As we countdown the days until Guardians of the Galaxy is available on Blu-ray 3D combo pack, Blu-ray and On-Demand, we have a Behind the Scenes slideshow and Q&A’s with the three of the Guardians of the Galaxy actors.
Behind the Scenes Slideshow
All interviews for the in home release of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Q: So did all cast members get their make-up done together?
A: No, we didn’t; we had separate bungalows. It was only when we were all on set, all grey or green or blue and we couldn’t touch anything because we would just smear paint and stuff all over everything. We’d all sit together and Dave would be eating a super-healthy meal, I’d be having some fish and chips and Chris would be asking me: ‘So how’s the texture? Do you like the fish?’ He couldn’t eat it himself because he was on a strict diet so he was always asking me what my food tasted like.
Q: How did you while away the long hours in the make-up chair?
A: Listening to music, talking… Sometimes I’d ask about Dave and was told, ‘This dude is meditating – he sits there and doesn’t move for hours’ whereas sometimes they couldn’t even get me to sit down in the chair. My make-up artist, who I brought over from the States, would go ‘You need to sit down, get your dog and take a nap, otherwise we’ll be in trouble because I have to work on you’. My dog and I would wake up and we’d both be green!
Q: What’s worse, putting the make-up on or taking it off?
A: Putting it on, trust me. When it comes to taking it off I think it’s easier because you know you’re just 30 minutes away from being in a hot tub and then bed. You’re literally ripping it off your face. The skin is flexible and it perspires and it’s ready to have that layer removed so it’s much more cooperative. They also have all these awesome solutions. It took four and a half hours to put it on and maybe an hour and 15 minutes to take off.
Q: You’ve spoken about Dave being very shy. Is it safe to assume from your outgoing personality that you’re far from shy yourself?
A: I’m not shy at all. My mum has asked me to be a little more shy! She’s sometimes like ‘Can you just shut up?’
Q: Since you both have athletic backgrounds, did you and Dave do a lot of your own stunts?
A: We’re every stunt coordinator’s nightmare and every director’s dream. Directors wish their actors could do more of the physical stuff, more of the stunts, just so they don’t have to cut from a wide master shot into a tight close-up. With us, James was able to use many of our medium, master and close-up shots particularly with me, Dave and Chris. The stunt people don’t really like it because we come in and we learn everything within two tries. They get kind of p****d off because they don’t get to work as much. On the other hand, the stunt people who are playing your doubles are super-excited because they get to act [when they’re doubling for an actor]. They don’t have to spend the whole time just falling and getting hurt.
Q: I can’t think of any other actor who has three franchises going at the same time…
A: Wasn’t there someone who had two, like Sylvester Stallone? For many years Sly had First Blood and Rocky, right? [Laughs] And now it’s me? Believe me, this was never planned. In between these big films, I do films like Nina, Out of the Furnace and Blood Ties and Infinitely Polar Bear is coming out next year. It’s just that the big movies happen to get seen more than the small-budget ones I do, but I’m happy with it. I like playing roles where women have more significance – they just happen to be set in space and they just so happen to be made by filmmakers like James Gunn, James Cameron and J.J. Abrams. That’s not a bad list of filmmakers to work with so I say, ‘You know what, I’ll be green here, I’ll be blue there, I don’t care!’
Q: Speaking of Nina, how was it playing Nina Simone in the biopic?
A: It was a very tumultuous affair and I loved making it. We did it with so much love and I think her story is definitely worth telling.
Q: What have you learned from doing so many green screen movies?
A: It’s helped me appreciate the technicalities of filmmaking. It’s also taught me that the best thing is to always remain open and that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Ask every single question that you can and try to work with filmmakers who will never lose patience with their actors. It’s important for a director to provide as much information, especially when we’re working with things that we have to conceive out of thin air. You can’t just expect an actor to understand: ‘Oh, there’s a dinosaur coming at you”. OK, so I’m going to automatically know how big it is and what it sounds like? I need details. How close does he get to me? How tall is he? What will the impact be of his cry when he’s screaming at me or when he’s blowing smoke or air in my face? James Cameron will bring you speakers that are twice your height and he’ll search the internet to find any sound that resembles as closely as possible the sound he’s looking for. He’ll play it to you seconds before he starts the scene and that is so helpful. I learned to always ask a lot of questions. It’s super-important.
Q: And how was Guardians director James Gunn to work with?
A: He was very generous with all the information we needed to have. He’d show us the animatics, he’d play the music, he’d explain the moment to us and how he envisioned it if we were not capturing the emotional beat as he wanted. He was very much invested even though he was taking care of ten thousand million things at the same time. You don’t want to feel afraid to ask a director something and if you do then that’s not a director you should work with after that.
Q: Do you think James learned anything from you?
A: How to be cool! No, I’m joking. I hope he did learn something. I really feel the wise directors are the ones who learn from their actors in terms of: ‘How can I be a better director? How can I be a better captain? I feel James is not an egotistical person. He’s very passionate and he’s also a little stubborn but in all the right places. He’s like good cholesterol. That’s James Gunn. We had moments where people thought it was tense because I was asking questions or trying to do something one way because I believed in it and James wanted me to do it another way, but we never argued; it was never a hostile environment. Sometimes Chris would go through the same thing — it was just a passionate moment between all these artists who really care. James never abused his power by saying, ‘Just do it like I said’. He was like, ‘Please trust me, do it this way and we’ll see’. If we did it his way and it didn’t work he’d say really quietly ‘Alright, do it your way’.
Q: Was there a defining moment when you decided you wanted to be an actor?
A: I was a ballet dancer for so long, but when I realized I had reached my limit and that I couldn’t go any further I knew I wanted to pursue acting. That’s one thing you don’t use as a dancer – your voice. [Laughs] And the one thing I use most in my life is my voice so it’s wonderful to get to express myself artistically through the biggest instrument I use. I auditioned for the Scarecrow in The Wiz and my mum went with me because she wouldn’t let me go anywhere alone. She did not think I was good, and I remember we had that conversation of ‘Baby, if you’re going to do this, we need to figure out a plan, like taking a class’. I did and I started reading a lot. There was this book that Judi Dench wrote that said there was a moment where, before an actor can be this or be that, the actor must simply be. I thought that to have absolute presence was to absorb everything that’s thrown at you. I’ve been getting paid for it ever since and [laughs] I haven’t needed an excuse to quit or to do something else.
Q: Do you collect all the action figures based on the characters you’ve played?
A: Here’s the thing. I have nieces and nephews and when they find them in the house, they take them and they end up broken. So there’s no point in me collecting them. One day I walked in to find my niece playing with all the Star Trek figures and eating chocolate at the same time. I was like, ‘It’s OK, take them, I don’t need them, I don’t have to sell them later for $100.’
Q: How was it working with a script where your only line is “I am Groot”?
A: I was lucky that I had a director [James Gunn] who was willing to indulge me. I told him: ‘We know that Groot is really saying any number of things when he says that line and most people are oblivious to the nuances of his speech because of his hardened larynx’. All you hear is the growl but he could be saying any number of things and we know that Rocket Raccoon understands him. He doesn’t always tell everybody he understands Groot and he plays on that, but he does understand him. So I asked James: ‘Can you give me a basic idea of what he’s trying to say when he’s saying “I am Groot”?’ James had a 50-page document waiting for me when I came in to do the voice. On the left-hand side of the page it said ‘I am Groot’ and on the right-hand side it had whatever the line really was if you could understand this floral colossus. That was the beginning of trying to go deep into a character like this. In many ways it was the most challenging thing to ask an actor to do. The thespian in me responded to the challenge of not being able to use facial expressions, physicality or a Golum-like vocabulary.
Q: Were there other actors in the recording booth with you?
A: No, there weren’t, but I did have the luxury of being able to watch the film. Both Bradley [Cooper, who plays Rocket] and I had the advantage of being able to play off the other actors by watching them in a rough cut of the film.
Q: Did you do any of the motion-capture for the character?
A: A lot of times in animation, what they’ll do is they’ll film you in the recording booth. So I went in there with stilts so I could actually be seven and a half feet tall. Don’t ask me why, but there was something about it that really helped with the character. In New York acting circles in the 1970s there was this legend that Robert De Niro didn’t know his character until he found that character’s shoes. Who knows how that works? But in its own way it did. For me, being seven and a half feet tall did something. I found myself dropping my shoulders, I was sometimes self-conscious about my height and sometimes I felt very powerful about my height, and it affected the character that way. Groot’s the most innocent character I’ve ever played. I don’t usually play characters who are that innocent.
Q: There’s something of Chewbacca from Star Wars in Groot. Was that deliberate?
A: The similarities are obvious and fun, but it wasn’t what I was thinking, going into it. It’s probably down to James Gunn.
Q: Was that you doing the dance moves for Baby Groot at the end of the film?
A: [Laughs] Yeah, it was.
Q: And what would be the first track on your own Awesome Mix tape?
A: It’d be When the Saints Go Marching In; The Beatles version, by the way, not Elvis Presley’s. I’d also have Rocky Raccoon on there, also by The Beatles. People don’t know that the Rocket Raccoon came from a Beatles song. Who’d ever think that a Marvel character would be inspired by a Beatles song? They just changed him from Rocky to Rocket.
Q: You have millions and millions of Facebook followers. Why do you think that is?
A: I think it’s because I share my thoughts. Remember that movie The Social Network where they showed the beginnings of Facebook? They didn’t even know what they had started because they thought their brilliant idea was to check people’s marital status. [Laughs] But that wasn’t so brilliant. What was so brilliant was the idea of interaction. If I could have interacted with Marlon Brando as a kid, wow! If I could have spoken to him, or written to him, or read from him, or followed him – that is what has made social media what it is, that interaction. When I started on Facebook there was only Obama who had a million fans and he got elected, in part, because of his social media presence. When I started talking on Facebook I was being real. It was almost more therapeutic for me because I’d always been reserved. I’m not out there that much and I’ve always protected and maintained my privacy. I felt detached from my audience in some way, unlike my younger years on stage where you get that immediate gratification and you’re able to see how you’re affecting the fans and the audience. With Facebook, suddenly I was able to interact with people all over the world and essentially create this community. It was a very powerful moment. It was something very special and very therapeutic to me, and it’s something that’s affected the last five years of my career. So much that’s happened and so many of the accomplishments have come from that. In fact, the reason I’m here now talking about this movie is because Facebook fans started creating fan art that put me in the Marvel universe or fantasizing about me as a Marvel character. Then when I met with Marvel we were talking about doing something in the Phase Three, 2017/2018 slot. But social media demanded we do something now and that’s when [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige called me two weeks after I’d been to Comic-Con last year, and he said he’d come from the Captain America press junket and the big question was ‘What are you doing with Vin?’ Then he told me ‘You’re a tree’ and all my childhood phobias came back to me. I had to face that fear of walking onto the stage as a seven-year-old and having the director say, ‘Vin, you’re playing the tree’. [Laughs] Now we face our fears!
Q: How do you see the character developing in the next film?
A: I think there’s something very fun in imagining how that might be. I expect we’ll learn more about him. He’s such a complex and fascinating character. He’s a scion of a noble family and probably one of the most intelligent Marvel characters of all. He loses his intelligence every time he dies but he never truly dies and it’s a small price to pay for immortality.
Q: Besides other actors like Marlon Brando, who are your real-life heroes?
A: Well, our mothers are our first heroes. Mine is MY superhero because when I was an infant she was a single mother to me and my twin brother in New York, traveling from the Bronx to Brooklyn with two seven-month-old babies. And now look where I am! She’s a hero in that respect. She’s a special woman. My father is a hero, too.
Q: What drew you to acting in the first place?
A: I started acting at a young age. I remember being five years old and watching my father do roadshow theatre. We went up to Maine and I watched him. He’d dyed his hair white – I remember that. Later I grew up in a government subsidized building for artists in New York and if you made more than $10,000 a year you’d be kicked out of the building. It was kind of a bohemian artists’ community that made art for the sake of art, but for me there was something very therapeutic about acting. I was a kid like everybody else, maybe with a heightened quest for identity. Whenever I would play a role, the parameters of my identity were clear. There was something comforting or therapeutic about that.
DRAX THE DESTROYER
Q: What were the big physical challenges for you on Guardians Of The Galaxy?
A: I didn’t actually find it physically super-challenging, to be honest. It was so much fun, man. I don’t want to make it seem like it was a simple project because it wasn’t that by any means, but I didn’t wake up in the morning thinking ‘Goddammit, I’ve gotta go to work’. I was happy and excited. It’s hard to say it was challenging because it was such a good time.
Q: How did you deal with the long hours in the make-up chair?
A: I just zoned-out, but I’m usually a pretty quiet person. I know that’s a really boring answer but it’s true. It wasn’t as bad as people might think because it was kind of like hanging out with your friends for a few hours, just talking, and the time flies by. It was more of a chore taking the make-up off – getting gunk out of your ears and your nose.
Q: You’ve said you can relate to the character of Drax. Can you explain that a little further?
A: Your first assumption with Drax is that he’s just this one-note, stereotypical warrior who looks menacing and scary, but the way I approached him is as a father and a husband who’s really suffering from a lot of heartbreak. He channels his heartbreak into revenge. I can relate to him because I’m not the person I appear to be at first glance. It’s kind of a double-edged sword for me because I actually look this way as a result of the way I am internally. I spent my whole life being very shy and introverted and I kind of found my release and therapy in the gym. I became this big, menacing physical stature of a man but internally I’m still kind of insecure. [Laughs] Warm, fuzzy and gooey.
Q: How was working with Zoe Saldana (Gamora)?
A: I have the toughest time describing her to people because there are different sides to her personality. On one hand she’s very strong and intelligent, but at the same time she’s like a princess. If you say she’s a princess it’s gonna make her sound like a little ditzy thing and if you say she’s strong and intelligent it makes her sound very stern. I always say she’s a diva, but not in a bad way. With most people you say ‘She’s a diva’ and people think ‘Well, that means she’s a bitch’ but Zoe’s like a diva in a good way.
Q: Given your WWE background, did your fellow cast members look to you for advice on falling without hurting themselves etc?
A: Actually, it was so different from anything I’d ever done that I put myself in the student role. What they do in films is so different; it seems so much more precise and it’s working towards camera angles whereas in wrestling it’s physical improvisation and the cameras are moving to suit us, you know? We’re not working for the cameras; we’re working for a live audience, so it’s really different. There were things I wasn’t qualified to do, like a lot of the big stunts. I didn’t feel safe doing those.
Q: How was Guardians director James Gunn to work with?
A: He had such a clear vision and he made it super-simple. You always knew exactly what he wanted. I learned from Zoe to ask a lot of questions. As I say, I’m usually very quiet and I don’t say much, but I learned to start thinking of things from different angles and different peoples’ perspectives and to ask questions that made total sense to put you in the mood. James always had an answer.
Q: Was there a defining moment when you decided you wanted to try acting?
A: I’d done a few bits and pieces, some TV stuff, when I was with the WWE but still I had no interest in pursuing acting. Then I did a cameo in a movie which was not a great movie; it was called The Wrong Side Of Town and I did a cameo in it as a favor for a friend. I went to shoot it on the first day and I realized how bad I was at acting. I thought it would be easy, for some reason, but I could feel how horrible I was. I was a little bit embarrassed. But I usually find that I want to pursue things that I’m terrible at because it’s a challenge for me. It was a defining moment because I realized I sucked as an actor.
Q: Do you collect action figures of yourself?
A: I used to collect the wrestling ones but there were just so many of them so I gave up. They’d put out a new one like every week. It was ridiculous. That’s what the WWE does – they’re a merchandising machine. I was injured for a while, I was on TV and I had to wear this stupid Ace bandage. I was given a pretty light schedule and I went to do an autograph signing session. I was sitting there one day, this kid came through and he had this action figure with an Ace bandage. I said ‘That’s cool, did you make that?’ and he said ‘No, I bought it’. While I was still injured they’d put out an injury edition Bautista doll. That’s how fast they’re on it. It’s insane.
Guardians Of The Galaxy is available on Blu-ray, Digital HD and
Disney Movies Anywhere December 9, 2014