James Gunn explains a major musical cameo in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first seasonal Special Presentation was the Halloween-themed Werewolf By Night, which premiered in October of this year. As the director of the first two Guardians of the Galaxy films, Gunn brought the lovable galactic team to the MCU and is set to complete his trilogy with Guardians of the Galaxy. Vol. 3 next year. Gunn, who has previously mentioned his appreciation for the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, was reportedly vocal about his desire to create his own special centered around the superhero team. This finally comes to fruition with The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, set to air on Disney+ this month.
The trailer for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special revealed a major guest star with Kevin Bacon‘s appearance, paying off several jokes about the actor from the films and continuing the franchise’s tradition of pop culture references. Featuring many familiar faces from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, the special will introduce Maria Bakalova as Cosmo the Spacedog while also featuring a surprise appearance from the alt-country band Old 97’s. While speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Gunn opens up about the band’s cameo, which he was excited about for several reasons. See what the director to say below:
“[The Old 97’s have] been my favorite band since the ‘90s, and I’ve seen them in concert a billion times. I met [lead vocalist] Rhett Miller in 2005 because I put an Old 97’s song at the end of Slither, my first movie. It plays over the end credits, and Rhett and I have stayed in touch ever since then. And so I started writing this song for the beginning [of the special], ‘I Don’t Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime Is Here).’ So I had all these lyrics for it, and it kept changing. I walked around my house, singing into my iPhone and trying to figure out how the song was going to work. And finally, I approached Rhett and asked, ‘Will you help me write this song? Because I can’t do it by myself.’ And he said, ‘Absolutely.’ And so we started sending tons of recordings and lyrics back and forth, and we wrote that song together. And after we wrote that song, I was like, ‘Why don’t you guys play this alien band? Why don’t you come on set and act?’ And he was like, ‘Okay.’ And then we took a previous song that they had recorded, and they re-recorded it with Kevin Bacon for the end of the show. So Rhett had to act, and he’s never really acted before. He said, ‘I’m really nervous about it. I don’t know what to do.’ So I said, ‘This is like when I saw the Doobie Brothers on What’s Happening!! when I was a kid. They were terrible actors, but that almost added to the charm. So if you’re a terrible actor, it’s going to be just fine. I don’t care if you’re a terrible actor.’ And instead, he was great. He’s great in the role. So the whole thing was really a joy.”
The Many Cameos In The Guardians of the Galaxy Franchise, Explained
Gunn’s signature tone, extensive pop culture knowledge, colorful visual aesthetic, curated soundtrack, and zany banter went a long way in making the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise a beloved part of the MCU. The characters have also appeared in films such as Avengers: Infinity War and Thor: Love and Thunder, bringing their trademark comedic style and frequent references to those properties. The pop culture references utilized in the Guardians franchise mainly come from Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who often feels nostalgic for his childhood on Earth before he was abducted.
A second layer of comedy embedded in Quill’s frequent mentions of Earth culture come from the fact that he was abducted in 1988, which means most of his confident opinions and knowledge about Earth’s media are specific to the 1980s. Quill is an admirer of Bacon due to the latter’s role in Footloose, which is why Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) seek to kidnap the actor in order to cheer up their friend for the holiday special. Quill’s nostalgia for the 1980s is also the reason that David Hasselhoff was referenced frequently and even appeared in a brief cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy. Vol. 2. Other Guardians of the Galaxy celebrity cameos have included Sylvester Stallone, Miley Cyrus’ voice, Seth Green as Howard the Duck, Ving Rhames, and of course, Stan Lee.
While Quill’s nostalgia for his time on Earth is part of the reason for the franchise’s references to pop culture, another factor plays an even bigger role. Given the celestial setting of the films and the many alien characters in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, the films run the risk of disorienting and confusing viewers if they don’t have something to latch onto. Thus, the familiar references and Earth-centric humor invite the human audience into the world of the Guardians of the Galaxy and let them in on the joke, enhancing their enjoyment of the films. The franchise’s Easter eggs, pop culture references, iconic soundtracks, and cameos make the films a treat to re-watch as well as setting them apart tonally from the rest of the MCU. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is set to make that cheery tradition even better by featuring an Old 97’s musical cameo.
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