Warning: Spoilers ahead for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3Fans and critics have applauded Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the third and final film in James Gunn’s fiery Marvel trilogy. To be sure, it’s delivered an emotional closure for our beloved posse of intergalactic misfits. Audiences were thrust into Rocket’s (Bradley Cooper) traumatic backstory as the Guardians fought diligently to save his life after a surprise attack. We also got a new, seething foe in the form of The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). By film’s end, Rocket is back to his old sassy self, and Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) hands over the Guardians’ leadership role to him before venturing off to reunite with his own father. Meanwhile, Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) decide to go their own ways, too.
Now what? Well, we’ll always have those yummy mid-credits, won’t we? In due time, we see Rocket presiding over a new crew, joined by Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Groot (Vin Diesel), Cosmo the Space Dog (Maria Bakalova), and the suddenly-kin Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), along with alien pet Blurp. Vol. 4, anyone?
Hold that thought. Sean Gunn, who has played Kraglin in all three films — he also appeared in Thor: Love and Thunder and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, plays a more pivotal role in Vol 3, finding himself in a position to save, well, too many souls to accurately count. Gunn, who can next be seen in the upcoming anthology film Give Me an A, shared more about the Vol 3, working alongside his director sibling, James Gunn, and the road ahead for Marvel Studios in this exclusive MovieWeb interview. Dive in.
Sean Gunn on Working with His Brother
MovieWeb: Congratulations on the film. Many people are saying it’s the best of the trilogy. What’s one of the best things about working with your brother, James Gunn?
Sean Gunn: The best thing about working with my brother is that we have a shorthand for communicating with one another, which we’ve had since we were kids. We’ve worked together so much, we cut out all the extra stuff. And we’re able to just focus on making a scene as good as possible. He doesn’t have to say too many words to get me to understand what his note is, and where he wants me to go in a scene.
MW: A rare kind on symbiosis?
Gunn: A lot of times I can tell by the look on his face if something is working or not. That’s pretty cool.
MW: What unique things have you realized working with James?
Gunn: My brother, James Gunn, in many ways, is his best self when he’s directing a movie because he’s done a lot of the heavy lifting already. He’s the most prepared director you could ever work with. I think his crew and other cast members would back me up on that. Nobody is more prepared on set than James and, you know, from knowing him my whole life, I would have thought he would have gotten frazzled a little more on set; that there would be things that might bother him more. But he’s so calm. I learned that on the first movie, and I admire that a great deal.
Sean Gunn’s Initial Response to the Script
MW: What were your initial thoughts when you first read the Vol. 3 script, knowing it would complete the Guardians trilogy?
Gunn: A lot of audiences are finding out now, I was a little surprised by how sad parts of it are. And I say that wanting to make it very clear that it’s my favorite thing about the movie. I love that there’s a sadness to it because the whole idea of the Guardians as a concept is that they’re this found family. They’ve realized they’re a group of individuals who know that if they give of themselves love, and accept other people, that you can find your family anywhere.
MW: They get real. Especially in this film with the whole Rocket backstory.
Gunn: Yes. The backstory of all the Guardians is filled with serious loss and past trauma. You can’t tell that story correctly without a little sadness, and without understanding there’s trauma and pain. That’s because there’s some messed up sh*t going on. So, we dig into Rocket’s past. And think about it: people call Rocket this wisecracking character, or think of him as this lovable little character. Then you realize here that Rocket really had this dark, painful past. There’s a reason that Rocket has a hard time liking anyone, much less loving anyone, right? I was pleasantly surprised that the movie investigated Rocket’s history.
MW: Fans truly dig Rocket.
Gunn: The other thing that really surprised me, and one of my favorite things about the script, is how Quill’s relationship with Gomora is tackled head on. There are all sorts of tricks you can pull to rewind things and suddenly, there’s a way to get Gomora again, and they’ll be right back where they started. But that’s not what happened here. All the events that happened in the Avengers movies are part of the story. I found the way their story unfolds here to be very truthful, and just excellent.
On Kraglin and His Importance
MW: Kraglin Obfonteri had a much more pivotal role in Vol. 3.
Gunn: Kraglin is another character who’s had a similar journey to a lot of the Guardians. He’s a little adrift. We don’t know too much about him in the first movie. He’s kind of a peripheral character. Then, in the second movie, we learned his story has similarities to the parable of the prodigal son, where he’s the son who stays, and Quill has gone off, and their surrogate father, Yondu, welcomes Quill back. And clearly, he adores Quill, and Kraglin is on the outside saying, “What about me? I’ve been here the whole time. I stayed.” And, you know, all the people he’s closest to, besides Quill, are killed in the second movie. But we don’t we don’t dig too much into that. Because again, he’s not a central character. But for me as an actor, I’m carrying all those things in the third movie, so I loved being able to find where Kraglin can find his family and home, and really tackle what he’s been dealing with.
MW: Yondu’s arrow is great. That’s your thing in Vol. 3. It looks totally real in the film, of course. But what is the real arrow made of?
Sean Gunn: Well, there’s two of them. There’s the dummy arrow, which is made of rubber, just in case. I mean, you don’t want to hurt anybody. Then there’s also the — I don’t know what you would call it — the master arrow, or something that was actually firm and hard, and feels the way that you would imagine the arrow itself to feel like. And I do try to imbue it with something. I really do try to feel some kind of magic when I’m holding it, but it’s certainly an honor to be taking over the arrow [in the film].
Marvel’s Biggest Challenge Moving Forward
MW: It’s a curious time for Marvel Studios. A lot is at stake. What’s your take on where things stand now as we move through Phase 5? What are the biggest challenges?
Gunn: The most interesting challenge is the idea of comic book movie fatigue. It’s not invented. There’s something real about that, right? And it happens all the time in cinema. You have certain genres that are super popular for a decade or so. Then audiences want to switch it up. They start wanting something a little different. That’s challenging because you can’t keep doing the same things repeatedly. You can’t expect audiences to keep wanting the same things. That’s always going to be tricky, but that’s also the business that we chose. That’s true of moviemaking in general.
MW: You must find new opportunities within the challenge.
Gunn: The biggest opportunity is finding how, as a medium, to persevere. Comic books persevere. It’s not like comic books were cool for 10 years, then they went away, and people stopped buying them. Comic books have been amazing for many decades. Because it’s always the storytelling that makes it that makes it interesting and amazing. You’re constantly having to reinvent yourself but reinvent yourself within this sphere of telling a great story. Those two things are interconnected.
MW: What’s the best action moving forward then?
Gunn: One of the biggest challenges for Marvel, and one of the biggest opportunities — it’s the same problem, right? — is telling a new story. All you have to do is tell a new and interesting story, and you’re right there with audiences again. Are you going to be the absolute pinnacle, top of the box office over and over again for decades? Maybe not. No one can do that. But it shouldn’t be expected to do that. What should be expected is that you keep telling great stories, and that audiences like it, and you sustain what it is. You sustain that ability to keep telling fresh new stories all the time.
MW: So, this is a big transition time?
Gunn: I tend to never listen when people say, “Well, the business is moving past that, and now we’re going on to something else.” Because even though that’s always true, it’s also, “So what? That’s not what we’re doing. We’re not trying to anticipate what’s going to be the next big thing. Maybe executives do that. But storytellers don’t do that. We tell stories!” That’s a long-winded answer, but I’m optimistic, and I’m an actor, so I can work in any genre or whatever throw at me, but you know, nothing is dying. Everything’s going to be just fine. Marvel will be fine. We just have to keep our eye on the ball and keep telling great stories.
Will There Be a Guardians Vol. 4?
MW: Obviously, Vol. 3’s mid-credit scenes show us a new set of Guardians that we might see more of in the future. Any thoughts on what we might experience with this new clan moving forward?
Gunn: [Laughs] I don’t know. Do you have any insight info for me? You know, I am really proud of the characters we created, and I hope audiences respond to them. I never close any doors. As an actor, it’s like, as soon as I think things are going to go one way, they probably end up going another. So, are there more stories to tell with these characters? If the answer is yes, then I’d love to be involved. But this is also an ending of sorts for the incarnation of the Guardians we all know. So, if that means that that’s a closure of sorts, that could be fine as well. I’d love to do more work, but I don’t know right now. I really don’t.
MW: Well, it must be exciting to be in anything Marvel- or DC-related. You lend your voice to DC’s Creature Commandos, in fact. Is it somewhat daunting? Do people really stop you on the street?
Gunn: Yeah, I get stopped on the street. I’m fortunate to have been in the business 25 years and my “fame” level has very slowly gone up over those years. I never had that big spike where suddenly, I was a nobody, then suddenly, everybody knew who I was. It was never like that. I’d maybe get recognized once every six months, then once every three months, then once a month. It’s been incremental. So, I’ve been able to handle it in that way.
Gunn: This movie… maybe it’s new for me, but I don’t worry about that. I like being recognized because it means people have seen my work. And in general, if they’re talking to me, it’s because they like what I do. So, I will always be grateful for that. And I mean that sincerely… that if people stop me because they’ve seen it, that’s the greatest thing in the world. I just want to keep moving forward. I love acting. It’s my favorite.
From Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is in theaters now.
This story originally appeared on Movieweb