Karen Gillan Talks Directing Debut, 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' and That 'Jumanji' Outfit (Q&A)

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The Scottish actress has started production on her debut feature behind the camera, an as-yet-untitled dark comedy about suicide whose original name fell foul of a well-known manufacturer of kitchen storage products.

In a year that sees her star in The Circle and the Jumanji remake and reprise her role as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Scottish actress Karen Gillan is adding to an already rather tight schedule by embarking on her first feature behind the camera. 

Shooting began earlier this week on her as-yet-untitled debut (which was called Tupperware Party ... more on that later), being produced by Mt. Hollywood Films in association with Synchronicity Films, in which Gillan stars alongside Lee Pace (The Hobbit), Matthew Beard (An Education, The Imitation Game), Paul Higgins (In the Loop), Siobhan Redmond (Alice Through the Looking Glass) and Katie Dickie (Prometheus, The Witch).

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter from the set in Glasgow, Scotland, Gillan discusses the film's sudden name change, Nebula's "truly awful daddy issues" and dealing with the outrage that erupted when the first photo from Jumanji came out. 

What can you tell us about your first feature?

It’s completely fictional, but it’s set in my hometown in Inverness. The only film that I’ve ever seen on screen that portrayed Inverness is Loch Ness, so I thought maybe it was time to do something else. But it's not autobiographical at all. It follows the story of a girl called Lucy who is dealing with the suicide of her best friend, one year on. She’s having a hard time connecting with people and expressing herself, which comes out in various destructive ways.

It doesn't sound like a comedy.

Here’s the thing, it’s a dark subject matter, but it’s definitely tackled from a comedic standpoint. There’s consistent comedy, I hope. Well, I find it funny. It’s kind of absurd and surreal at points, with so many funny characters.

And what happened with the name Tupperware Party?

The name is currently changing ... because Tupperware is a brand name. I understand why. I mean, it's a dark film.

Did they not want their food storage products associated with suicide?

I don’t even know if they know the subject matter. I think they just protect their brand, which is fair enough. So I don’t know what the film’s called. But the film is about someone who is suffering some sort of an identity crisis anyway!

Is directing something you've always wanted to do?

Yes, definitely. I think I’ve always harbored a desire to do it. And I finally voiced it a couple of years ago when I wrote and directed a couple of shorts. The second one I was in as an actress as well, and that got really good reviews online, which really helped kick-start this feature.

You've worked with some pretty high-profile directors. Did you call on them for tips or badger them when you were acting in their films?

I haven’t badgered them for advice as much as the DOPs that I’ve been working with, because I just want to know as much about the technical side as possible. It’s so fascinating.

And is it markedly different working on some of the most expensive studio films then going to working on something I imagine has a slightly smaller budget?

Ever so slightly! But to be honest it doesn’t feel like a huge difference. The crew is obviously a lot smaller, but really we’re doing the same thing, just scaled down. But I’ve never really found it that different between working in independent films and working in studio films. I’m doing the same job. We have less time on independent films, but that’s the main difference.

Do you have anything else in the pipeline as director?

Yes! I have a TV show that’s pretty much off the ground, but I can’t talk about it yet. And that will be more behind the camera for me.

Also in Scotland? 

No, actually this is stateside. Striking a nice balance between home and second home.

And we've got Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 out this year. How does it compare to the first?

I’m so excited for people to see it! I just feel like it’s all of the best elements of the first one, just amplified. It’s even better – it’s funnier, the music’s even better … the second album is a blinder. It’s great. And in the first one everyone was being established. Now that that’s out of the way, you really get to delve into all of their dilemmas and things like that. I think family would really be the main theme of the thing. And my character Nebula is dealing with a whole lot of stuff there – we see a whole new side to her. A much more human side, actually, where we understand how truly awful and difficult her daddy issues are.

Is she still as grumpy?

Oh, absolutely! But we’re going to find out why.

And she's cropping up in Avengers Infinity War as well ...

Yeah, she’s making a cheeky appearance there. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say, but I’m pretty happy with how much she gets to do.

Last year the first photo from Jumanji was released, and there was a whole lot of hoopla over your skimpy outfit. It must have been a fairly ridiculous few days dealing with that?

I’ve experienced something similar when I worked on Doctor Who and there was such an uproar about my costume when that was first revealed, so I thought it was happening all over again. But I have to say, I'd never take on a role that was truly gratuitous for no reason. There’s a really valid reason why she’s wearing that. My character is really not happy about it!