Fast Company: Why were you the right person to direct the Guardians movies?
James Gunn: When I was a kid, I would sit in my room and listen to AM pop radio and read Marvel Comics. That was my life. I had a [toy] raccoon collection. So Guardians of the Galaxy is really everything I loved all in one soup.
FC: You’re active on social media, answering questions from fans and teasing out aspects of your films. Why are you so accessible?
JG: Some of my favorite directors of the 1970s became rich and famous and lost touch with other human beings not like themselves. I can now maintain a connection to other people, not just in the U.S. but all over the world. It allows me insight into someone who’s 15 in Thailand. It makes me feel good too. When I was 15, I met Joe Strummer from the Clash in a record store, and he had a conversation with me. For a kid from Manchester, Missouri, it was the best thing of all time.
FC: Why are your movies’ soundtracks so important to you?
JG: I always build music into the screenplay and bake it into the story. Not just the soundtrack but the score. We write the score before we shoot the movie so I can film to the music. The fact that people add them at the last minute is insane to me.
FC: Rob Zombie’s voice appears in all your films. Why do you insert hidden gems like that?
JG: [Laughs] Rob’s a friend, and he appeared in my first movie, Slither, so now it’s become my signature. But I love putting a lot of stuff in my movies for fans. In Slither, every street sign referenced a classic horror film. There were hundreds of them. I’m in service to those people who want to watch a movie again and again.
FC: What role do you play in the marketing of your movies?
JG: I love the part of selling the movie. I’ve been assertive with Guardians that we don’t show all of its twists and turns in the trailer. Our trailers center around jokes and the plot that takes place in the first 15 minutes. That can be a hard thing to do. For the first movie, I was insistent that we make a Baby Groot dancing-plant toy. I don’t think they were taking me as seriously then, but they are now.