Guardians of the Galaxy cast declare their support for fired director James Gunn

James Gunn 'Guardians' spinoff

Update: James Gunn is currently in negotiations to helm the upcoming film Suicide Squad 2, scheduled to hit theaters August 6, 2021.

Marvel Studios will need to find a new director for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 after Disney terminated its involvement with director James Gunn in July due to offensive tweets the filmmaker posted years ago (and for which he had previously apologized). However, the cast of the film has made no secret of its support for Gunn and its belief that the studio made a mistake in firing him.

An open letter posted on Instagram by Guardians of the Galaxy actor Chris Pratt begins with the statement “We fully support James Gunn,” and ends with the signatures of every member of the franchise’s recurring cast. In the letter, the actors express their belief that — as Gunn stated himself — he is a very different person from the man he was when he made the comments more than a decade earlier.

The statement also alludes to the alt-right campaign to paint Gunn as a pedophile due to the content of several jokes he made, with the cast expressing disappointment with “those so easily duped into believing the many outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding him.”

Dave Bautista, the actor who plays Drax in the franchise, spoke out against Disney’s decision to fire Gunn. On Twitter, Bautista said that Gunn made some mistakes, but remains “one of the most loving, caring, good-natured people I have ever met.”

Gunn’s controversial tweets were unearthed by alt-right pundits critical of the director’s political beliefs and his opposition to President Donald Trump, according to Fox News. A campaign to oust Gunn from the franchise was initiated by several alt-right personalities — including a prominent blogger who was classified as an extremist by hate-group watchdog agency Southern Poverty Law Center — who encouraged their followers to contact Disney to complain about the tweets.

In the tweets, which were posted between 2008 and 2012, Gunn joked about pedophilia and rape. The filmmaker had previously acknowledged the jokes and apologized for them.

The collection of tweets were picked up by progressively larger right-wing media outlets before hitting the mainstream news cycle, leading Disney to issue a statement Friday, July 20, announcing the termination of the studio’s relationship with Gunn. The announcement was made on the same day Gunn was expected to appear at Comic-Con International in San Diego to promote an upcoming film for Sony Pictures.

“The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him,” Alan Horn, Walt Disney Studios chairman, said in a statement.

Prior to Disney issuing its statement, Gunn responded to the uproar on Twitter in a series of tweets that acknowledged his provocateur past and the evolution of both his humor and his relationship with himself.

“It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today. I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over,” wrote Gunn.

It’s unknown at this point how Disney and Marvel plan to proceed with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which was scheduled to be written and directed by Gunn and released in 2020.

Gunn directed the first two films in the series, co-writing the original film before flying solo on the sequel’s script. The two-film series — which stood out from previous Marvel movies due to Gunn’s humor and vision influenced by quirky indie cinema — is one of the most successful franchises in Marvel’s cinematic universe, earning $722.9 million collectively in U.S. theaters and $1.63 billion worldwide.

Disney’s decision follows the studio’s highly publicized separation from comedian and actress Roseanne Barr in May after the Roseanne star targeted former government official Valerie Jarrett in a series of offensive tweets.  The studio severed its relationship with Barr and canceled the Roseanne revival series, eventually recasting the show without her.

Updated July 30 with an open letter from the Guardians of the Galaxy cast supporting James Gunn.

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