Warning: some light SPOILERS for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 are in play. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you’ve been warned.
Home renovations are a fact of life that no one can escape. Sometimes the roof needs to be reshingled or the plumbing needs to be updated. Or, in the case of the unnamed Georgia man we’re about to discuss, a garage needs to be turned into a living room. That’s exactly what production designer Beth Mickle did for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, as a very important scene in the new Marvel movie called for some exacting specifications.
I had the privilege of speaking with Ms. Mickle in a conversation we had to celebrate the recent release of writer/director James Gunn’s big MCU threequel. Through our talk, all sorts of awesome secrets as to how this Guardians film was brought to life thanks to its amazing, practical effects-heavy sets. One of the best stories to come out of our talk was the one where Beth recalled the thought processes that led to one man’s house getting a Marvel-inspired extreme makeover in the name of depicting the creature comforts of home on Counter-Earth.
When it came to the set for the bat family that Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord and the rest of his Guardians crew seek help from, there was a lot of thought that went into just what was required of this setting. As Beth Mickle told CinemaBlend, that location scouting required the following considerations:
That was done just south of Atlanta, south of our studios there, in a small cul-de-sac suburb. It was perfect, we wanted it to be single-level housing, very sort of geometric in shape. We went along, looked at a bunch of these different cul-de-sacs, and tried to find one that could have the layout that we would need for the choreography. Where could the spaceship land? Where could they get out? Is there a good T-junction where we could have the humanimals come and approach them, and attack them.
During the frantic rush to save the life of Rocket (Bradley Cooper), his Guardians family lands on the planet that’s been carefully curated by the still-alive High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) as a home for his latest batch of genetic experiments. Trying to find the dastardly villain’s headquarters on the Arête, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) seeks an assist from a family of bat people, which leads to a dining room scene that amps up the tension and the comedy of this quest.
As we saw in the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and several of the promo spots that were released afterwards, our friends’ first contact with these “humanimals” turns into one where objects are quickly hurled at their heads. That action came with very specific geographical concerns that Mickle’s design work that would inspire and inform the world of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
In another portion of our interview, Beth told me that when it came to building the actual sets, a vital element that came in handy was a heavy pre-visualization regimen that Gunn actually undertakes in the early phases. The way that she described things is exactly what you'd expect from the man who currently has two Guardians of the Galaxy movies and The Holiday Special all waiting for Disney+ subscription holders to enjoy all over again.
To paraphrase how Beth Mickle ran that process down, any given image begins with James Gunn’s own personal shot list. From that list comes storyboards, which are then translated into pre-visualization videos, which all results in a layout of what action needs to happen in the scene. Mickle then uses that blueprint to craft sets as astronomical as The Bowie, the largest ship in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, or as down to Counter-Earth as a suburban neighborhood.
However, even with the right Georgia suburb picked out, there was a bit of a problem when it came to finding a house that would be able to realistically look out on some key locations on the planet. Beth Mickle continued to reveal the chain of events that led to one lucky man landing an extensive free renovation, as follows:
What we ended up doing was we found a great cul-de-sac that worked, had the right choreography, and had a house within the proximity to the T-junction that worked. But it didn’t have a dining room where they could all sit and eat, and look out to the spaceship. And look out to the Arête, which we needed for the story. So anyway, we ended up finding a house where a gentleman had a garage that was windowed, and that would actually face out to the street. And so we replaced his garage doors with a big bay window, added big windows to it. We carpeted his garage, put in a drop ceiling, wallpapered it, and we turned his garage into that dining room. That was actually a really fun transformation on location. I always thought that he should keep that dining room. I think he kept some parts of it.
Now getting a renovated garage done by some of the best builders and craftspeople that Marvel Studios can buy might be a bit of an inconvenience under normal circumstances. Well, this Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 story isn’t exactly a normal one, and the final twist of the tale proves that. The production designer, who’s been working with James Gunn since their collaboration on The Suicide Squad, brought this anecdote home through how the unnamed benefactor gave one last helping hand in an hour of need:
The gentleman who owned it was so nice. I looked in the house, and tried to see how I could stage it, and then he had to go for work. I was done scouting his house, and I thought, ‘Oh, ok. It wasn’t gonna work.’ I looked at a few others, and then I looked back and I realized ‘Wait, that’s his garage? And there are windows in it?’ I was like, ‘Wait a minute, maybe…’ So he actually came back from work, and opened his house back up so I could have another look. And then sure enough, I was like, ‘Actually, your garage sir, your garage will do.’
It feels like luck was on Beth Mickle’s side when it came to this Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 location scout. Finding that perfect neighborhood, with a gentleman who was open to having his garage renovated to make for the perfect location, is a wild story at face value. However, it’s also a great testament to the sort of planning and execution goes into making a moment of comedic and thematic importance into an actual interactive reality.
Here’s hoping that whomever this lucky Georgia man is, he kept those renovations, if only so he could brag to people that his garage was where Peter Quill helped save Rocket Raccoon. Or he might even be able to claim his house was where Marvel's first F-bomb was dropped, though that claim would need a little more research to verify. Try to keep your eyes open to see if you can debunk or confirm that last one, as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is still showing in theaters.