-5 there was other things going through my head (James: Kill James Gunn, crowd laughs). I thought it was going to be harder but it really wasn’t because we were also working with amazing makeup artist so you walk in and they create such a beautiful and serene space and you pick a playlist sometimes or you talk about something or you pass out and you wake up and you were green and that was interesting especially during the first week trying to get used to the green makeup but I think I did pass out as I was trying to deal with the jetlag coming from the states and working in England and I pass out and woke up and it caused really such an impression and it took a moment (Zoe gasp in shock), oh what happened to my face and yes I forgot at the moment that I was doing Guardians. It was actually fine except when they bring you earlier and there was catering (Food) so you will be hungry before the kitchen would be open and I don;t know if you would be mad but I was crazy.
Dave Batista: We did have a few of those 2:30-3am call times but for me it was for me, I am by nature a very zen person so I just zoned out, I was just gone and it was a cool thing cos when I closed my eyes I wasn’t Drax and I opened my eyes and I was Drax so It was kind of a cool mental thing and a way for me to get into character.
Zoe Saldana: We were getting done in different trucks so I was curious how was Dave cos usually we hear that men just freak out but Dave is the most zen and he just stands there so I had to really bring my game on as I had a nice comfy chair to lie on but Dave had to stand up the whole time for like 4 hours.
POPCulture Online: Dave, when you got the role, you were so overwhelmed, some tears were shed, is this true and can you tell us what happened?
Dave Batista: That is the truth, I literally broke down and there were tears. I was actually driving down to gym and my manager (who has been with me for many years in my career, he is my rock) called me and I asked him what happened and he told me to hold on and got my agent on the phone who said “Congratulations Mr Drax”, I literally just broke down. I drove home, I was a just mess. For some reason people loved the story that I broke down and there were tears but for me it was a big deal to me and I could never explain how big this was for me. It was a life changing thing for me. It was hard for me to leave behind wrestling. I worked and struggled and auctioned and finally got a dream role of a lifetime. It was like make or break as I pretty much lost everything I gained in wrestling, because I took a chance on myself, because I have this passion for acting and I wanted to pursue it. There was literally a few tears and I am proud to say I broke down cos it meant that much to me (Audience claps).
James Gunn: It was really touching for all of us, I think of all the great moments I had during the process of making this movie and one of the best moments for me was talking to Dave on the phone like right after that and calling and talking to you on the phone, and I asked what are you doing and you replied you don’t know what you are doing, just driving around in a cloud not knowing what is going on and it was like really wonderful. And from the beginning sometimes you meet actors who you really like this people and you really want to give them the role but they are not right for the role and you don’t do it but you give it to the person who deserves it. And the moment I met Dave, he and I had this connection and within minutes of talking I sort of got Dave and I like him so much as a person, I was rooting for him to come through a series of screen test and all and a lot of different things he had to go through to try and get the role. And when he actually proved himself to be by far the best Drax and the only person we ever offered the role to is Dave Bautista. And when he was actually that good, it was so touching to me and I feel this way for all the cast, for people who I like as people but also the best people for the role. And I think one of the things about Guardians of the Galaxy I was talking about earlier was this is a group of goofballs and outcast that was plugged from obscure small marvel comics and turned into these big movie stars and we walked a lot that we are all feel like that. I was a guy that made a movie that cost 3 million dollars that was an independent film, Dave was a wrestler who people didn’t think was a real actor, Zoe is an actor who was pushed to the sidelines her whole life because she is a person of colour from a place that not everybody is from in this industry and Chris Pratt was a chubby guy when he got this role and you know Vin Diesel is a weirdo and the biggest weirdo is Michael Rooker. We are just a group of oddballs and outcast who came together to make this movie and made something that we all really feel good about and it’s the parallels that is very interesting to me all the time and I know we all feel this way. And I think through this process we really come to love each other and you will hear us talk about how much we really like each other. You usually hear that on all movies and it is a lie but this time it is true.
POPCulture Online: You were talking about all these oddballs and outcast so what advise do you have for people who feel like they are somesort of oddball or outcast, just any kind of words from the journey that you guys have experienced through the movie and also outside
James Gunn: Well I think the first thing to remember when you feel like an oddball or an outcast is to know that at the end of the day, there are more of us then there are of them. There are so many of us from the time we were kids or whatever, we were pushed aside or treated as second class citizens, we were made fun off, we were mocked, we were told we couldn’t do something but the truth is that it is very few people who were telling us we couldn’t do that and there are really more of us then there are of them. And for me that is a real reassuring thought that we are the majority and that we feel like the minority.
POPCulture Online: How different is it kicking ass on screen compared to the ring?
Dave Batista: For some reason everybody thought it would be an easy transition but acting and wrestling couldn’t be anymore different and it wasn’t an easy transition at all. The first time I did acting, I did it as a favor to a friend and it was then I realised two things, one was how hard it was and two that I loved it and I wanted to pursue it. But there wasn’t any much similarity and the only similarity was that there is a camera pointing at you and that’s it. Wrestling is so big and so broad and so conversational and acting is so much more intimate and intimidating and it is hard for me to describe as it cannot be anymore different.
Thank you James Gunn, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista for joining us for the Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Southeast Asia Press Conference.
Photos by Ken Koh
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