Sure, James Gunn's wildly entertaining (and just plain wild) "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" features all of your favorite cast members, returning for a second go around (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, the list goes on). But there are also a bunch of instantly engaging new characters, among them Ego (Kurt Russell), the living planet father of Pratt's Star-Lord (don't ask) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Ego's right-hand (or is it right-pincher?) woman.
Klementieff, a beautiful and otherworldly-looking French actress, gives Mantis a childlike sense of playfulness and hidden vulnerability. She also gets some of the movie's very best lines. One of her powers is that she is empathic, meaning she can pick up on what people are feeling and sense certain psychic vibrations before they ever manifest themselves. That means her performance's power lies in the moments when she's saying some of Gunn's pithy dialogue and when she's being perfectly still, staring out from behind her giant, contact lens-covered eyes.
I recently got to sit down with a much less buggy Klementieff in Los Angeles to talk about achieving the look of Mantis, how scared she was to work with different directors on "Avengers: Infinity War," and what it's like being the newest Guardian of the frickin' Galaxy (only we didn't use "frickin'").
Moviefone: The last time I saw you was on the set of the movie, more than a year ago. You had the green dots on your forehead. When you finally saw what Mantis looked like, what was your reaction?
Klementieff: Oh, it was incredible. On set, the guys who did the CGI, who are incredible by the way, they came to set and they showed me on the computer how it would look; all the evolution.
Did they show you your eyes?
Not my eyes, because my eyes were contact lenses.
That was you?
Yeah, it's my eyes! And with the make-up, it makes my eyes look bigger. James wanted Mantis to look bug-like. At some point, they talked about making my eyes bigger in the computer but I'm thankful that they didn't.
So you had an idea of what you would look like?
Yes. And then, of course, and when the first trailer came out that was when I saw it completely finished. With the light it's so cute and the detail -- it's so feathery and moving. It's so cute!
Obviously, the cast had already made one movie together. Was it intimidating to join that group?
At first, yes. I didn't know what to expect. You don't know these people. So maybe there's going to be some annoying people. But no! No no no! The first time I met them was at the table read and I was like, "Hi I'm the new one and I'm French." I was kind of freaking out during the reading. But they were all so welcoming. Chris Pratt is the nicest person, I'm sure you know that. Dave is such a gentleman and so sweet and amazing. Zoe is amazing. And Karen Gillan is my friend now and she's so cool. I really had an amazing time. Sean Gunn, also, who [stands in for] Rocket on set, and he's an incredible actor, too.And you get to hang out with Kurt Russell, too.
Yes! Yes of course! He wasn't at the table read, but I had such an incredible time with him. He's so cool and down-to-Earth and funny, and I asked him so many questions about his past movies because, of course, because he is a legend. He would tell me stories and I'd say, "Oh really?" But he's so normal. He's the best.
Are you a fan of comic books? Did you know about this character before you signed on?
To be honest, I don't really read comic books. But I loved the Marvel movies. It was my dream to one day be in a Marvel movie. It was my dream to have superpowers and, actually, to be an alien I thought would be so cool. When I got the part it was like, Is this really happening? We had the premiere yesterday and it was surreal. I'm just pinching myself. Is this real life?
What was the reaction to your character last night?
People loved her. A lot of people came up to me and said, "Can I get your picture? I loved your character." So I was like, yay! This is so cool!
You have a lot of scenes with Dave Bautista, who plays Drax. Did he give you any pointers or talk you through that?
No. He's not an actor. It's just simple. I'm not like "let's talk about the character," either. You just listen to each other and you do the scene and you just have to try and have fun. You're just sincere. It's just about being sincere. That's it.
I imagine that, between the make-up and the spaceships and everything, it's easier to get into character, too.
Well, there isn't that much make-up, actually. There's beauty make-up. They did an amazing job, it's not like it's easy for the make-up artists. But there's some prosthetics and they made it look like my skin with the beginning of the antennae. And with CGI they add the antennae. Of course they did amazing make-up with the big eyelashes but for me it wasn't a huge amount of make-up. Of course when I looked at myself in the mirror, with the big contact lenses, it was like, "Okay, this is weird." The contact lenses are the biggest contact lenses because they block out your whole eye. So you have a weird tunnel vision. There was actually a guy whose job it was to eye drops in my eyes every 15 minutes. He has to turn them and pop them to let your eyes breathe.
Was it uncomfortable?
Yes, it was uncomfortable. It's not nice. But, at the same time, the character is uncomfortable, too, so why not? It's not like she feels so amazing in her own skin. No.
You are a Guardian now.
Yeah! It's crazy right? I'm a Guardian of the Galaxy! It's a full-time job! And I'm so excited that James Gunn is going to write and direct the third movie. Someone else directing it? No. He's such a genius and he has such a vision. Can you imagine someone else directing that?But you have someone else directing you in "Avengers: Infinity War."
Yes, but I was so scared of that, too! James said, "You know you can call me whenever." And I called him. But they [the RussoBrothers] are great, too. At first it was like, I don't know if I can play this character with someone else. It went well!
In that your character will be interacting with others from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Did you really feel like a superhero?
It was incredible, to see all of these franchises together on set was really crazy.
Can you talk about initially landing the role?
Well, I did an audition with the casting director, who is amazing. Then I had a callback with her and James. And I had a screen test with Dave as Drax, in full make-up. But at the time, I had on different make-up, they tried some different stuff. I had a different skin color.
It's a Marvel secret. You want a scoop right? [Editor's note: Bautista told me. She was orange.]"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is out now (in every corner of the galaxy).