Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Director Talks Mental Health and Misfits

It’s safe to say Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opened well. At $145 million on its first weekend, it falls within the top 20 opening weekends of all time. Not a bad start for the second outing of a space-faring band of misfits.

Writer and director James Gunn was quick to celebrate with a passionate post on his Facebook page. He gave those strong opening numbers a brief nod before jumping to something more personal, the thing that really motivates him to create such fun movies about lovable, damaged people coming together. It’s a motivation that might hit home for a lot of us.

When I was young I felt utterly alone, at times to the point of suicidal thoughts. I never felt like I belonged, had an incredibly difficult time connecting to other people and, despite having love around me, I had an impossible time experiencing it, or taking it in.

But I found my respite in popular entertainment – Marvel comics, science fiction and horror films, the music of The Sex Pistols, The Replacements, and Queen. Suddenly I could see past the bland suburbs where I lived into a more magical world, a world more aligned with what I imagined. Sometimes these works were simply escapist fantasies that distracted me from the difficulties of my internal life. But other times, in the strongest moments – maybe through the words of Alice Cooper or Freddie Mercury, through Cronenberg films, or even in Chewbacca’s growl, I experienced something deeper – the realization that I wasn’t completely alone. Someone out there was as weird and strange and whacked out as I was.

I work because I like telling stories. I work because I love the relationships I have with my collaborators. And I do it because I like connecting with people, and the easiest way I know how to do that is through filmmaking. I do it so that some kid in Thailand, or England, or Colombia, or Brazil, or Japan, or Russia, or anywhere, can hear the frequency of his or her own heart bouncing back off the Guardians.

They’re a group of heartbroken misfits whose lives have been bereft of tenderness and connection and who have a nearly impossible time trusting themselves or others. But they’re learning, one step at a time.

They are me. They are you. We are Groot.

At its heart, Guardians of the Galaxy is a series about people who know a lot about loneliness finding each other — and saving the galaxy in the process. That’s a wonderful story to get out into the world, and with a $145 million box office and counting, it looks like the world is pretty fond of it, too.

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