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James Gunn Used Tyler Bates’ Music During Shooting of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

It’s fairly unusual for a director to ask a composer to write music for his movie even before shooting begins. But it’s practically unheard of to play that music on the set while the actors are performing.

Yet that’s exactly what happened on “Guardians of the Galaxy” and this year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.” Director James Gunn took his cue from composer Ennio Morricone and director Sergio Leone, who often followed this procedure.

“Music informs the way the cameras move, the performances, the cuts, everything,” Gunn says.

Composer Tyler Bates recalls visiting London’s Shepperton studios in 2013, when Gunn was making the first “Guardians,” and being surprised to hear star Chris Pratt rave about hearing the music on the set.

“When the actors hear the music play,” Gunn points out, “they get a much better idea of the tone of the scene. Sometimes the music is huge, and that allows them to go further emotionally, without fear of being overdramatic. Other times they realize the music is doing the work for them and they can just be, without effort.”

It’s not just for the actors, he adds: “It’s primarily for me, the cinematographer and the camera operators, so that the cameras can move in tandem with the score.”

Bates’ score, Gunn says, “is the most undervalued part of both ‘Guardians’ films. He is inextricably tied to the emotion that makes those movies what they are. They aren’t the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ without Tyler Bates.”

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