With so many ups and downs happening across Hollywood these days, it’s often hard to keep track of the drama happening behind some of the film industry’s biggest blockbusters. In July of 2018, SLITHER and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY helmer James Gunn was was fired from the production of Marvel’s follow-up to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2. The filmmaker’s unceremonious exit came after alt-right journalists held a magnifying glass to a series of the filmmaker’s decade-old social media posts, which included jokes related to the topics of pedophilia and rape. After Gunn was promptly dismissed from the project, he’d met with Walt Disney Studios president Alan Horn to sort the matter. The pair had reportedly met on several occasions, during which time Gunn had publicly apologized for his actions. Seeing Gunn’s efforts as genuine, Horn had eventually welcomed the SUICIDE SQUAD creative back into the Guardians fold as the writer and director of the third film in the series.
Recently, Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. interviewed Gunn for a tell-all-style interview, in which the filmmaker spoke about his firing, re-hiring, and the pitfalls of going for cheap, abhorrent laughs on social media.
When asked about how it felt when Horn welcomed him back to the production of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 3, Gunn replied:
“I was about to sit down and talk about Suicide Squad with DC and I was excited about that. Alan asked me to come talk to him. I really believe he is a good man and I think he hired me back because he thought that was the right thing to do. I’ve known him a little, going back to the Scooby-Doo movies. I’ve always liked and admired him. I was touched by his compassion.
You hear in Hollywood that everybody’s cutthroat. That’s true of a section of this industry, but there’s also a lot of really good people. I’m always attracted to finding that goodness in places we don’t expect, often in the characters in my movies. I got a little bit teary-eyed in his office. And then I had to go tell Kevin Feige I had just decided to do Suicide Squad, so that made me very nervous.”
Following his exit, Gunn was forced to confront the fact that he’d been let go from a franchise he’d helped create, and that his past behavior was just as inappropriate now as it was when his missives were originally tweeted. With that in mind, Gunn was asked to describe how he came to terms with almost losing the franchise:
“Yes. I was writing Suicide Squad and thought of Guardians 3 as being long gone. I guess it was a possibility for a while, but the initial conversations with Alan weren’t, “Let’s figure out if I should come back.” It was, “Let’s talk about this.” It was like the break-up of my marriage. I got divorced, and then had those conversations with my ex-wife: “Let’s get along as well as we possibly can and be kind to each other because we’re both a large part of each other’s lives.”
But I would hate to look back on the six years that my wife and I were together and think, Oh, what a waste of time. Instead, I think it was a time when I really grew a lot and we were really good to each other. There were some problems, and we just weren’t supposed to be married, but it was well worth living that six years with my ex.
I wanted to feel that way about Disney. I didn’t want to look back and feel bitter, upset or angry. Of course all sorts of emotions are attached to it. But I just wanted to be comfortable saying goodbye and splitting up, and that’s where my head was at, even in the very early meeting we had, a week or two weeks after it all happened.”
As their talk continued, Gunn shared his feelings about embarking on a “spiritual journey” to rediscover his moral center, and how blaming anyone but himself for his past behavior would have been irresponsible:
“So a part of that day was the worst of my life, and a part of it was the greatest day of my life. I certainly haven’t been perfect in my spiritual journeys since that time, but I have been better.
The truth is I had a lot of anger at myself and I really had to try to put that aside. Because in the same way where I know what I’ve done wrong, I know that I’ve done a lot of wrong things in my life, things that led to this moment. I had to realize what I needed to do differently in my life. That was a part of all of this.
But in the same way I needed to not be lashing out at whoever fired me, or whoever spread links online, or cut up pictures to look like this or that, I also had to let go of some of that rage towards myself as well. Otherwise I just wasn’t going to be able to make it through.”
In time, Gunn’s interview shines a light on greener pastures, as the filmmaker begins speaking about his excitement for DC’s SUICIDE SQUAD sequel. In truth, Gunn says that he’d never lost his desire to create. If anything, the lesson he’d learned had only stoked a fire within him, and his need to build something new from the ashes became paramount to his sense of purpose as a creator:
“The Suicide Squad sequel, it just instantly started flowing. I don’t think I’ve had as much fun writing a script since maybe Dawn of the Dead. That’s what this whole movie has been like.”
Last but certainly not least, Gunn was asked if he could provide Deadline with any details regarding the plot of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 3. While he was reluctant to get into the nitty gritty of the upcoming superhero sequel, Gunn did share that the third chapter will see Rocket’s arc coming to a satisfying conclusion:
“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. 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. 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.”
For more of Deadline’s in-depth sit-down with James Gunn, you can click here to read the whole saga.
For the moment, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 3 has yet to receive a release date, though production is expected to begin sometime next year after Gunn wraps on his SUICIDE SQUAD film for DC and Warner Bros.. So far, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, David Dastmalchian, Idris Elba, Viola Davis, and Daniela Melchoir are confirmed for the “worst of the worst” reboot, which is set to invade theaters on August 6, 2021.