NEW YORK — Disney has reversed course on its next flight for “Guardians of the Galaxy,” reinstating writer-director James Gunn to oversee the third movie, after firing him last year in the wake of learning about offensive social-media posts..
Gunn had been targeted by conservative activists — in part because of his vocal criticism of President Trump — who resurfaced old tweets in which he made light of pedophilia and molestation. In firing him, Disney labeled the comments “indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values.”
Although Gunn apologized and issued a statement saying, “I understand and accept the business decisions taken,” there was almost immediately a backlash on the director’s behalf, with supporters claiming that the studio had overreacted and moved too precipitously to sever ties.
Those urging the studio to reconsider — which fostered the hashtag #WeAreGroot, drawing from a character in the films — included members of the “Guardians” cast, as well as other Hollywood figures such as actress Selma Blair. A Change.org petition to “Rehire James Gunn” amassed more than 200,000 signatures.
Gunn’s reinstatement, first reported by Deadline, comes after he had already been signed to direct another major movie: The sequel to “Suicide Squad,” a DC Comics property that will be released by Warner Bros. (Like CNN, that studio is a unit of WarnerMedia.)
Disney confirmed the Deadline report, but had no further comment.
Gunn had already written a script for the third “Guardians,” though production on the film will likely have to wait until “Suicide Squad” is completed.
The first two “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies became a surprise hit for Marvel and Disney, totaling $1.6 billion in international box office. The characters have been featured in the latest “Avengers” storyline, beginning with “Infinity War” and continuing with the upcoming “Endgame.” A Guardians of the Galaxy attraction has also opened at Disneyland.
The offensive tweets were primarily posted between 2008 and 2012. When he was fired, Gunn explained that earlier in his career he had “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.”