Strong women in the thick of Guardians Of The Galaxy action

The unconventional group of Guardians of the Galaxy who became a family in the first film are back for the sequel with many of the characters now dealing with their blood families. VIDEO: REUTERS
(From left) Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan star as alien sisters and Pom Klementieff plays an empath named Mantis in the Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel.
(From left) Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan star as alien sisters and Pom Klementieff plays an empath named Mantis in the Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS

Of the many fraught relationships in the Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel, the most fiery may be the love-hate feud between the alien sisters Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, and Nebula, played by Karen Gillan.

There was more love than hate between takes, though - the two stars became friends as they were kicking each other's butts on screen.

"I love working on all of that stuff with Zoe," says Scottish actress Gillan, 29. "I mean, it's the best. We had such a good time."

Saldana, the 38-year-old American star of Avatar (2009) and the Star Trek films (2009-2016), confirms this, adding that she and Gillan got along in part because they are "very opposite" to their nononsense characters in Guardians.

"Karen is very feminine, goofy and a little clumsy," she says.

 
 
 

The pair helped each other through the complicated and sometimes risky choreography required for their fight scenes.

"These sets are dangerous, let's be honest. The ground is never flat and we're on wires and everything," says Saldana, who is married to Italian artist Marco Perego, 38, and has twin sons aged two and a third son born two months ago.

Gillan reveals that her co-star, who has more experience performing fight choreography, occasionally helped tutor her.

"She is an amazing fighter. Zoe literally teaches me how to fight while we're doing it. She'll be like, 'You turn your head like that, you strangle someone like that and you're going to look cool.'"

Saldana, who has two sisters, loves that the film takes the time to explore this complicated sibling bond. "I think what I love the most about the movie is that relationship."

She also found it heartening to see these two powerful women in the thick of the action along with a third female character, an empath named Mantis, who is played by French-Korean newcomer Pom Klementieff, 30.

"I have been itching and yearning to see more of a female presence in action films," Saldana says. "Because I love action films. I'm not that deep - I love watching The Equalizer (2014) and I'll watch that 50 times over any kind of dramatic piece.

"And so to have a film with three female characters that add such unique qualities to the film, are relevant and have relationships that are explored deeply, I was appreciative and super excited."

Writer and director James Gunn says this was no fluke. "One of the things we've tried to do with the Guardians films is to allow women to be full characters."

He explains that this was also the thinking behind having Mantis be a little socially awkward.

Fans gravitate towards Gamora or Chris Pratt's Peter Quill character because they "are kind of like the Clint Eastwood cool character", but "one of the reasons why people love Mantis is that she is as funny, goofy and weird as Drax and Rocket, our goofy male characters".

"That's a way to combat those stereotypes of what a male and a female actor can be."

Alison de Souza

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Strong women in the thick of action'. Print Edition | Subscribe