So as not to bury the lede: James Gunn has been re-hired to direct Guardians of the Galaxy 3, after being fired for decade-old joke tweets that were in bad taste. I think this is a great thing, and long overdue. So here’s a bit of backstory:
Nicole Perlman, when offered an opportunity to write a spec script for Marvel, decided to write a script based on one of their least known, and certainly not beloved, teams: Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn took that script, rewrote it, ended up creating one of the most beloved movies in the Marvel franchise. The sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was also an enjoyable movie that did very well in the box office. As the co-architect of the “interstellar” environment of the Marvel universe, Gunn has been a producer on Avengers: Infinity War (as well as punching up some dialog), and his script for Guardians of the Galaxy 3 was written and the movie was to start filming right about now (early 2019).
Gunn has always comported himself as a deeply enthusiastic and encouraging fan of the genre, a cheerleader for others making superhero movies, and a political progressive, promoting civil rights and love and governmental transparency, and shining a light on those who promote division and right-wing hate and conspiracy theories. One of those alt-right fringe haters, in retaliation, dug up over decade-old tweets that Gunn had made when he thought that tweeting unfunny, crude, and offensive “jokes” was the way to build a reputation as an up-and-coming edgy auteur. He had subsequently apologized and disowned them all, citing his personal growth over the years, but he had not deleted those tweets. So this extremist dug up those tweets, got his brainwashed followers to spread them over the internet until picked up by the mainstream media, and Disney fired him.
Firing Gunn was always the wrong move. Had he been actively saying those things, firing Gunn would have made sense. Had he been proud of those tweets, that would have also have made sense. But he had already given heartfelt apologies and disowned those horrible tweets long before he went to work for Disney.
Moreover, almost certainly Disney knew about those tweets—and Gunn’s growth—before initially hiring him. So the firing was simply a fear-based reaction to the publicity and scrutiny. Yes, what Gunn wrote is absolutely abysmal. But people must be allowed to grow. He had clearly evolved into a better human being, which is why nearly everyone who has ever worked with him or met him defended him. The Guardians cast wrote an open letter to Disney asking for them to accept his growth and to reinstate him. Petitions were written online by fans. A billboard near Disneyland was posted by fans who wanted him reinstated. Disney was certainly in their right to fire him, but the better move would have been, after Gunn’s more recent, sincere apology, to accept it, and to spotlight his growth. Isn’t that the goal?
Gunn played his cards right. He never lashed out at Disney. He was always humble, grateful, and positive. Warner Brothers subsequently hired him to write and likely direct Suicide Squad 2 which I’ll admit excited me quite a bit—I’m a fan of that franchise, the first movie was entertaining, but not super, and I’d love to see it taken to the next level. So he never stopped working, and he left it open to work with Disney again, if they reversed course.
Thankfully, they did, and Gunn responded on twitter:
To me, this is an “everyone wins” scenario. The cast gets the director that they fought for. Disney gets their helm back. Gunn gets to continue to guide the franchise that he built, and gets to move forward, rather than continually be hamstrung by his past mistakes. And we fans of superhero movies get both a James Gunn Suicide Squad and Guardians movie.
The only loser in this story is the conspiracy-theory fringe haters, who thought that they’d made a major conglomerate bend to their will, only to find that in the end, love is stronger than hate.
I call that a happy ending.
Published on: March 16, 2019