James Gunn fired as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

James Gunn, the director and writer of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been fired as the director of the series' third movie, according to a news item from The Hollywood Reporter.

Until now, Gunn was at work writing the script for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which was set to end his trilogy of wacky team adventures out on the fringes of the Marvel cosmic. 

The decision to fire Gunn was made after conservative media personalities, including Mike Cernovich and One America News Network correspondent Jack Posobiec, assembled a collection of old tweets from the filmmaker that were seen as controversial. In the tweets, Gunn joked about a number of sensitive topics, lightly riffing on such matters as pedophila and rape. 

The high-profile firing is another example of Disney and its corporate subsidiaries taking swift action in response to controversial public statements from its associated personalities. Just weeks ago, Disney-owned ABC notably fired Roseanne Barr from her mega-successful revived sitcom following a controversial tweet about former presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett. 

What the firings have in common, moreso than the nature of the accusations themselves, is that they demonstrate a willingness on Disney's part to make drastic decisions regarding the personalities it's willing to associate with, regardless of the financial or artistic consequences — which in this case, as with the Roseanne example, would appear to be quite substantial. 

Both movies in the Guardians of the Galaxy series were incredibly successful at the global box office, with the first bringing in $773 million while the second upped the take to $863 million. Gunn also helped write additional dialogue for the Guardians of the Galaxy characters' appearance in the crossover movie Avengers: Infinity War, which has grossed well over $2 billion at the global box office to date.

"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 Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn in a statement that accompanied the announcement of Gunn's firing.

It has not yet been determined what consequences this decision will have for the production of the third Guardians movie, which was expected to begin shooting this fall for a release in, most likely, 2020. At the time of this writing, Gunn was only announced as being removed from the project as director, and it remains to be seen if the work he has done on the script for the third movie will continue, or if Disney and Marvel will start over with a new creative voice. 

Considering Horn's statement regarding a complete severance of the studio's business relationship with Gunn, his continuing involvement with the movie as screenwriter would appear to be unlikely.

As the collection of tweets circulated on the night before his firing, Gunn wrote a response to the controversy on Twitter

"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 wrote. "As I have discussed publicly many times, as I've developed as a person, so has my work and my humor."

"It's not to say I'm better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago," Gunn added. "Today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days [of] saying something just because it's shocking and trying to get a reaction are over."

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has previously indicated potentially big things on the horizon for Gunn with the company following his trilogy of Guardians movies, especially considering the affinity Gunn showed with his handling of the first two movies in the outer space of the MCU.

"I think James in particular has an amazing connection with these characters and with this cosmic world," Feige said, according to The Hollywood Reporter in April 2017. "So he, I think, could easily oversee additional stories beyond Vol. 3, and I think [he] has them and just continues to come up with them, which is cool."

Gunn started his filmmaking career as an outsider and self-styled provocateur, starting out as a filmmaker with the farcical B-movie outrage factory Troma Entertainment. He rose to prominence with disarmingly violent and tonally twisted movies like Slither and Super before landing the gig adapting the Guardians of the Galaxy comics, taking a C-level superhero team from the Marvel Comics backlog and single-handedly making them into beloved household names.

Regardless of what fans of the franchise may feel about the news, Disney has made its decision, and the decision appears firm. Now the company and fans alike will just have to weather through whatever happens next.