Karen Gillan's Nebula Voice In Guardians Of The Galaxy Is A Mix Of Two Hollywood Legends

This post contains spoilers for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3."

Ever since Nebula was introduced in the original "Guardians of the Galaxy," she's held the mantle of the MCU's most tragic character. Adopted daughter to the Mad Titan, Thanos, she's been ripped apart and put back together countless times, suffering immeasurable pain and anguish that slowly stripped away any humanity she had left. Nebula was forced to battle her "sister" Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) and after every humiliating loss, a piece of her was replaced with machinery with the sick intention of transforming her into a more effective fighter. For all the torturous meddling, Nebula has become one of the strongest, most interesting members of the Guardians. And after all the bone-breaking events over the course of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," she's emerged as an effective leader, ready to establish a city of lost children with Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) at her side. 

Nebula has had one of the most compelling character arcs in the entirety of the MCU, but she could never quite commit to being a fully functioning member of the team until she saw the suffering that Rocket Raccoon had gone through at the hands of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). Finding out that she wasn't the most abused creature in the universe binds her to Rocket and the rest of the crew, and helps her get rid of that massive chip on her shoulder. 

Nebula has also been one of the coolest characters in the "Guardians" franchise with one of the driest, dead-pan deliveries of anyone in the MCU, (except for maybe Tony Stark or Drax). Gillan voices Nebula in a way that makes her seem like she's trying to hide behind an icy facade, afraid to give anything away. It turns out, the actor has been doing a spot-on impression of two Hollywood legends for years. 

Go ahead Nebula ... make my day

Now that the Guardians have all been firmly established over the course of three standalone films, two "Avengers" adventures, one "Thor: Love and Thunder," and a "Holiday Special," it's virtually impossible to see any other actors playing these characters. Back when Karen Gillan was still auditioning for Nebula, director James Gunn provided her with a small word of advice to help Gillan get the part. During the exhaustive "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" press tour, Gillan was live in Times Square on Good Morning America where she revealed what Gunn told her: 

"He was like, 'Do an impression of Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood, because they're the same voice!' And I was like, 'Are they? And then I listened to them and I was like, 'Oh, they are!' It's sort of that under-the-breath, American, husky voice. And I was like, 'Oh!' And that informed my whole character, and it's got me moving in a different way, and I started slinking around, just completely removed from myself."

Hearing it now, Nebula's voice does have a lot in common with Eastwood's trademark gruff, although her quips and verbal jabs don't exactly sound as sultry as Marilyn Monroe's. As legend has it, Monroe developed her signature breathy, seductive voice after growing up with a stuttering problem. It took her years to overcome it and evolve from Norma Jean to Marilyn. Monroe's drama coach, Natasha Lytess, described her voice as a "tight squeak," which isn't exactly in line with how Nebula speaks. Not one to mince words, Nebula was much too busy battling Gamora and the rest of the universe to have time for shyness or weakness of any kind. 

The smaller pieces that made Nebula whole

One of James Gunn's strengths as a director is the ability to give an actor the right note at the exact moment they need it most. With the MCU's first foray into a more cosmic territory and the absence of big-name stars, the audition process was particularly difficult for the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" and Gillan wasn't the only future Guardian to benefit from Gunn's advice. Chris Pratt famously almost didn't land the role as Peter Quill, and now the legendary Star-Lord is set to appear in at least one more adventure

For Gillan and Gunn in particular, it's a credit to them both as a performer and as a writer to see just how far Nebula has come over the last ten years of movies. Taking parts of Marilyn and Clint certainly helped Gillan find her voice early on. Then, the Thanos storyline added the gadgets of war to mold her into the perfect killing machine at the expense of her own soul. From there, Nebula's entire arc has been about regaining her humanity, finding a sense of purpose, and reclaiming her own autonomy by finding her rightful place within the group. 

Where "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" ends up, Nebula is arguably more at peace than any of the other Guardians, finally having shed herself of a tough, impenetrable exterior. Gillan may have first found Nebula's voice by doing an impression of two Hollywood icons, but by the time the credits roll in "Vol. 3," Nebula is completely three-dimensional. That may not have happened if Gillan and Gunn didn't get the chance to return to the series together to finish what they started.