While director James Gunn is the name most closely associated with the creative side of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the project would never have been possible without the ongoing efforts of screenwriter Nicole Perlman, who developed the project over a period of several years – it was her draft that ultimately led to the film being greenlit. During our trip to Comic-Con, we sat down to chat with Nicole about her experiences working on the project.
“I joined up on this program that Marvel was running, where they took five semi-established screenwriters, gave them each an office on the campus, and we got to choose from a list of the lesser-developed properties that they had. I chose Guardians of the Galaxy, and that was my project that I worked on exclusively for two years. And then they brought me back [for six months] to do another draft as a freelancer.”
On the challenges of working with lesser known characters:
“In a way, I think it was helpful that people didn’t know who they were. I think it gave me a lot more freedom to do what I wanted with the characters. They’re true to the 2008 reboot, in the sense that the tone and the character groupings are similar, but the actual back story for Peter Quill was completely up for grabs, so I rebooted it. It’s completely different, so I felt I was able to bring a lot to the project because they weren’t super well-known characters. Since there weren’t all these expectations of what the movie should be, I felt very free.”
On keeping characters like Rocket and Groot relatable:
“I would say that it’s just like any other science fiction movie – the tree and the raccoon are either aliens or they’ve been subjected to experimentation, and there’s no reason why they’re unusual for a science fiction film. But I do think that what makes them relatable is that they’re going through real emotions, and they have real feelings for each other as friends, and that’s extremely universal.
It’s funny, Rocket ended up being my favorite character of the group. And even though he’s a raccoon, he’s the most human in the group, in a lot of ways. He’s been through a lot, he’s distrustful of people and slow to warm up, but he’s really loyal to his friend Groot and there are all these very human elements to him. So I think in some ways he’s the most relatable character in the entire movie.”
On writing strong roles for women:
“I think women as protagonists who are strong, and not just caricatures, tend to be a lot more prolific in science fiction films and fantasy films than they would be otherwise. And I think maybe that has to do with the fact that science fiction is a little less threatening, in some way. On some level, science fiction is always able to push boundaries a little bit – the first interracial kiss on screen was on Star Trek – and I think people feel more comfortable when it’s science fiction.
Not that it’s such a radical idea to have women be protagonists, but it definitely seems more common to have a strong female character be the lead in a science fiction film. And I look forward to the day when there are more superhero films with just a single female superhero. I think that day is coming.”
Guardians of the Galaxy opens on August 1. Read our review here.