James Gunn is out as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, according to a statement from a Disney spokesperson. He was ousted after old tweets poking fun at pedophilia and rape were circulated online by Trump supporters.
"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," Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said in a statement. The third iteration of Guardians was due in fall of 2020.
Gunn has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump. "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 posted in a tweet before his firing. "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. Love you to you all."
In a statement since his firing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he said: "My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time. Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then."
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Some of Gunn’s friends expressed sorrow over his exit, but Senator Ted Cruz posted a tweet demanding that he be prosecuted.
Dave Bautista (a.k.a. Drax the Destroyer), championed Gunn’s character. "I will have more to say but for right now all I will say is this … James Gunn is one of the most loving, caring, good natured people I have ever met," he wrote on Twitter. "He’s gentle and kind and cares deeply for people and animals. He’s made mistakes. We all have. I’m not ok with what’s happening to him."
Fellow director Joe Carnahan (The Grey, Smokin’ Aces) shared a petition to have Gunn reinstated. By Sunday, more than 50,000 people had signed on.
"Wow. These James Gunn tweets are just horrible. Child rape is no laughing matter," Cruz wrote. "As Texas SG, I handled far too many child sexual assaults. Truly evil. I’m glad Disney fired him, but if these tweets are true, he needs to be prosecuted."