When James Gunn was 20 years old, he ran into Kevin Bacon at a screening in New York City. The aspiring filmmaker was floored and approached the movie star with an important message.
“I went up to him and said, ‘Mr. Kevin Bacon, you are my favorite actor, along with Mr. Peter Falk’”, recalled Gunn.
Sadly, Falk moved on to the big airborne multiplex before he got a chance to work with Gunn, but fast forward a few decades and Bacon is the focus of “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.” And the actor, who previously appeared in Gunn’s 2010 film “Super,” plays himself — well, a Christmas-loving version of Kevin Bacon who is kidnapped by Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) as a super-fan gift. , Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). It’s a hilarious twist in a very unusual ode to the kind of “this-the-season” movie parties Gunn grew up with. It also turned out to be the perfect escape from the production of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Gunn says there’s a lot more at stake for the upcoming sequel than the previous entries in the franchise, so it was helpful to cleanse the palate by working on something a lot crazier.
“The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” debuts on Disney+ on November 25. Gunn, who was recently brought in to head up DC Studios, spoke to Variety about making the special, casting Bacon, and what to expect from his upcoming farewell to the ‘Guardians’ series.
You tweeted that you’ve been bugging Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige by doing this story for years – did you mean make a special vacation or have Kevin Bacon kidnapped by the Guardians?
The holiday special is something I’ve been wanting to do before “Vol. 2” was even released. I brought it up to Marvel while we were in post-production on that movie. That’s when Kevin [Feige] was like, “Oh, we really should.” I’m a big Santa Claus. I love all the Christmas specials I saw as a kid and wanted to do something like this. But I also wanted to add the anarchy of the Guardians.
What is the most important ingredient to make a good holiday special?
Each Christmas special should have its own twist, but should also have a non-ironic love of Christmas. The specials are what I like best, whether it’s “The Grinch” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Elf”, all of these have an unabashed love for Christmas along with an appreciation for the madness that surrounds it.
If Kevin Bacon turned you down, what would you have done?
I would recast with another actor, but I’m glad I got my first choice.
How much does the Kevin Bacon we see in “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” resemble the real Kevin Bacon?
Kevin doesn’t like Christmas. I found that part hilarious. I’ve seen Kevin show up on set in what’s supposed to be his house, and it’s full of all those huge bouncy castles. It looks like Santa has been throwing up all over the Bacon house, which looks nothing like Kevin Bacon’s house. It looks so LA-esque, which Kevin just isn’t. But Kevin is this super nice guy. He is so talented, so professional, so egoless and just a really nice person. That part of the character is just like him.
A very nerdy question: did you and Kevin Feige talk about how making this movie would prevent Kevin Bacon from playing a character in the MCU? Or were you talking about the fact that he played a villain in “X-Men: First Class,” and that movie is ostensibly part of the Marvel multiverse?
No, we didn’t. One of the things that Kevin Feige has really impressed me about running the MCU is that the most important thing is the project to him. You may have a plan about how you want to do something later, but if it ruins the thing right in front of you, then it won’t work. The best thing for the holiday special is Kevin Bacon, and if that means Kevin Bacon is a different character later in the MCU, it doesn’t really matter. It is not real. None of this is real. He was the perfect person to cast as Kevin Bacon. If we had cast John Schneider as Kevin Bacon, it wouldn’t have worked out so well.
The movie ends with a hint that there will be more specials. Do you plan to make more?
It’s unlikely I’d get back to it at this point, at least for the foreseeable future. But who knows?
Much of this movie plays like buddy comedy with Klementieff’s Mantis and Bautista’s Drax. Was that something you wanted to create?
I think of Drax and Mantis as the Costello and Costello group. They are the accidental fire hose of the MCU and these forces of nature. I love those two together, and I feel like they’re really background characters for a lot of movies now. We really didn’t get a chance to get to know Mantis either, as she was this defeated character enslaved by this Celestial in “Vol. 2.” She used to be meek, but now she’s been with these characters for several years now and her personality is coming through. She’s an idiot, but she’s saddled with someone who’s an even bigger idiot in Drax. I loved the dynamic between the two.
Do you have this special and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3″ at a time?
I probably did. Honestly, I wrote the special in three days. There were literally no notes from Marvel and nothing changed except for me occasionally adding things while we’re shooting. It was really easy and it stayed easy all the way through which was great because “Vol. 3 is actually very emotional. We shot them both at the same time, so shoot “Vol. 3” for a few days, which was tough, and then it was nice to have a day off to shoot this show. Because the stakes for this were low. It was just crazy. One thing that’s cool about it is that it doesn’t have a bad guy in it. There haven’t been any Marvel stories I can remember where there hasn’t been a villain.
Were you planning on making a movie without a villain?
Before writing the screenplay, I wrote a treatment, and in the treatment there was another threat. I just realized I wasn’t interested in that other thing. At the end, there was an action scene where Kevin Bacon was jumping around and doing action stunts, which would have been pretty cool, but the threat didn’t interest me at all. What interested me was the interaction between the characters. So I just cut that out and made it into a story about people.