On Friday, Disney Studios quickly fired director James Gunn from the third installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise after conservative commentators brought to light old tweets from the director that featured crude jokes dealing with pedophilia and rape.
“The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on Jamess Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studios values, and we have severed our business relationship with him,” Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement.
Jack Posobiec, an on-air reporter for the conservative channel One America News Network, which often promotes conspiracy theories, highlighted 16 tweets, ranging from 2009 through 2012 and featuring such crude humor as, “Im doing a big Hollywood film adaptation of The Giving Tree with a happy ending—the tree grows back and gives the kid a blowjob.” That one was written in September 2011, three years before the first Guardians of the Galaxy film premiered. Mike Cernovich, a right-wing media personality, began taking screenshots of Gunns Twitter feed Thursday while the director was deleting content. Cernovich claims Gunn erased thousands of tweets.
Gunn, a vocal critic of Donald Trump who just yesterday called for his impeachment, issued an apology on Twitter, and then followed up with a press release (see below).
Gunn has been credited with much of the success of the irreverent Marvel blockbuster, which married his indie sensibilities from his work on such films as Slither and Super with a Marvel-size budget. The series has been a surprise success in the Marvel Universe, with the original film grossing $773 million worldwide and cementing Chris Pratt as a big star. Its sequel, which opened in 2017, earned an additional $864 million. Gunn was in the middle of writing the script for the third film, which was scheduled to begin shooting in Atlanta in the fall for a 2020 release date, and he was set to appear in Hall H at Comic-Con Friday to promote a secret film project.
Heres the full statement Gunn released Friday afternoon, per The Hollywood Reporter: “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 dont 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. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.”
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Nicole SperlingNicole Sperling is a Hollywood Correspondent for Vanity Fair.