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Chris Pratt and James Gunn have never been happier to do press together.
As has been well-documented, there was once a time where they weren’t going to get the opportunity to cap their Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy with one another, so the chance to share a few more laughs and bust each other’s chops is all the more satisfying, especially before Gunn departs the MCU for the DCU.
Any day now, Pratt also expects to hear from another MCU mainstay, the lovably foul-mouthed Samuel L. Jackson, since Peter Quill landed the MCU’s first F-bomb in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But the Minnesota-born, Washington-raised actor admits that the whole situation is a bit overblown, much like when network shows such as NYPD Blue and Chicago Hope were lauded for saying the word “shit” for the first time on broadcast television.
“It’s funny that that’s been made into something more. It reminds me of this old South Park episode [‘It Hits the Fan,’ which spoofs NYPD Blue saying ‘shit’ for the first time],” Pratt tells The Hollywood Reporter. “[Peter Quill’s F-bomb] is said in the most thrown-away, comedic way.”
Gunn adds: “Yeah, it means nothing. It’s a silly thing. But what makes it so funny is that it is so thrown away and out of nowhere.”
Since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the final installment with the current iteration of Guardians, the film is definitely a more emotional experience than the previous two, and that is particularly true for Pratt’s Star-Lord. In most of the film’s marketing, there’s a glimpse of Quill as he screams and sobs over someone or something, and for Pratt, the process behind that scene required him to revisit his own ups and downs.
“Everyone goes through shit in their lives … But when you unpack it to get somewhere, emotionally, on camera, your mind doesn’t go, ‘Oh, that was for fake. You’re good,’” Pratt says. “You have to walk away from that, and it doesn’t go away for a while until you do the work to put it back. So, for me, that was a complicated moment, but also a complicated night afterward.”
Below, during a recent conversation with THR, Gunn also reflects on the moments he’ll never forget, including several of Pratt’s highly emotional scenes.
James, who was anonymously leaving toys on your monitor throughout filming?
James Gunn: That was mostly Steph [Ceretti], who’s our VFX supervisor. He was leaving the toys, but he had a lot of collaborators that were helping him do it.
Chris, has Sam Jackson sent you an angry text message yet about you getting the MCU’s first F-bomb?
Chris Pratt: (Laughs.) No, not yet, but I expect that soon. It’s pretty cool, but it’s funny that that’s been made into something more. It reminds me of this old South Park episode [“It Hits the Fan,” which spoofs NYPD Blue saying “shit” for the first time]. Do you guys remember when NYPD Blue said “sh**” on network TV?
Gunn: Yeah, yeah! It was such a big deal.
Pratt: They made a big deal out of it, and then everyone tuned in to hear the guy go, “Man, you got some shit on your mouth.” And it was like, “Wow, he said it!” (Laughs.) So it’s interesting that [the F-bomb] has become more of a thing, because it’s said in the most thrown-away, comedic way.
Gunn: (Laughs.) Yeah, it means nothing. It’s a silly thing. But what makes it so funny is that it is so thrown away and out of nowhere.
Pratt: But it gets a big laugh.
Gunn: Yeah, it gets a really big laugh.
James, in terms of difficulty, where does the “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” sequence rank among all your set pieces?
Gunn: There’s two different forms of difficulty for me. So there’s difficulty in terms of the amount of work I put into something, and then there’s difficulty in that the things that I’m doing are going wrong. So I’d much rather have number one than number two, and this is definitely a number one. Wayne Dalglish, the stunt co-coordinator, and I put months of work into trying to design this sequence, and then the actors put a lot of work into rehearsing it. And the VFX people at Weta put tons of work into creating that aspect of it.
Pratt: And the camera department.
Gunn: Yeah, the camera department. Henry Braham, our DP, who’s also our primary camera person, shot all of that. So it was a lot of work and very hard in that respect, but in terms of the process, it was pretty fluid, except for one time when Karen Gillan got slammed in the head pretty hard.
Pratt: I think you blacked out a lot of this stuff. It was really hard.
Gunn: I black out everything.
Pratt: Our DP went flying off of the rig and nearly broke his leg.
Gunn: Oh, I don’t care about Henry.
Pratt: Yeah, you don’t care about Henry.
Pratt and Gunn: (Laugh.)
Pratt: There was one piece in particular where the stunt team was doing something crazy that had to be perfectly timed, and you must have done that piece 25 times because it just wasn’t working.
Gunn: Oh my God, easy! I did almost all the pieces 25 or 30 times.
Pratt: Every single one of those pieces that got stitched into that oner had such a high degree of difficulty.
Gunn: I grew up watching Jackie Chan movies, and when you see a Jackie Chan movie, you’re like, “Oh my God, how can that guy do all of that stuff?” But then when you see the behind the scenes, he does things 50 times until he gets it right. Sometimes more. And so that’s really what these types of things are. The camera has gotta move exactly right. The stunt people have to do their job perfectly, and the actors have to do their job perfectly until you get that in the right way. So it’s just repetition.
Chris, you broke my heart multiple times in this movie, especially the scene that’s shown in the trailer where Peter is screaming and sobbing at the same time. What was the lead-up to that moment like for you?
Pratt: Well, our subconscious does not know if we’re acting or not acting, and I did whatever techniques a craftsperson uses to create a real emotion. That wasn’t one of those things where I couldn’t get there emotionally and so I was faking it with outside-in acting and adjusting my face in a certain way. I was really, really in it, and there’s an unpacking process to that. Everyone goes through shit in their lives, and if you have good mental health, you’ll compartmentalize it and pack it away in a good way. But when you unpack it to get somewhere, emotionally, on camera, your mind doesn’t go, “Oh, that was for fake. You’re good.” You have to walk away from that, and it doesn’t go away for a while until you do the work to put it back. So, for me, that was a complicated moment, but also a complicated night afterward.
James, I saw two movies this week that were shot by the aforementioned Henry Braham [Guardians 3 and The Flash]. How conscious or careful was he to not repeat himself?
Gunn: I mean, I designed all the shots, so I don’t think that he ever said that there was something that he had done in The Flash. We shot after The Flash, but I don’t know if there was anything. He never brought it up. But they’re very different looking movies.
Chris, you and Sean Gunn had quite a scene together on The Terminal List. [Writer’s Note: Pratt’s character tied Gunn’s stark-naked character to a chair and tortured him to death.] When you eventually reunited on Guardians 3, was he skittish around you at first?
Pratt: (Laughs.) Thankfully we were able to separate the characters from one another.
Gunn: Oh, I hope!
Pratt: But man, [Sean] was so good in that scene. It was just an amazing opportunity for us to cast him in that role, and he really went for it, man. It was really, really incredible. But deep down inside, he knows that I could torture him if I wanted. (Pratt deadpans.)
Gunn: (Gunn plays along.) Wait, what? What are you going off into that for?
Pratt: What do you mean? I’m just saying that if he has information, he knows that I’ll get it out of him.
Gunn: What!? He’s an actor. What information is he gonna have?
Pratt: Exactly! But I’d find out is what I’m saying. In a friendly way, I could torture him if I wanted to, not for any purpose other than just to enjoy it.
Gunn: I’m just saying it makes you sound a little crazy.
Pratt: No, no, no! Not in a crazy way! I could strap him naked to a chair and threaten to inject him with a lethal cocktail of drugs for my pleasure.
Gunn: Yeah, that’s weird.
Pratt: No, I think you’re missing the point. (The bit concludes.)
Decades from now, when the two of you are hiking through the Rocky Mountains, what day on Guardians 3 will you remind each other of first?
Gunn: Well, there’s two moments, maybe three, where I’m the most proud of Chris and you see his growth as an actor. But one of them is that whole [aforementioned] scene [where Peter screams and sobs]. It was really amazing. And there’s a line that Chris says later on with Gamora [Zoe Saldana] while we’re in a tight close-up on his face, and it gets me every time. Even thinking about it now, I feel that hitch in my heart. It’s so beautiful. So those are the two moments I’d like to remind you of. Now, what are two moments where I was really great?
Pratt: Well, first of all, James is never gonna go hiking in the Rocky Mountains.
Gunn: Oh, I will. I go hiking all the time.
Pratt: Do you really?
Pratt: (Pratt adds context for the interviewer.) He moved to Aspen, and he’s spent three hours outdoors since moving there.
Gunn: That’s not true!
Pratt: A whole new James Gunn?
Gunn: I hike all the time.
Pratt: “All the time,” I bet. (Laughs.)
Gunn: For me, it’s all the time.
Pratt: I’m derailing, but there was one really extraordinary moment early on around the monitor where we all got a little emotional. And I’ll never forget that.
Gunn: Yeah, that was a great moment. We were just sitting around the monitor, and we were back to business as usual. We’d been shooting for maybe a week or something like that.
Pratt: You guys had been shooting a little bit longer, because you started with Rocket stuff.
Gunn: That’s right. We started with Rocket’s characters, and so it was me, you, Karen [Gillan], Sean, Zoe and Pom [Klementieff] around the monitor. And after everything we had been through, we started saying, “I can’t believe this movie is actually getting made.” My fellow creators fought so hard for me, and it was so touching that we just all had each other’s backs and were now doing this. So, that was very moving. It was just a nice moment. In that moment, we all just realized that this was real, and that was one of the cool things about it. A lot of times when you’re present to something, it’s just you, but this was a communal thing.
Pratt: Yeah, that was a shared moment. I’ll always think back fondly on that moment.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 opens May 5 in movie theaters. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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