×

‘I Am Rocket,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Director James Gunn Tells Chinese Screenwriters

“The structure of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ comes straight from Hong Kong cinema (where anything can happen at any moment),” “Guardians” director James Gunn said this week.

“Johnnie To, John Woo and Ringo Lam made me fall in love with cinema even more than I had been before.” Other early influences when Gunn was a shy teen growing up in small-town Missouri, were the “Star Wars” films, with their escapism and mythology.

“I was created in giant petri dish to make ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’,” Gunn told an audience of Chinese screenwriters and directors this week at an event within the Shanghai International Film Festival. The event was organized with U.S. screenwriting consultancy Screencraft.

While a trip down memory lane was part of the session, the contrasting approaches to screenwriting of Gunn, “Kong: Skull Island” writer Max Borenstein and Hong Kong’s Peter Chan Ho-sun were the most instructive.

“I figure out everything before I go on stage. I know every shot beforehand,” said Gunn, who also describes himself as a hedgehog capable of doing only one thing at a time. “Guardians” took him more than two and a half years to put together.

Chan, who has made some of China’s most successful contemporary movies, including “Perhaps Love” and “American Dreams in China,” is a different kind of control freak. “I don’t plan, I don’t do story boards, I don’t do special effects. My creative process is working with actors,” said Chan. “And now I’m most enjoying the editing process, working alongside a great creative editor.” Yet Chan extends his creative vision by often doubling up as producer, a detail-obsessed marketer, and as a local distributor as well.

Where the three film makers concurred was on the need to juggle process and passion. “The worst way to make a film is to try to appeal to a mass audience,” said Borenstein.

“Half of film making is about balance. A film is a giant machine that I’m helping to build. Half is very personal, it’s about characters,” said Gunn. “(The whole) is a balance between the emotional and the logical.”

“Without the audience, the film making process is not complete. Even a blockbuster needs to be personal,” said Chan. “There is no secret sauce. You just need to like the characters. In ‘American Dreams’ all the characters were the kind of people I’d grown up with. And when I watched ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2’ recently I saw a personal film, one with a director behind it.”

Gunn went one step further. He described “Guardians” as an autobiography of Rocket, the raccoon character voiced by Bradley Cooper, before adding: “Rocket is me, feeling outcast and forgotten.”

The trip to Shanghai was Gunn’s first to mainland China, but not his first encounter with Chinese audiences. He stays in touch with Chinese fans through his own WeiboChinese social media account. He revealed that he received many complaints from Chinese viewers about the subtitles for the first “Guardians” movie. So for the second picture, which released earlier this year in Chinese theaters, he used social media to work closely with the film’s translator. That was particularly useful in avoiding misinterpretations of idiosyncratic dialog and invented vocabulary.

Gunn was careful to distance himself from Hollywood movies which seek international appeal through calculatedly diverse casting choices. “Chinese people don’t fall for that trick any more,” he said.

The speakers were jointly interviewed by Screencraft’s Emily Dell and Chinese critic and consultant Raymond Zhou.

More Film

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • Stuber Movie

    Disney Left With a Slate of Film Flops After Fox Deal

    Is Disney having buyer’s remorse? The studio would be forgiven if it were having some regrets after absorbing 20th Century Fox, the company that once generated big box office with the likes of “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After “Dark Phoenix” bombed earlier this summer, Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista’s action comedy “Stuber” [...]

  • Taika Waititi Returning to Direct 'Thor

    Taika Waititi to Direct Marvel's 'Thor 4'

    Taika Waititi is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker will write and direct the sequel to his 2017 blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok.” Waititi’s take on the fourth “Thor” movie puts Warner Bros.’ long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely. However, the studio hopes that “Akira” can get resume production with Waititi at the helm once [...]

  • Akira

    'Akira' Production Put on Hold by Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. has put its long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely, sources tell Variety. Sources indicate that after a brief delay, the studio has pulled the plug on production indefinitely for the classic anime adaptation, which was set to begin later this fall. “Thor: Ragnarok” helmer Taika Waititi was on board to direct, and the [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

  • Sebastian Maniscalco Green Book

    Sebastian Maniscalco Moves Into Movies With 'Green Book' and 'The Irishman'

    As a comedian whose routines not only lampoon Italian stereotypes but demand larger-than-life performances of those cultural peccadilloes, Sebastian Maniscalco has carefully — if inadvertently — created a niche for himself as an actor. In 2018, in between selling out shows at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, he took his first steps [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content