'Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special' brings Kevin Bacon into the Marvel fold, teases new movie
It’s been a big year in James Gunn's life, and he’s capping it off by giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe the gift of Kevin Bacon.
For real, Bacon’s an MCU regular now, the same as Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and Megan Thee Stallion.
“I will be disappointed if he doesn't become an Avenger. I've let everyone know that,” says Gunn, the writer/director who teams the “Footloose” star with his merry band of intergalactic misfits in “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” (streaming now on Disney+).
In a tinsel-tinged tale that doubles as a lead-up to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (in theaters May 5), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is bummed because Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) is missing. His teammates Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) remember that Peter loved Christmas when he was a kid on Earth – and Bacon is his all-time hero – so they hop in a spaceship and travel to LA to bring the actor back as a present for their sad buddy.
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Drax and Mantis together are “Costello and Costello,” Gunn says. “They've been in the distant background for (several) Marvel movies and to bring them to the forefront and just enjoy them as the unattended firehose that the two of them are together was a lot of fun. She just gets so frustrated with Drax, but then half the time it's really her fault anyway. They're both such dinguses.”
High jinks with decorations, drunken shenanigans and a dust-up with the law ensue, but Gunn says he also loved embracing a 1970s holiday special vibe and telling “a sentimental story about the holidays within the anarchic trappings” of his space-bound bunch. “You need to anchor yourself to something emotionally to tell these stories. If it's just a giant beam from the sky that's going to kill the world, people surprisingly care a lot less about that.”
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The Bacon of it all goes back to the original 2014 “Guardians”: Gunn included a scene where Star-Lord, in trying to impress Gamora, tells of the legend of “Footloose” and how a “great hero named Kevin Bacon" taught a city that “dancing is the greatest thing there is.”
It’s become a running joke in the MCU, leading to the actor’s appearance in the holiday special, and Bacon recalls first seeing “Guardians” at a matinee in Manhattan. “I’m sitting there and all of a sudden they're talking about me,” Bacon says. “You can imagine that that's a sort of out-of-body experience, even for the experiences that I've had, which have been plenty.”
Bacon, who enjoyed the Christmas party feel on set (“It was 100% fun and silly”), also sings a holiday tune with the band Old 97's – dressed up as a musical group of space outlaw Ravagers – in the special, which filmed at the same time as “Vol. 3."
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Gunn included nods to what fans will see in the upcoming movie, such as the debut of the new four-story-tall ship The Bowie and an appearance from the telepathic Soviet space dog Cosmo, a computer-generated character played by Maria Bakalova. “She was on her hands and knees on set every day, walking around being a dog in her gray (motion capture) suit, and it really added a lot to have her there,” Gunn says.
There’s also a Batman joke in the “Guardians” special that’s funnier knowing Gunn’s new gig as co-chairman and CEO of Warner Bros.’ DC Studios with producer Peter Safran. Being in charge of Superman, Wonder Woman and their superfriends, “I love it,” says “The Suicide Squad” director and “Peacemaker” creator. “It’s a unique opportunity and it’s been a great situation so far.” But his “priority right now” is finishing “Vol. 3,” a “very emotional movie” that caps off Gunn’s “Guardians” trilogy and involved “a lot of tears” on their final days of filming.
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“If you look at the list of trilogies, there aren't a lot of good third movies," Gunn says. "Being able to do something that is up to snuff really has been my goal from the beginning.”
He may have unleashed a holiday special, premiered his first TV show and scored a cool job in 2022, but “the real thing” for Gunn was marrying actress Jennifer Holland in September after more than seven years together. “That's the thing that matters the most. That is the thing that is permanent,” he says. “I got very lucky to have a person in my life like Jenn, who I love so much. It just dwarfs all those other things.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Guardians of the Galaxy': James Gunn brings Kevin Bacon into the MCU