‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1’ was meant to be dramatically different

Star-Lord could have had a completely different meaning.

words by: Alee Kwong
Jan 20, 2022

Argue all you want, but director James Gunn has been extremely influential in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s tone and pace since the 2014 release of his film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1. Gunn’s distinct off-beat (and mostly verbally crude), style has not only provided an overarching tone for the MCU, but also recently saved DC’s The Suicide Squad. It’ll now bring the same energy in his HBO Max series, Peacemaker.


The studio didn’t understand the vision

Prior to committing to the franchise, Marvel Studios and Gunn knew what was stacked against them. Due to Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox owning the rights to many famous Marvel characters, Marvel Studios had very few heroes to choose from.


Not many people (aside from comic book fans) knew about the Guardians of the Galaxy, and people predicted that this attempt to introduce them to the Marvel Cinematic Universe would inevitably flop. Against all odds, Guardians of the Galaxy prevailed and is now one of the most popular superhero franchises in Marvel’s rolodex.


Oddly enough, what made the franchise so popular initially were elements that were not fully understood by the Marvel Creative Committee during production.


In the book, The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, producer, Jeremy Latcham, spoke about the  Creative Committee’s skepticism towards creative choices James Gunn added to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


“They did not understand the music. They didn’t understand the tone,” Latcham said. “We really fought for the movie, and to keep James’ vision intact. We knew we were on to something special. We just kept pushing forward.”



Casting was a difficult process

On top of not understanding the music choices for the film, they were surprised by Gunn’s casting decisions. While holding auditions for Drax the Destroyer (played by Dave Bautista), they made it very clear that they were not considering any professional wrestlers.


“At first I thought, ‘Maybe there’s a misunderstanding.’ But no, I was told this, [that pro wrestlers are not being considered],” Bautista recalls. While professional wrestlers were not being considered for the Guardians role, one actor was sought after to play the relatable Earth-born hero, Star-Lord.


Parks and Recreation actor Chris Pratt was chosen to play Star-Lord, but (in the book) he reveals that he passed on the role multiple times, believing that he wasn’t the right person for the role. “I was really redefining who I was as an actor. I didn’t think I’d fit unless I’d play a sidekick character. I didn’t see myself as a Star-Lord type, or a hero type. This is gonna sound crazy, but I even passed on the opportunity to audition for it a couple of times.”


The origin of the “plucky” leader was also meant to go more in the galactic royalty direction rather than the cosmic celestial direction. In an early version of the script, Peter Quill’s father was J’son, an emperor, which would make Peter a prince by blood. However, Avengers director, Joss Whedon, advised against this storyline. Following the strongly worded suggestion of Whedon, Marvel Studios decided to make Peter Quill the son of the celestial Ego (played by Kurt Russell).


After COVID-19 delays and wrapping up storyboarding, the third installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy production is underway and set to release in theaters May 2023.


Photos via Marvel/Disney+