Everyone's talking about Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, but do you know who wrote it? That'd be two people: director James Gunn and the woman it all began with, Nicole Perlman, who joined us during last week's San Diego Comic-Con to discuss exactly how one puts together a Marvel blockbuster and what it's been like for her to have her name associated with a truly major motion picture.
"I don't think when I first started that I had any idea that the project was actually going to get made," she told us. "I think it was very much a long shot. I was in the Marvel writing program, and they gave me the option of choosing from a list of about a dozen properties that they had that were lesser known...things that they were thinking about making into a movie eventually, but there was no guarantee that it actually would get chosen to be produced."
"I wanted to do science fiction, and this was the project that seemed the most sci-fi," she continued. "It had a large cosmic Marvel scope to it, had great characters, a really fun tone to it, so I was really drawn to it, and that's why I chose it. But I didn't realize that it was going to be a greenlit, produced movie, so in a way it was very unintimidating, because I could do whatever I wanted."
Even if she didn't know what it would turn into, this certainly wasn't a small project to take on. So how did Nicole tackle putting Guardians together out of the title's lengthy history? The old-fashioned way - with lots of due diligence. "I was sent home with binders and binders of comic books that I could choose from. So it was very much an exercise in sorting through all the different characters and storylines," she explained. "I chose the characters that, most of them are in the 2008 reboot of the Guardians comic."
Then there was fitting the film within the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. "They wanted it to be very much a standalone film," she continued, "and a lot of the easter eggs were added later on in the process, once we knew the movie was going to be made. The MacGuffin of the film is very much a thing that I suggested...and I think that that was really exciting, when they allowed me to do that." (By the way, it's not a standalone film anymore: Guardians 2 is in development, slated for a July 2017 release.)
But that's all production stuff. Let's not forget that Nicole is in a position that most of us will never be in: finding herself as the co-screenwriter of a summer blockbuster. What's stuck with her from the totality of this experience? "I think going on set was the most amazing thing," she reflected. "Actually seeing spaceships, and seeing the amount of craftsmanship that's put into creating these worlds.
"I went into the weapons design area, and it was massive and they had 700 different kinds of everything, and the amount of detail...it was just so in-depth. And also the makeup, the prosthetics for the different aliens. There were 600 people working on the production in London, so it was a really incredible experience."