Guardians of the Galaxy 3 stars react to Disney firing James Gunn

The Guardians of the Galaxy lost their director -- and many stars and fans aren't happy.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Morgan Little Senior Director, Audience
Morgan leads the teams managing CNET's presence and content across social media, news platforms and more after stints in the marketing world and LA Times. Eventually his last byline on the site will be about something other than Godzilla
Sean Hollister
Morgan Little
3 min read
Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy series director and writer James Gunn no longer works for Disney after a series of off-color tweets from between 2008 and 2012 resurfaced, sparking outrage online. Gunn, who was working on the third volume of the series, has accepted responsibility, but a backlash to his firing has already emerged, kindled by the focus on fandom during San Diego Comic-Con 2018.

A petition to re-hire Gunn has topped 188,000 signatures at the time we published this story, and there are plenty of other similar petitions on Change.org. Two of the top reasons for signing echo the talking points from many other fans online:
"A person should not be fired for stupid jokes made a decade ago that he already apologized for years ago!" one reads, while another says "Disney shouldn't give in to reactionary right-wing forces."

That "right-wing forces" line is a clear reference to far-right firebrand Mike Cernovich, who rose to fame trumpeting Pizzagate conspiracy theories and has since set his focus on journalists and other members of the media. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the firing comes after conservative political commentators, most prominently Cernovich, dug up a wide variety of tweets made by Gunn between 2008 and 2012 that joked about pedophilia and child rape. Here are some alleged examples that appear to have been deleted, but some of which are still accessible at archive.is:

"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," Disney chairman Alex Horn said in an emailed statement to CNET, VarietyGameSpot and others.

In the days following Gunn's firing, several members of the Guardians cast have responded. Drax actor Dave Bautista has been the most vocal in his support of Gunn.

And fellow cast members Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan all responded with messages of support for the entire Guardians team.

On Thursday evening, Gunn proactively apologized for some "shocking jokes" that his "past self" made in a new Twitter thread:

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Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

"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," Gunn begins. "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."

According to ABC News, Gunn has responded to the firing: "I understand and accept the business decisions taken today...I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be," Gunn reportedly wrote.

Gunn also appears to have deleted his personal website, which doesn't appear to have been updated since 2012, according to the latest version archived by the Wayback Machine.

The announcement of Gunn's firing was made smack in the middle of San Diego Comic-Con 2018, arguably the biggest convention in the world for comic book movie announcements. CNET is on the ground right now, and we're curious how fans will respond. 

Here's one salient tweet:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was supposed to start shooting next year and was scheduled for release in 2020, but it's possible Gunn's departure may impact that.

Representatives for Gunn didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Originally published July 20 at 12:44p.m. PT.

Update, 2:14p.m. PT: Added reported statement from Gunn to ABC News.

Update, July 23: Added the backlash to Gunn's firing, reactions from stars and fans, and the petition to reinstate him.