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GOTG: How Nebula's Character Was Inspired By Marilyn Monroe & Clint Eastwood

Although the concept for James Gunn's "Guardians of the Galaxy" seemed like a risky proposition for the Marvel Cinematic Universe ahead of its launch in 2014, the space adventure and its characters quickly became one of the most beloved in the franchise. It transformed actors such as Karen Gillan, who plays Nebula and was previously best known for her sidekick role on "Doctor Who," into bona fide movie stars. The Guardians of the Galaxy even wound up being integral to the Infinity Saga that concluded with the triumphant "Avengers: Endgame." Now, nine years after the first "Guardians" movie, Gunn has delivered the final installment in the trilogy with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," and Gillan is peeling back the curtain on how her fan-favorite character was shaped by Gunn's direction.

Speaking to BBC Radio 1, Gillan revealed that director James Gunn gave her a single acting note that forever cemented the character fans know and love. "He created my whole character with one single note, which was, on my first day of filming, I came in and I was doing my generic villain thing, and then he was like, 'Let's mix this up. Let's try something else. Speak like Marilyn Monroe-slash-Clint Eastwood. Try that," she recalled.

According to Gillan, envisioning her character as a combination of those two legendary actors immediately transformed Nebula, informing the way she moves, speaks, and interacts with scenes. "It created the entire character," Gillan said. "The voice, it informed the way I move, just started slinking around more. That is a piece of direction that is the best I've ever heard."

Nebula has Marilyn Monroe's movements and Clint Eastwood's attitude

After hearing Karen Gillan explain how she incorporated elements of Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood into the character of Nebula, it's easy to see how those iconic actors informed her choices in the role. Nebula moves with the slinking, sensual movements of Monroe, and even her voice has an element of the late actor's breathy register. However, she takes on the commanding tones and curt line deliveries that gave Eastwood's characters their gravitas and sense of rugged self-sufficiency. Combined, Gillan's performance as Nebula gives off the sense that, although she can more than handle herself, that autonomy is born of a deep-seated fear of betrayal.

For a character like Nebula, who was cruelly tortured by her father, the mad titan Thanos (Josh Brolin), the performance is pitch-perfect. As we see countless times across Nebula's appearances in the MCU, she has come to believe that relying on others for help is a form of weakness. The resonances of Eastwood in Gillan's performances are the brave face Nebula puts on to survive a harsh galaxy. But Nebula does crave acceptance and love deep down, and those elements of her personality shine through in the aspects of Monroe that Gillan brings to her character. She's got a vulnerability hiding under the Eastwood bluster, and Gillan masterfully displays the wounded core quite literally showing through the cracks in her ironclad fa├žade.

Although "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" marks the conclusion of James Gunn's time with its characters, many MCU fans are hoping that Gillan will continue playing Nebula.