Sean Gunn on Guardians, Gilmores, and More

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Photo by Bill Watters
Photo by Bill Watters

Sean Gunn sat down with the press Saturday morning and reflected not just on Gilmore Girls and the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, which is a part of the larger Marvel Universe driven by The Avengers series of films, but also on how Dragon Con helped initiate him into the world of fandom and convention culture.

“You know what’s interesting about this convention, is that, it’s the first one that I ever did,” he said, “… and it just seemed like such a madhouse.” That, as he noted, was three years ago, and he’s since attended about 33 conventions. “Now I’m back here with the perspective of somebody who’s now on the con circuit… and I see… what makes [Dragon Con] really, really different from all these other conventions. And it’s kinda a trip.”

This is Gunn’s second time here, and, he assured everyone, that it’s still unique and the most-everything-you-can-think of convention. “It’s certainly raucous,” he continued. “It’s a helluva a party.”

When asked about Gilmore fans versus Guardian or comic fans, Gunn said, “I think the most interesting thing is that they’re more similar than they are different…. Outsiders might not immediately recognize that or think that.” He described Gilmore fans as being very rabid, yet it is his work in Guardians that get him in the door at conventions as it fits the mold of what promoters are looking for. Still, ardent fandom is not just for sci-fi or fantasy anymore. “Theirs is a unique brand of fan,” he said of Gilmore loyalists. “I think it’s really… it’s pretty interesting now to sort of guess what it is that makes any particular show the type of show that would spark this intense fan base.”

While he can’t say if there will be another “revival” season of Gilmore on Netflix, which produced Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life in 2016, Gunn did point out that the president of Netflix said in the news that he’d love to do another. He also addressed the theory that Gilmore Girls is actually just the book that Rory is writing, which he said he would love to discuss over a beer as that would explain why it is all so idyllic—no cursing, sex, and tragedy or natural disaster.

When asked about playing the physical embodiment of Rocket Raccoon for Guardians, he noted that he is also doing it for two upcoming Avengers’ movies (which are being shot back-to-back). ”I’m on my 4th movie playing Rocket, and I love it, but it is physically challenging.” He then joked that he didn’t “know how I ended up doing this.” In reality, the Guardians writer and director—his brother James Gunn—simply asked him. “But I’m not the logical choice to play a character that’s 3.5 feet tall,” Gunn said, also saying it is very hard on his legs (to laughter). “We’ve worked together our whole lives” he said of James, “you know, there’s no one I’d rather have direct me than him.” Also, James needed someone he could trust and help make it look real; otherwise, the film was not going to work.

“But we didn’t know what that process was gonna be,” Gunn said. “I basically showed up, you know, the first day… and I just got down and my hands and knees and started doing it.” Now, Gunn is four movies deep and it is an indelible part of his career, which is surprising to him. Yet, he loves it and is very passionate about the character and the whole story.

When asked if he’d considered that this started as some sort of long, brotherly prank, he answered immediately: “Yeah!”

“He’s tortured me a lot, too,” Gunn said, saying his brother has put him in difficult makeup and killed him multiple times. “I wouldn’t put it past him,” he said. But, in this case, the brothers have mutually benefitted from the Guardians experience.

Their collaboration makes sense. They have been “working” together since they were kids. “I think if you went back in time, you’d see a lot things,” Gunn said, that hinted at their future work in film. His brother had an 8mm camera he used to make silent movies and often put Sean—just 3 years old—in them. There were also less obvious things, such as merging Star Wars and Fisher Price figures into one universe because of their similar size and making up “elaborate stories,” which “is kinda, in essence, the same thing” as what they do now.

When asked if he and/or his brother would revive the PG Porn comedy shorts, Gunn said, “I don’t think we’ll end up doing [it] again only because we both work for Disney now.” He said his brother has had to explain in meetings why he has something with the word “porn” on his IMDb page even though the shorts are not actual porn at all.

In Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn also plays Kraglin—a Ravager who seems to shift from the bad side to the good side in Vol. 2, which came out this past summer.  When asked about Kraglin’s future in upcoming films, Gunn couldn’t say anything certain. “In Hollywood, with anything, with any role that you play, like, you just never know what is gonna end up on screen until it’s done anyways, so I don’t… I try not to project or anticipate, but I’m very excited to see what it is.” As a fan, he noted, that there are interesting things to think about: Kraglin has “the fin”, he’s on “the ship”, and he’s with “them”—meaning the Guardians. Gunn is “interested to see where it goes.” Since Kraglin is a great pilot, Gunn said, “I think it’s possible that he would stick with them, at least for a little while.” But doesn’t know when, where, or the what of the next Guardians film. However, he does know that Kraglin has developed greatly as a character since the first film.

Working for Disney and Marvel comes with Perks, Gunn said, recounting how he was shown “the red carpet treatment at Disneyland” after stopping there during a road trip with his girlfriend. In July 2017, Disney opened a Guardians attraction called “Mission: BREAKOUT!,” for which Gunn missed the opening as he was shooting a film in England.

On encouraging aspiring artists, actors, and filmmakers from less traveled places in America, Gunn, who is from St. Louis, Missouri, said, ”try not to look at it has ‘getting’ like you’re breaking out of prison.”

“I love Missouri,” he said. “I think, you know, because of the Internet, the speed of information and everything, like small towns aren’t as small as they used to be. You know, you can live in Small Town, Missouri, and have access to the same things that people have in Chicago, New York, and LA. That wasn’t true when we were kids.

“I would love to see,” he continued, “rather than more people get out of Missouri and go to CA, I’d love to see more little bits and pieces of what we have sprout in Missouri…. I’d love to see theatre make a comeback, honestly.”

More broadly, Gunn said that the best advice he could give to anyone is to finish what you start. “When you’ve got these dreams—like, I’m gonna make this thing—and then you start to criticize yourself… or you compare it to other people…then that thing gets stalled.” But, Gunn said that if “you have something you’ve finished that you can now say, ‘I made this’,” it leads to creation of another thing and, hence a process “that leads you to where you want to go as a career and as an artist. And I learned that from my brother.”

About the author

Kelly McCorkendale is a dog-lover, avid quilter, and occasional creative writer who loves the color orange and boycotts cable (except Game of Thrones because, well, what if winter is coming!?). After college, she realized poets weren’t in demand, so she shipped off to Madagascar with Peace Corps. Since then, she’s found a niche working on health systems in Africa but has a long-list of life tasks yet to be fulfilled--such as perform blackmail, learn a trade, and become a competitive eater. She has an MA in International Education, believes rice is the elixir of life, and, in high school, won the best supporting actress honor for the state of Missouri. She may also recite poetry (her first love) when imbibing in alcohol.

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