James Gunn has been let go from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. This move comes after Gunn, a frequent and outspoken Donald Trump critic, was targeted Thursday by online conservative personalities who dug up old tweets from 2008 and 2009 in which the director controversially joked about pedophilia and rape.
In a statement on Friday, 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.” Gunn was believed to have been writing the GoTG 3 script and prepping to begin shooting this fall in Atlanta.
On Thursday, Gunn responded to the backlash over the tweets, “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 humor.”
He went on to say: “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.”
The Guardians movies have been huge money spinners for Disney and Marvel with the first movie earning more than $773 million worldwide while the sequel made $863 million. They were also the first films to deviate somewhat from the tried and true formula followed by every Marvel Studios film since Iron Man as Gunn kicked off the cosmic franchise with his own quirky humor and style.
Gunn’s firing continues a trend that has shown an increased sensitivity to scandal and bad news in Hollywood. Since Harvey Weinstein’s fall, industry players like Roseanne Barr and Paramount TV chief Amy Powell have been fired for reasons linked to possibly racial statements.
It just goes to show that while social media can be all fun and games and endearing cat videos, one wrong word or tweet is potentially a career-ending decision whether meant as a joke or not.
With pre-production underway and shooting scheduled to begin this fall, attention will turn to who will replace Gunn in the director’s chair for Guardians 3.