You nary see a James Gunn production without heavy involvement from his younger brother, Sean, perhaps best known as his tenure on the CW series Gilmore Girls as Kirk Gleason. This remains true with Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s latest tentpole blockbuster, which has Gunn playing three prominent roles: Kraglin, the first mate of Michael Rooker’s space pirate Yondu, as well as standing in for Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon and Josh Brolin’s Thanos. I had the chance to speak with Sean about his work on the movie, as well as potential future plot threads in the recently announced Guardians of the Galaxy 2, set for release in 2017.
First off, congrats on the movie’s success! How does it feel that a movie you and your brother were involved in, based on D-list Marvel characters, is set to beat The Amazing Spider-Man 2 at the box office during its first weekend?
It’s crazy, man! I tell myself to not look at the numbers, I’m not too interested in that as an actor, but its great that people are liking it! It’s crazy.
I just think people are really thirsty for a movie that isn’t a sequel or a reboot to anything. So, are you a comic book reader? Did you know about the Guardians, the bunch of A-holes, before working on this flick?
No, not at all! My brother’s the comic book guy, he read everything when he was a kid. I’ve never really been into it… not really my thing!
You stood in for Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon and Josh Brolin’s Thanos on set. Your brother said that you improvised some lines, including the “jackasses in a circle” bit from Rocket Raccoon. A few weeks ago, Jeff Bridges claimed the first Iron Man film barely had a set script. Just how much of this movie was improvised?
Actually, almost all of it was totally written into the script. The only things that were improvised, every now and then, joke lines… my brother would let people go with it and do their own stuff, or he would offer to read them new lines. Even a lot of “improvised” lines were actually fed to the actors by James himself. One or two ended up in there, the jackasses one included… yeah, I wasn’t even sure if it was funny when I said it!
That got a big laugh out of the theater! You weren’t really a motion capture actor, per se, but more of a fill in for the final product so the cast had something to work off of.
That’s true, Bradley hadn’t been cast yet, the lead actors, mostly Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista, they needed something to sort of ground Rocket, so they are not imagining for themselves what Rocket’s gonna look like, and then they’re all on different pages as to what they are imagining. They all have something to look at. I tackled it as though I played the role, though later I was kind of eliminated from it.
The demand for motion capture performances is going up recently, and it seems like Andy Serkis has a monopoly on it. From your experience, would your stand-in work be something that you would take to the next step, learning how to do full motion capture?
Totally. I’d love to do it. I’ve talked to my reps about it, it’s cooler, and there’s a high feeling for it, as tech gets better, even more of the actor is injected into the CGI character on screen. I’m trying to figure out how to do it right now, hopefully this movie will help. [laughs]
Let’s talk about your physical character in the movie, Kraglin. He’s sort of a skinny Silent Bob to Yondu’s Jay. What was it like working with Michael Rooker?
I’ve known him a long time, him and my brother got to be friends when they did Slither together, as well as Super. I totally love him, its good to work with him before, because you have to speak “Rookerese”, you know, so you can decipher what it is he’s really talking about, because you can’t always tell! But I love that guy, I see him all the time. He calls me, I’ll pick up the phone, its nuts, he’s a great guy.
Your brother said that Yondu, and presumably the Ravagers, would probably play a bigger role in the second movie. Do you think Kraglin would step out of the sidelines?
Look man, as long as I’m in the second movie, I won’t complain about how big my role is! If the opportunity came up again, that would be great.
I was thinking Kraglin would kick Yondu out of the Ravagers in a coup, and Yondu would become a full time Guardian.
Totally! My friend Simon, my brother James’s assistant, he keeps texting me jokes like, “we’ve already decided on the opening of the second movie, it’ll be Kraglin’s face, then we’ll pull back to see its his head on a stick!” [laughs] Yondu would kill me before the second movie even starts.
Your brother compiled the soundtrack consisting of 12 songs out of at least 100 selections; did he ask you for help in this process?
I know that when he was looking for songs, he emailed both me and my brother Brian, who are both like him, we’re into crate digging… whatever the term for online crate digging is. We’re always searching for stuff online that we remember but haven’t heard in a long time, so he asked for some suggestions from us. I think he had it all mostly thought out, maybe he was looking for one or two more great ones he hadn’t thought of. He has such an encyclopedic knowledge of music. He listened to everything growing up. There was one reviewer that made some stupid comment about how nobody would have really listened to both Bowie and The Runaways, and also listen to 10cc and Elvin Bishop. I’m like… “that’s crazy, because my brother did!”
If you had your own Awesome Mix Tape Volume 1, what music would be on it?
Man, my music taste is really crazy, but my probably absolute favorite kind of music is alot of the late 80’s early 90’s underground hip hop… I think I would have a lot of hip hop on that. [Check out Sean Gunn’s blog post on the 100 Greatest Underground Hip Hop Songs]
Now, concerning that end credits scene… its reported that Seth Green portrayed [SPOILER WITHHELD], but there has been no official announcement on that matter… is there anything you could tell us? Were you involved in that scene at all?
Actually, I have no idea, I found out about the scene as everyone else did – in a theater with normal people! The cut I saw didn’t have that scene attached yet.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, starring Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista, is in theaters now.