Two months after being reinstated as the director of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” filmmaker James Gunn is breaking his silence to Deadline about what it was like to be fired and rehired by Disney from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney severed ties with Gunn on July 20, 2018 after controversial old jokes the director made on Twitter resurfaced. Gunn’s firing drew criticism from the “Guardians” cast, who came together and released an open letter urging Disney to reconsider its decision. Gunn was officially reinstated as director on March 15, 2019.
“That first day, I’m going to say it was the most intense of my entire life,” Gunn said about being fired. “There have been other difficult days in my life, from the time I got sober when I was younger, to the death of friends who committed suicide. But this was incredibly intense. It happened, and suddenly it seemed like everything was gone. I just knew, in a moment that happened incredibly quickly, I had been fired. It felt as if my career was over.”
The director said the “outpouring of real love” that followed from his girlfriend, his “Guardians” cast,” and others in the industry kept him seeing the positive in the situation. Gunn said for this reason his firing contributed to “the worst day” of his life and “the greatest day.” Through it all, Gunn never blamed anyone but himself. The only time Gunn commented on the issue was when he issued a statement the same day he got fired taking blame of his mistakes and vowing to continue to learn and grow from them.
“I don’t blame anyone. I feel and have felt bad for a while about some of the ways I spoke publicly; some of the jokes I made, some of the targets of my humor, just the unintentional consequences of not being more compassionate in what I’m putting out there,” Gunn said. “I know that people have been hurt by things that I’ve said, and that’s still my responsibility, that I wasn’t as compassionate as I should be in what I say. I feel bad for that and take full responsibility. Disney totally had the right to fire me. This wasn’t a free speech issue. I said something they didn’t like and they completely had the right to fire me. There was never any argument of that.”
Gunn said he tried his best to accept his fate at Disney and move on, which led to the writing and directing gig for Warner Bros.’ new “Suicide Squad” movie. Gunn will handle that superhero tentpole first before returning to the MCU for “Guardians Vol. 3.” Because he agreed that Disney had the right to fire him, Gunn said that he moved on without holding a grudge.
“I didn’t want to look back and feel bitter, upset or angry,” the director said. “Of course all sorts of emotions are attached to it. But I just wanted to be comfortable saying goodbye [to Disney] and splitting up, and that’s where my head was at, even in the very early meeting [Disney executive Bob Iger and I] had, a week or two weeks after it all happened.”
Gunn referred to “Suicide Squad” as “the most fun” he’s had writing a script since “Dawn of the Dead.” As for what he’s got planned for the next “Guardians of the Galaxy” installment, Gunn said that the main reason he was excited to return to the franchise is because he’s long been determined to finish off Rocket Raccoon’s journey that first started in the 2014 original.
“When you asked me what was saddest for me when I thought it was gone — and anybody at Marvel can tell you — it’s this very strange and attached relationship to Rocket,” Gunn said. “Rocket is me, he really is, even if that sounds narcissistic. Groot is like my dog. I love Groot in a completely different way. I relate to Rocket and I feel compassion for Rocket, but I also feel like his story has not been completed.”
Gunn continued, “He has an arc that started in the first movie, continued into the second and goes through Infinity War and Endgame, and then I was set to really finish that arc in ‘Guardians 3.’ That was a big loss to me — not being able to finish that story — though I was comforted by the fact that they were still planning to use my script.”
Now that Gunn is officially back on board, he’ll be able to see Rocket’s arc through from behind the camera. Disney and Marvel Studios have not yet dated “Guardians Vol. 3,” but with “Suicide Squad” up first for Gunn it seems likely production won’t start until 2021 at the earliest.