She may not be a well-known name yet, but Nicole Perlman is the woman responsible for breathing life into The Guardians of the Galaxy on the big screen as the film’s screenwriter, giving Rocket Raccoon and Peter “Star Lord” Quill more than a few memorable one-liners.
Cineplex went one-on-one with the Marvel co-writer at San Diego’s Comic-Con to talk about the science of space within the Guardians universe, that Black Widow solo movie we’re rooting for, and she answers the most important question of all: Who would win a fight between The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy?
CINEPLEX: How did you get involved with Guardians of the Galaxy?
Nicole Perlman: I chose it from a list that Marvel gave me of their lesser-known properties, some that were much better-known than Guardians. I can’t really list what they were but they were very recognizable, especially in the comics world. I chose to do Guardians because it was the most science-fiction based of all the options and I knew that Marvel was going to be expanding in to the cosmic universe and it seemed like a great first foray into that. I had written a lot of projects that were space-based so I felt really confident and comfortable in that realm. And the characters were really great.
I had some friends express surprise that I went with Guardians over some of the others. I never regretted it; it was always a fun place to be.
CINEPLEX: You’ve picked a huge film for your feature film writing debut. What does it feel like to have your name attached to a huge project like Guardians of the Galaxy?
It’s kind of crazy. I started working on it so long ago and when I would tell people I was writing this Marvel movie they would say “Yeah, sure you are. How come we haven’t heard of this movie before?” It’s science-fiction and it’s based on comics that no one has really heard of at the time and of course now it’s more familiar. Now it’s really gratifying to be like “That’s what I have been working on for years.”
CINEPLEX: What is it about space that interests you? You keep coming back to it.
I think people are starting to think space is sexy again, but I’ve always sort of thought space was sexy! “What’s out there? We’re so small and it’s so big and awesome!” There’s so much unknown and we’re limited with what we can see in terms of our own solar system that there’s a ways beyond it that’s sort of murky and I love that. I love that there’s some really big questions that are unanswered.
And beyond the science fiction, I find the actual history and the people who are working in space, the engineers and the astronauts, to be really interesting people. I am drawn to characters that take risks or are really passionate about something.
CINEPLEX: How much of the galaxy factors in to Guardians of the Galaxy?
We had to place it pretty far away from our solar system so there’s not too much of our solar system in there. It has to take place far enough away from Earth so the events taking place are not noticeable so it is very far away from our galaxy.
CINEPLEX: So there is some real science to the space in the movie?
I think I tried to take it a little further [into reality] because I hate explosions in space, but it still manages to be real and a very fun ride.
CINEPLEX: Marvel tends to go with well-established writers for their screenplays, like Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau, or Kenneth Branagh. Did you look to this as a challenge as a new writer?
Marvel develops a lot of projects and not all of them get made, it doesn’t always reflect on the quality of the project, it is just sort of what they have room for on their slate. I just feel very lucky that this project as opposed to the other ones that were in contention for the same summer slot happened.
I don’t think I really fully believed it until the tag at the end of The Avengers with Thanos that I realized, “Okay it’s happening.” That was a thrilling moment.
CINEPLEX: Who was your favourite character to write?
I liked writing Gamora a lot. It’s nice to write a kick-ass female who has feelings and isn’t a robot or a caricature. I really liked writing Rocket. It was great when I convinced Marvel to let me put him in. At first they were really dubious that I could make him a character and not a cartoon and I am really glad they were really happy with the results.
I didn’t write with cast in mind though I always kind of did think “Zoe Saldana” because I thought she’d make a great Gamora.
CINEPLEX: Your name often gets mentioned alongside a solo Black Widow treatment that you wrote and Marvel liked. Is that something that you are hoping gets the greenlight and something you’d want to be involved with?
I do hope it gets developed. I didn’t work on it as much as Guardians, and they also used me as an uncredited writer for Thor and I wrote all of Natalie Portman’s scenes . The Black Widow project didn’t get to the script phase, it was just a treatment but it was pretty in depth, and hopefully one day we’ll see it, Fingers crossed!
CINEPLEX: Superhero movies have such a large female fan base but it seems that there are very few women behind-the-scenes . Why don’t we see more females involved behind the scenes on superhero movies when they are this passionate fan base?
In television you have a lot more freedom to be gender blind, race blind, sexual orientation blind. It feels like a lot more collaborative spirit. I am quoting [“The Walking Dead” producer] Gale Anne Hurd - with film, because it’s so much money for these big films, and the budgets are big and risks are big, the studio has to convince their stockholders that they can trust somebody who is a female doing something that is stereotypically a male job. A lot of those people that need convincing are men so it’s a little bit of falling behind TV and comics, which has so much more women. I think we can push the boundaries in other mediums and hopefully film can catch up.
CINEPLEX: Are there any films or books that served as inspiration in the script process?
I love the “Firefly” series and I’ve always been a big Joss Whedon fan so tonally I would say it’s Whedonesque. All of my favourite science-fiction movies are very different. I love Contact, Dark City, the original Total Recall, and The Abyss is one of my favourite science-fiction movies of all time. But Guardians is really a Whedonesque universe.
CINEPLEX: Who do you think would win a fight- Guardians of the Galaxy or The Avengers.
[Laughs]. You know Guardians would fight dirty, so I think they might have the advantage but Avengers have been working as a team for longer so it’s an equal advantage. I would have to vote for my team and say Guardians because they have some special skills that haven’t been fully been revealed so they have some secrets up their sleeves.