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MCM Birmingham Comic Con Interview – Sean Gunn

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Robb Sheppard (@RedBezzle)

Panel: How did it feel working with the rest of the Guardians again? 

Sean Gunn: Both experiences were great – we’ve built quite a family. It’s been great to work with the old people but also with a new bunch of people on the Infinity War movies. I have so much respect for everyone that I worked with and also for the people who put these casts together. Hollywood’s kind of a strange place, and I’ve gotta say I’ve really enjoyed all the people I’ve been to meet and learn from. 

What about Joe and Anthony (Russo – Avengers: Infinity War directors) as directors? It’s a different experience to working with James (Gunn) I imagine? 

Yeah, I love Joe and Anthony. They’re very different from my brother, all directors are. I also haven’t known them since I was born, so that makes a difference! I like how they work off each other and they’re pretty unflappable. And that’s one area that they share with my brother, that they’re very calm set presences which can be hugely important in films like these. 

Working on the Gilmore Girls revival; was that a weird thing to go back to after working on Guardians of the Galaxy? 

I was kinda doing double duty. Triple duty if you consider both roles in Guardians of the Galaxy, and also doing Gilmore Girls at the same time. We were shooting them simultaneously, and I was flying back and forth between Georgia and California, to do those roles. The good thing about going back and doing Gilmore Girls again was like putting on a comfortable old pair of slippers.  It didn’t take long to get back into that character, Kirk is very, very familiar and available to me, and when the writing is as good as it is, it makes it that much easier. 

What’s it like in the Rocket Racoon suit. 

Most of the stills that people see are from the first movie, where I was wearing the green leotard. But in the subsequent films I just wear a grey tracksuit. Which is a lot more comfortable and a lot less dorky looking then the leotard, so that’s a little bit better. But I’m four movies now into doing Rocket on set, and sometimes I forget when actors turn up on set for the first time, they see me do it, they get a little freaked out by ‘whoa that guys really getting down and walking in a crouch position.’ 

Is it method acting then would you call it?  

(Laughs) I don’t root around any trash like Racoons do, I did have to dig on some of my drama school training, in getting down and being an animal. 

Having previously worked with Michael Rooker on Superanother James Gunn movie, was it interesting to get back in with Yondu and Kraglin when doing Guardians of the Galaxy? 

Oh, god! I just wanna do one movie without Rooker. (Laughs) 

Is that why you’re separated on the panel now? 

Yeah, right. I love Rooker, he’s like a crazy uncle.  We were friends before we even did Super. We’ve done about four movies together.   

Talking about Kraglin, how’s the whistling coming on? 

I hope it’s coming on well, we need him to use that whistle now, don’t we? If he’s gonna have some sort of imprint on the third movie, we need him to learn. 

Hopefully, we’re going to get Kraglin back in a big capacity in the third movie. You’re not listed as Kraglin in Infinity Wars.  

You won’t see Kraglin in the first Infinity War movie and after you all see it, we can talk further after that. A lot of things happen that bear on subsequent movies, so… 

It was nice to see Kraglin go from a supporting character to a fully-fledged Guardian. Is that something that you’re excited about for the third film?  

Yeah, we’ve talked a little bit and he gives me some hints here and there about what the plot will be like for the third movie. I haven’t seen any words or seen any script, but he will sit me down and talk me through the direction of the movie. He’s such diligent planner that usually the way he says things are gonna work out, they pretty much go in those directions.  

I never really get my hopes up, it’s Hollywood, you’re not really in the movie until the movie’s finished. Which is a long ways from now, and I care more about the story than the character, so I just want the movie to be great so whatever they ask me to do, I’ll be ready for it, for sure. 

How does it feel switching back and forth between Kraglin and Rocket on set. 

The scenes where I have to play both characters, in the second movie in particular, there’s about four scenes where both characters have dialogue. It’s definitely the trickiest thing I’ve had to do in my career. I have to tackle the scene from both angles and then when I’m on set, I have to try maintain my focus. A large percentage of any good acting is preparation and focus. So, on those days when I’m doing both I just need to be double prepared and as focused as I can be. And try to do the scene from both points of view. But also, it’s always a little bit easier as I know that if I screw up as Rocket, someone can fix it. 

Does James ever let you choose a song on the soundtrack? 

James doesn’t let anyone choose any songs on the soundtrack! It’s funny, he uses a lot of songs I’ve loved my whole life as well as him. My brothers and I are really into music and I’m never surprised by his selections, he’s never used a song I don’t know. He takes a lot of pride in saying he personally hand picks all the songs with no help from anyone so I’ll let him have that. 

What songs would you put on for a third film? 

Oh man! What I like about the third movie, and this is speculation, but it seems to be set up that the soundtrack might come from Yondu’s Zune in the third movie. That might be a gas. It’d be interesting to see what Yondu listens to. I’d love to hear something like Jukebox Hero. That’d be fun. Now I’d said that it won’t be in the movie. 

The outtakes are hilarious in their own right. Do you have a favourite that you wish people could see? 

I like that outtake that’s in the second movie at the end where I’m going over the bands, where Star Lord and Kraglin are talking about the bands on the Zune and Kraglin mentions Thin Lizzy and ‘that chick’ Alice Cooper. That’s certainly a lot of fun. We’re pretty lucky, there’s very little that gets cut from the movie. I think I had one scene as Rocket from the first movie and some little bits and pieces of stuff from Kraglin. For the most part, most of what we shoot goes in the film. 

With so many talented artists on there, how free are you to improve, and how much of that is reflected in the final film? 

You know, we don’t improv that much. Most of the dialogue is performed as written in the script. Things that are improvised are buttons at the end of the scenes – just a joke line at the end of the scene. There’s a little room to play there. The bulk of the improvising is done by my brother from behind the camera. So I know that he has his script that we’ve seen, then he has his alternate line script that he has for every day with things he’s feeding us as we’re acting. They feel like adlibs to us, because we haven’t heard them…he’s super-prepared and has a whole list of them ready to go. Not a whole lot is thought up ono the spot. A few lines, here and there, but most of it’s scripted. 

What about Chris Pratt? Does he come up with a few one liners that he shouldn’t do? 

They definitely have fun. My brother will say to Chris at certain moments: “Here’s an opportunity if you wanna adlib something or throw something in” you can do it there. It’s never pandemonium with everyone saying whatever the hell they think is funny. We stick to the script and have fun but it’s controlled fun. 

Everyone adored Baby Groot but what can we expect from teenage Groot.  

You saw a little bit of Teenage Groot in the tag scene for the second movie. You don’t have too long to wait now so I need to keep my mouth shut for now. 

Everyone refers to him as Teenage Groot. But James actually said that he is a pre-teen, not a teen. So does that make him about 11 or 12? 

Yeah, I mean Groot certainly ages more quickly than a human does. Baby Groot in the second movie is about three months old which is very young, but still old enough to walk around and speak. So I think that whatever time may have passed between the second Guardians and the first Infinity War has probably aged him a little bit. 

Have you seen the new Infinity War trailer? What did you think of Star Lord meeting Tony Stark. 

I can’t wait to see that on the big screen, but I have inside knowledge about a lot of that stuff. What I say here stays here right? 

You’re amongst friends. On the subject of Groot. James recently upset a lot of people that Groot in the first film is dead and thatin the second film it’s the son infact and the Groot from the first film is officially dead. It changed people’s perspective on the end of the first film. 

It doesn’t change my perspective of the end of the first film, regardless of the biomechanics of it, the idea of Rocket preserving that piece of his friend packs some emotional weight. It certainly doesn’t take away from the sacrifice, it enhances the sacrifice that Groot makes. I didn’t know much about Groot procreation myself so I’m learning just like you guys.  

So Rocket’s like his mother? 

He’s certainly his adopted Guardian. 

Which character in Infinity War has the best reaction to a talking racoon? 

Oh gosh! I think you’re gonna have to be the judge of that. It’s certainly fun to see many of these characters through the eyes of Rocket. Rocket does not have the same sort of reverence for the super heroes that the average earthling is going to have. 

Is it easier or harder working with family compared to working with other directors? 

It’s just different. One of the reasons me and my brother work so well together is yes we’ve worked together since we were kids so our shorthand for communicating is very clean and very easy. But also I think we’re both perfectionists within our jobs. He’s a very good director and a clear director and I take my job as an actor very, very seriously. I think if we meeting for the first time, I still thing we’d work together really, really well. He’s good at talking to actors and I’m good at listening to directors. The advantage is, any period of time where we have to figure out our creative relationship, that’s already done and we already have that. 

The negative things, y’know, we’re not very competitive in my family. He’s the older brother and I’m the younger brother so that’s good.  I love working with my brother. I hope that we continue to work together here and there for the rest of our careers. I don’t need to do everything he’s doing, we can go off and do our separate things. But I’ll always say yes, obviously. 

We saw the original Guardians of the Galaxy reunited at the end of GOTG2 from the comic book series. Would you like Kraglin to be in the spin-off with the rest of them? 

I’d love to work with those guys. I try not to prognosticate about what’s gonna happen, because you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. If you start to worry about where you want the story to go, you’ve gotta learn it’s gonna go where it goes. 

Who would be your dream celebrity cameo akin to Kurt Russel in GOTG2 . 

I don’t know. You know, I already worked with The Hoff on the Guardians Inferno video. I don’t know how it gets better than that. I’ve gotta say with everyone I’ve worked with so far on these movies, my cup runneth over with big, famous, iconic actors so I’m happy with anybody. Truly. 

Can you talk about the Inferno video and working with Zardu Hasselfrau himself? 

That was really fun, something they threw together pretty quickly, but I saw the link from the original, weird Star Wars dance video that it was kind of based on. It’s something we got together in a day. We had an absolute blast. 

Did you get to choose which moustache to wear? 

They had some ideas, we worked on it a little bit together, but I certainly was very pleased with how that worked out. 

What was David Hasselhoff like? 

He’s a lovely man. I just saw him at the Black Panther premiere, it was good to catch up, he’s such a gregarious, big personality, and a really warm dude. 

This might be a question more for your brother, but everyone wants to know when Nathan Fillion’s going to turn up in Guardians. 

When Nathan’s going to turn up? Oh gosh, I don’t know. I’m always happy to see him. 

How have you found your fans since becoming part of the MCU family. 

People talk a lot about the fan boys and fan girls from the MCU and how rabid they are but I assure you, Gilmore Girls fans give then a run for their money, every step of the way, in their fervour for what they love. I’m very grateful to be part of both those franchises, and I think it starts with great writing and great stories and I’ve been very lucky to be a part of those.

Interviews

An Interview With… Steve Hodgetts & Arabella Burfitt-Dons (Love Possibly)

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In the mockumentary, Love Possibly a documentary film crew follows the hopelessly romantic, Alex, on his quest for love. Following their wins for “Best Feature” and “Best International Feature” at the LA Edge Film Awards and Catalina Film Festival, Che Grant and Michael’s Boccalini’s new feature is now screening at the Raindance Film Festival.

Lead Actor Steve Hodgetts and Producer Arabella Burfitt-Dons sat down with Movie Marker’s Marion Donnellier to talk about Love Possibly

Q. Steve, your transformation into “Alex” is impressive. How did you prepare for the role?

SH: Alex is very different from any character I have played before. In terms of research, I watched a lot of youtube videos to try and master the lisp as best I could. Alex is a very anxious and socially inept person so I tried to remember certain traits people tend to have when they are nervous. For instance, he uses his hands to mask his face and dances his eyes around. These are all different traits I took from people I have met. Also I think everyone deals with anxiety to a certain extent and I just tried to amplify my own anxiety x 1000.

Q. How much of your personal experience did you use?

SH: I think there is a little bit of Alex in everyone. I just tried to remember my own anxiety and try to magnify it as best I could.

We all know someone that looks like Alex.

SH: Absolutely. I think Alex is just very socially unaware. Especially due to his speech impediment, I don’t think he’s had an easy upbringing. I think if I’d met him, I’d be mate with him.

ABD: I think the idea behind the character of Alex is that everyone can relate to him in a way, whether it is because of his anxiety, loneliness, finding love or heartbreak. Because the story is mainly based on the cast and crew’s own experience, we hoped that people could relate to it.

Q. Such as in Alex’s favourite film, “Sleepless in Seattle”, modern rom-coms all have a similar structure. How do you think the character of “Alex” would fit in one of them?

ABD: I think it would be very interesting to put him in a very conventional rom-com and to see how it would play out. I think it would be very beautiful and would resonate with the audience of a normal rom-com.  It is kind of what we tried to do here. It is a spin on a rom-com ,which is a recurring theme throughout the film. It is meant to be an non-conventional and ironic rom-com. I think if we put him into a character in a normal rom-com, it would probably achieve a similar thing and would be relatable to the audience.

SH: I think a way it would be slightly better because he is quite relatable. He is more of an “everyman”.

Q. You mentioned most of Love Possibly was improvised. Was there a point while shooting when the story or tone deviated from what was originally intended?

SH: The directors knew the narrative they wanted to achieve from the start. The plot never changed as a result of the improve and it only allowed a couple of changes in scenes. I would say 75% of it was improvisation and brought a certain realism to the film.

ABD: Although the narrative is still very close to Che and Michael’s original vision, we stripped everything back in post production and started from scratch in terms of brainstorm, how to plot out the story and how to piece it all back together. At one point we were brainstorming without even referencing the footage that we already had just to see what came up. Whilst we pieced it back together, because it is improv and always very open, we managed to pull together the final edit. Improv opens up opportunities of changing the storyline in a positive way as well as being, obviously quite difficult.  It is exciting as a filmmaker because it allows you to take your story in another direction and it still works.

Q. How do you choose the project you want to work on? What’s the most important factor(s)?

ABD: Script! I really enjoy spotting upcoming talents and really enjoy working on under represented art forms. That is the beauty of working in independent films, you get to see such incredible and varied projects that wouldn’t normally get made by the big studios. Personally that is something I like and catches my eyes.  I also enjoy projects that really connect with the audience and with me. And obviously amazing talents as well. Working with filmmakers, directors and actors that are incredibly talented and helping them bring their talent to life.

SH: Always the script I would say and interesting characters. In terms of acting, I would definitely rather play someone that is widely different than a character that is similar to me because it wouldn’t be very challenging. Which is why Alex was always so fascinating, because he is so different.

Q. What did you learn from Alex?  

SH: Always think before you say something. Probably not to worry as much. He makes situations worse because he is so worried.  In some situations, Alex is the normal one and surrounded by crazy people. His mum is very out there and her boyfriend is nuts.

ABD: Expending on the anxiety theme, I think when you make a film that highlights and showcases a difficulty that a lot of people have, it resonates with you as a filmmaker. Everyone has anxiety to a certain extent in this day of age. There is statistic that was release recently that shows significantly high number of millennials suffer from anxiety because of the nature of the period with live in. I have learn from Alex character because I know anxiety but seeing it in that form, makes it all the more relatable.

Q. We don’t see many rom-coms dealing with mental health. Most films are either entirely focus on the topic or omits it entirely.

ABD: I would like to see it more in characters in bigger films and that is why I wanted to explore it in that film. I think when films do cover that topic it tends to be all about the anxiety but what is nice about “Love possibly” is that although it deals with that topic there isn’t a massive emphasis on it, it is just part of it.

Q. The film was financed through Kickstarter. Do you have any advice on how to run a successful kickstarter campaign?

ABD: A lot of it is about the talent behind it. Pulling together a very good pitch that justifies what you are trying to do. Show that you are serious about it. Show that is a serious project as well as a passion project. Put it out there to as many people as you can, there is no better way than to kick-start the project.

SH: Find someone that has a lot of twitter followers or lots of money!

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Interviews

An Interview With… Selena Tan (Crazy Rich Asians)

Selena Tan, who plays Alix Young- Cheng in the film spoke to Movie Marker’s Rehna Azim about the success of the movie and her life as a ‘Dim Sum Dolly!

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At the time of writing Crazy Rich Asians has grossed $166,791,962 at the Us box office and $55,100,000 overseas for a Worldwide total of $221,891,962. Audiences are not only flocking to repeat viewings but also turning this movie with no big stars into something of a cultural phenomenon.

The film is being credited with reviving the near dead rom-com genre and boosting tourism to Singapore. Importantly, the film is also being celebrated for bringing to the Hollywood forefront an ethnic minority group that is not aggressively pushed by the media and in advertising.

Selena Tan, who plays Alix Young- Cheng in the film spoke to Movie Marker’s Rehna Azim about the success of the movie and her life as a ‘Dim Sum Dolly!

Q: You started your professional career as a litigation lawyer then moved into the entertainment world. That’s a brave leap. What made you make the change?

A: I had dabbled in theatre and singing since I was at school. From the age of 14 I had been involved in community theatre. It never occurred to me I could do it full time or make a living from it. So I did a law degree and qualified as a lawyer when I was 23 but I soon realised that I had been performing for 10 years and was a way more experienced actress than a lawyer. But law is demanding and it consumed all my time for the first 2 years. But after a while I began to get the itch to perform again. I started doing some theatrical work on the side but really it was like having two careers at the same time. I was constantly exhausted.
So I sat down with my parents and said, I can always go back to the law but I have a real passion for acting. It gives me room for expression the law doesn’t. They were supportive and that’s when I started thinking about what I could do in the entertainment field and how I could best connect with an audience as an artist.

Q: What is a Dim sum dolly?!

A: (laughs) It’s an idea I developed in 2012. Three very different girls performing together; different sizes with different talents and capabilities. I wanted to create a cabaret/comedy/musical act that was socially aware and politically topical. In particular I wanted to tackle taboo subjects. We put on a lot of makeup and that seemed to help us get away with controversial topics because we made people laugh. It was like being able to serve a fluffy cake with a raisin in the middle!

Q: Was Crazy Rich Asians as fun to make as it is to watch?

A: More so! I really lucked out with that movie. But you know, I initially turned down the audition. I’d just finished a big production with my company and had a holiday booked in Phuket. I really needed that break and took it over doing the audition. Fortunately, I was offered a second audition when I returned from holiday because they hadn’t found the right actress for the part. The stars aligned and it all worked out for me. I thought it would be great because I could just be an actor and not worry about the directing or putting the production together.

Q: What was it like on set?

A: Like a resurrection! A total new injection of zest and life. It was like I’d been jump started. I was surrounded by so much talent from around the world and everyone was so passionate about the project. I got to make wonderful new friends and show them my country, its places, its people, the food. Since the film came out I’ve been approached by so many people, including old friends from my past who have all been touched by this movie and what it’s done for our country. Young people tell me they now believe anything is possible. Tourism will go through the roof. It’s just a beautiful film about my country. It’s a love letter to the country actually. Until now people used to say, ‘Singapore? Which part of China is that?’ Now they know who and what we are.

Q: The film has been praised as a step forward for more diversity in cinema but it has also faced some criticism for focusing on one group in Singapore which is multi-ethnic. What do you think the film offers the push for diversity?

A: The push for diversity is a movement. A single film can’t do everything and yes, some people have asked, where are the Singaporean Indians and other groups in this film. Yet the spirit of representing minorities is being embraced by our film and by all those around the world who are going to see it. Certainly , there is a need for an ever more diverse Singapore to be showcased, including people on the fringes of society.
But, you know, the film has already inspired so many people around the world. I have a niece in the UK who suddenly feels that, yes, there might be opportunities for her now in the acting field which she didn’t feel before. She’s excited that maybe she could be like auntie Selena and that thrills me. Young people in India, Malaysia are watching the film and being encouraged in their ambitions. At the same time we’re reaching audiences in LA and New York. It’s mind-blowing!

Q: The success of the film has been tremendous. Of course fans want to know, will there be a sequel?

A: At the premiere in Singapore Warner brothers did say they want to do a follow-up. I certainly want to be in it!

 

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Interviews

Behind Closed Doors with Harley Di Nardo

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Movie Marker Magazine went behind closed doors with actor-musician Harley Di Nardo to talk about his latest movie ‘Dead Envy’.

Can you tell us about your early beginnings growing up, and how you transitioned to life in Los Angeles?

I am a New Yorker, born and bred. I got into hairdressing at a very young age, and it came in handy when it was time to style my bands hair. Their image was in my hands… literally. I always cut hair to make a living in between touring. Now I own a salon in Malibu, and I used to own salons in New York. All this added up. Movies, Hair Industry meets Music World. I had to come to Los Angeles, before it was too late. So about three years ago, I sold that salon in New York and drove West alone. It took me four days, and I documented the trip on Facebook. I just hit the ground running. I scraped together all the funds that I could, and we made a movie. Now it’s about to come out and here we are. I’m very excited… I now live in Silver Strand Beach, Oxnard. I love it… I just go into Hollywood for meetings and if I have an event there, it’s a reason to make a night of it and stay in town.

Harley Di Nardo

You have had a successful music career so far, what inspired you to take the writing-acting-directing journey?

Since I was a kid I always had my mom film me doing like Karate moves etc… hehe. Then I wrote a script when I was about ten years old. It was called the Golden Glove, a story about an Italian boxer who fights for his girlfriend’s honor. I still have it. Anyways, I loved making stories… until I got into high school and met a friend that was in a band. Rock and Roll took over.  I forgot all about movies. That turned into an obsession that saw me moving to New York City and making two albums for major labels. It was quite a ride. I wrote music every day for about five years. I knew that I would want to take a shot at filmmaking. I’ve always had a passion for it. Everyone tells me I’m a walking movie quote. When someone says, or does anything, I’ll relate it to a movie. It’s just the way I see the world. Through movies. It’s always had such an effect on me. About ten years ago I enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Institute. I studied Method Acting and Script Development. From there I started making short films, music videos, anything just to get some experience.

Your latest feature, ‘Dead Envy’, is set to release next month.  Can you tell us about the movie?

Sure. It’s an independent film filled with psycho stalker moments and some dark humor. It’s the tail of a musician/hairdresser (just like me) who enlists the help of a strange drifter to help stage a comeback… and then it all goes horribly wrong. I wrote what I knew. For one, I already knew how to look and behave like a hairdresser/rock n’ roller. I think that really comes across in the film. It’s all very natural. The script has been with me for some time. I had to get it all out. I had to get this hair and rock movie out of my system. The next one I’ll play a doctor or something…

Can you tell us about the music in the movie?

Yeah… There really isn’t any score exactly. I just used a few of my songs that fit into certain parts of the film and also used friends’ songs. Great songs that never got the proper push that they deserved. We just signed a soundtrack deal with Artisan Fire Records. They are excited, and I am excited. It’s been a while since I’ve released music. The soundtrack will be released the same day as the theater release, August 24th. Available on all digital outlets.

As the director and lead actor in the movie, how did you approach one over the other?

Well, it was a learning experience, that’s for sure. It’s hard to see the frame when you are in it. So, I think the next one I’ll take a much smaller role and direct the hell out of it! I always want to stick myself somewhere in the film. I want to be there like Woody Allen or Lena Dunham, but I think a smaller supporting role will be enough. I’m making the film… I just wanna be in it. I love acting.

How close is your character, David Tangiers in the movie to your own personality?

Well, it’s pretty much me. I am him, he is me.

What else can we expect from you over the next few months?

I am writing a paranormal thriller about a young, widowed mother of two, who is repeatedly sexually assaulted by an incubus. She takes matters into her own hands by hiring a YouTube ghost hunter that is pitching a show for Bravo. I might be playing some gigs to promote the film and the soundtrack.

Thank you, Harley for taking the time to chat to us at Movie Marker. We look forward to seeing more of you on the big screen!

To learn more about Harley Di Nardo visit: www.cine-museproductions.com
Follow Dead Envy: www.deadenvythemovie.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/deadenvythemovie/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DeadEnvythemovie/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/deadenvymovie

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