Image copyright Charlie Gray
The biggest story affecting the MCU recently isn’t the fallout of Infinity War, or the success of Black Panther, or the upcoming impact that the next phase will mean for fan-favourite heroes.
No, the biggest story is that director James Gunn has been fired from Marvel‘s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3.
Following the revelation of offensive (yet years old) comments the director made about paedophilia and rape that were unearthed by (reportedly) right-wing sleuths, Marvel parent company Disney announced how Gunn has been removed from the upcoming movie.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Walt Disney Studios’ Chairman Alan Horn said;
“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.”
The comments were unearthed by Donald Trump supporters.
Gunn, who is a very outspoken, liberal filmmaker, has not been shy about sharing his thoughts on the President via Twitter. The Donald Trump supporters’ findings were quickly picked up by the alt-right provocateur and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, who saw the tweets as a confirmation that there is a “pedo network operating in Hollywood.”
Whilst the tweets were incredibly damning, Gunn has apologised profusely about the comments, writing;
“Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humour. 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.
For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today.”
This isn’t the first time Gunn has faced similar criticisms, as, back in 2012, he ran a “superhero sex poll” on his website that was viewed by many as being homophobic and misogynistic, shortly after he had been confirmed to direct Guardians of the Galaxy. There were calls for Gunn to be fired following the comments made, which ranged from being childish to outright offensive. Gunn swiftly apologised for the comments, deeming them as being “poorly worded and offensive to many.”
Gunn had recently finished the draft for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and whilst the movie was scheduled to start filming early next year in time for a 2020 release, it is unclear how Gunn’s departure will affect the movie’s release.
Whilst Gunn may be sorry for his comments, he isn’t the only one to speak out about the incident, with many celebrities coming to the director’s aide.
Gunn’s brother and Guardians of the Galaxy star, Sean Gunn took to Twitter to show his support;
“I hope it goes without saying that I love and support my brother James. And I’m quite proud of how kind, generous, and compassionate he is with the people in his life, whether they are friends, family, colleagues, fans, or strangers.
Since he was a kid, it was clear he had a desire (maybe destiny) to be an artist, tell stories, find his voice through comics, films, his band. The struggle to find that voice was sometimes clunky, misguided, or downright stupid, and sometimes wonderful, moving, and hilarious. Since devoting his entire life to the Guardians movies and MCU six years ago, I’ve seen him channel that voice into his work on those movies and seen him transform from the guy who made up things to shock people.
I saw firsthand as he went from worrying about “softening his edge” for a larger audience to realizing that his “edge” wasn’t as useful of a tool as he thought it was. That his gift for storytelling was something better. I saw that he was more open-hearted than the guy who needed to get a rise out of people by making nasty or offensive jokes (or whatever you choose to call them–I don’t think his bluer material was ever his funniest and neither does Mom).
In many respects this change in my brother was reflected in the change that the Guardians go through. I’ve heard my brother say many times that when Quill rallies the team with “this is our chance to give a shit”–to care–that it’s the pep talk he himself needed to hear. It’s part of what made working on the Guardians movies such a rewarding experience for the cast, myself included. We managed to find ourselves involved in a big-budget superhero movie that was, at its core, deeply personal. That’s a gift. And that’s why it’s good. This isn’t new information, by the way. It’s all stuff that James has explained many times in interviews, in more detail and more eloquently. It’s not some new spin. It’s always been part of the story.
So I guess my hope is that fans continue to watch and appreciate the Guardians movies, not despite the fact that the filmmaker used to be kind of a jackass, but because of it. They are, after all, movies about discovering your best self.
Working on those movies made my brother a better person, and they made me one too. I’m proud of that. Peace.”
Dave Bautista, who plays Drax in the Guardians movies, was one of the first actors to jump to Gunn’s defence, taking to Twitter to denounce Gunn’s firing.
“I will have more to say but for right now all I will say is this..@JamesGunn is one of the most loving,caring, good natured people I have ever met. He’s gentle and kind and cares deeply for people and animals. He’s made mistakes. We all have. Im NOT ok with what’s happening to him.”
Meanwhile, fellow Guardians actors Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Karen Gillan joined Bautista in posting an open letter (see below) that the actors had all signed alongside Sean, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff, and Michael Rooker to Twitter and Instagram.
Michael Rooker took things a step further by actually quitting Twitter altogether, posting how he was “very tired & upset” concerning all of the comments being made in regards to James Gunn, going so far as to say how neither he nor his representative will be using Twitter again. “Twitter sucks and I want nothing to do with it”, the former Yondu announced.
Joining Rooker in leaving Twitter is Selma Blair, who played Liz Sherman in Hellboy. Blair posted a number of tweets to show support for Gunn, including links to the Change.org petition to reinstate the director, articles concerning Hollywood’s new “zero tolerance” policy and how Twitter has become weaponised in the ongoing Me Too movement. Her most recent show of support simply read: “So long. You can find me on Instagram. #Istandwithjamesgunn.”
Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, known for providing the voice of Pain in Disney‘s Hercules, has stepped in to defend Gunn by denouncing Disney.
Speaking to Variety, Goldthwait said;
“I wanted to say something, here it is: Dear Disney, I would hate for you to come off as hypocritical, so I’m suggesting that you remove my voice from an attraction that’s coming to your park. It’s called WORLD OF COLOR – VILLAINOUS, and I reprise the tole of Pain, a role I played in Hercules.”
You see here’s the deal. Years ago I made a lot of sarcastically shocking and offensive jokes. Many that I’m embarrassed about now, and I’d hate to make you guys look bad seeing that I’m openly critical of the president and his administration, and you seem to be taking your lead from some of his radical fringe supporters.”
Luke Cage star Mike Colter shared his message of support for Gunn as well in a since-deleted tweet.
“Hey James. I feel like in time they will reinstate you. Fingers crossed. I don’t feel like every past comment from years ago should be grounds for dismissal. Everyone is on notice now. You deserve a fresh start and a clean slate. And I bias bc you make great films.”
Comic book icon and Deadpool creator, Rob Liefeld asked; “What happened to forgiveness in our world? Where is grace?”
And, finally, Kurt Russell has defended Gunn. Speaking to Variety, the Hollywood icon (and former Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) said;
“It’s sad. But it’s a part of our fabric now and I get it. But I do think we’re getting a little too sensitive on maybe some of the wrong people.
You have to realise that when you are in that world as a comedian, a writer, whatever you’re always stretching the boundaries and trying to find something which led him to something that the world loves, which is Guardians of the Galaxy. He has a wonderful heart and a wonderful mind.
I hope he is forgiven.”
Needless to say, regardless of what Gunn said in the past, a lot of people are behind the director, with the online petition amassing nearly 400,000 signatures since it went live. And, as people online (and Selma Blair) have mentioned, the comments and posts that Gunn made were made years previously, long before he was employed by Disney or Marvel, and he has since apologised for the posts. Owing to the number of tributes and outpourings of support Gunn has received, many see that the director has certainly made amends for the comments he made in his edgier, younger years. However, that doesn’t mean that Disney will change their minds on the matter, and, as it currently stands, James Gunn will not be involved in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 going forwards.
Whether that will change remains to be seen. Disney finds themselves in a very difficult position, and, given the company’s famous family friendly/family orientated stance, Gunn’s comments cannot be taken likely given their nature and content. Whether these comments were in jest or not is irrelevant, unfortunately, Gunn did make the comments.