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James Gunn Reveals What Happened When He Was Fired From Marvel

After three years, the controversy surrounding "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn's offensive Tweets feels like a distant memory. At the time, in 2018, the fan-favorite director came under fire for a series of offensive Tweets he had posted close to a decade earlier. The Tweets openly joked about some seriously sensitive topics in pretty unsettling ways, and their rediscovery years later resulted in MCU executives electing to fire Gunn before he finished work on the third and final entry of the "Guardians" series.

Following a public apology, as well as some outspoken defense on the part of "Guardians of the Galaxy" stars Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana (along with plenty of fan support), Gunn was rehired and placed back in charge of his flagship series. Since then, things have seemed to settle down for Gunn. However, years after the fact, the Marvel movie director recently spoke with The New York Times about the event, recalling exactly how he got fired and how it felt to be under the scrutiny of modern internet culture.

Gunn learned he was fired from Kevin Feige, and felt completely defeated

According to Gunn, he was well aware of the controversy as it occurred, and how it might affect him. After seeing the topic erupt on the Twitter-sphere, Gunn called up MCU producer Kevin Feige to see what repercussions the ongoing controversy might have. 

"I said, 'Is this a big deal?' And he goes, 'I don't know.' That was a moment. I was like, 'You don't know?'" Gunn told the New York Times. "I was surprised. Later he called me — he himself was in shock — and told me what the powers that be had decided."

Gunn went on to explain how the news that he had been fired felt "unbelievable," saying, "And for 'a day, it seemed like everything was gone. Everything was gone. I was going to have to sell my house. I was never going to be able to work again. That's what it felt like." Luckily for him, his apology and the support of his peers and fans managed to win back Marvel's support. Surprisingly, it even opened up a new opportunity for the director.

James Gunn now regards his Marvel firing as a sort of life lesson

As Gunn told the Times, the experience was sort of a learning experience for Gunn, especially when it comes to social media. When asked if it changed his relationship with sites like Twitter, Gunn replied, "Yes and no. I'm more considerate of people's feelings today. I had talked about this a lot before those tweets were [resurfaced]. They are awful things, that's what my sense of humor was back then. But before this ever happened, I realized that I had closed myself off to things I thought were schmaltzy because I didn't want to be vulnerable. This attitude — I can make a joke about anything, look how great I am — that's just not the fullness of me as a human being. And I learned that long before I got called out for the tweets."

Gunn also addressed cancel culture, saying that, to his mind, there's a bigger element to the idea of that particular concept. "I understand people's preoccupation with that term," Gunn said. "But it's such a bigger issue than that. Because cancel culture also is people like Harvey Weinstein, who should be canceled. People who have gotten canceled and then remain canceled — most of those people deserved that. The paparazzi are not just the people on the streets — they're the people combing Twitter for any past sins. All of that sucks. It's painful. But some of it is accountability. And that part of it is good. It's just about finding that balance."

The director was also clear that he now has newfound sympathy for people whose old Tweets are resurfaced, arguing that people can definitely change. However, there are limits: "Even when [a] person has done something terrible, I still feel sympathy for that person. Because I'm a compassionate person and it's part of my faith. Sometimes things get taken out of context. And sometimes somebody did something when they were in college — it's 20 years later, they've lived a great life, it's just too much. And then sometimes you read, oh, well, what he did was pretty awful."

Gunn feels thankful to those who supported him throughout the controversy

It's no surprise at this point that Gunn regrets writing those Tweets. However, it wasn't the backlash which motivated him to reconsider whether or not they were appropriate to begin with — by his account, he had already done that in the years between writing them and the controversy. Even so, the support of those around him humbled the director further. "You do not understand the immensity of it until you're in the middle of it," Gunn said. "to have them come to my side and be there for me, that was an eye-opener for me. I felt really fulfilled and loved in a way that I had never felt in my entire life."

The silver lining on Gunn's situation thickened a great deal more soon after. Even in the wake of the controversy, Warner Bros. approached Gunn, asking him to make another "Suicide Squad" movie: "When Warner Bros. comes to me on the Monday after it happens and says, we want you, James Gunn, you think, wow, that feels good to hear."

Of course, things have gotten monumentally better for Gunn since 2018. His public statements apologizing for the Tweets resonated with many, and, as previously mentioned, Marvel swiftly rehired the director. Now, with "Suicide Squad" releasing just around the corner on August 6, and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" set for 2023, things could not look brighter.