James Gunn has been reinstated as the writer-director of the Marvel Studios film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, BuzzFeed News has confirmed, after he was fired in July when alt-right figures resurfaced old tweets in which he made jokes about pedophilia.
The news of his rehiring was first reported by Deadline.
In his first tweet since his firing, Gunn said he was grateful to his supporters and appreciated Disney's decision.
The move is a remarkable reversal for Disney. When Gunn was fired, the studio was unequivocal in its condemnation of the filmmaker’s old tweets, which had been dug up by prominent right-wing online personalities, including Jack Posobiec.
“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," said Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios at the time.
Gunn himself took responsibility for the tweets and accepted Marvel’s decision, saying in a statement that his past jokes were “totally failed and unfortunate attempts to be provocative” and that “they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.”
But the filmmaker’s reputation as a provocateur was hardly a secret; prior to directing 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn had made two R-rated genre films, 2006’s Slither and 2011’s Super, both filled with scenes of grisly comic violence and deliberately disturbing sequences involving rape. So Disney’s argument that they had just discovered Gunn’s dark side struck some as less than persuasive, and many questioned the company’s decision to fire the filmmaker in reaction to a coordinated online campaign by alt-right activists.
Two weeks after he was fired, Gunn’s Guardians cast — including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Michael Rooker, and Sean Gunn — signed an open letter saying they “fully support” Gunn and imploring Disney to reinstate him as the director. Bautista went further, tweeting that “it’s pretty nauseating to work for someone who’d empower a smear campaign by fascists #cybernazis.”
After he was fired from Guardians Vol. 3, Gunn signed on to direct the superhero movie Suicide Squad 2 for Warner Bros. He’s still committed to make that film, and will direct Guardians Vol. 3 after he’s finished.