Report: Disney not likely to bring back James Gunn despite Guardians cast support

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Aug 6, 2018, 1:00 PM EDT (Updated)

Disney and its subsidiary Marvel Studios are currently not considering rehiring writer and director James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, despite an online petition signed by hundreds of thousands of fans, a show of solidarity from Luke Cage star Mike Colter, and a strong letter of support from the main cast of the Guardians franchise.

According to Variety — which suggested earlier this week that Gunn could be rehired — sources in the company say the extensive series of rape and pedophilia jokes tweeted by Gunn almost a decade ago and dug up recently by alt-right agitators (as payback for Gunn's social media attacks on Donald Trump) are too offensive to be associated with Disney's family-friendly image. Gunn was fired over the jokes on July 20.

Although Guardians of the Galaxy cast members said in their letter that they were "encouraged by the outpouring of support from fans and members of the media who wish to see James reinstated," one thing that they did not do was threaten to quit the franchise. All the players are under contract and would no doubt face legal action if they failed to show up for work on the third Guardians film.

One source told Variety, "I don’t see Disney re-hiring him. Those tweets were so horrible and Disney has a different standard than other studios." The decision to let Gunn go was made by Disney Studios head Alan Horn and approved by CEO Robert Iger. It is not clear what, if any, role Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige played in the process, and he has yet to issue a comment on the matter.

The report also indicates that Disney was not aware of the tweets beforehand and was shocked when they resurfaced -- even though they had become an issue back in 2011 and 2012, when Gunn apologized for them and some other insensitive blog posts.

Even if Gunn is definitely not returning, the report says that the studio is not hurrying to find a replacement for him. For one thing, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 does not have an official release date, even though it's been widely assumed that it would come out in 2020. Gunn completed his first draft of the script before he was dismissed -- although it remains to be seen whether the studio uses it -- and production was tentatively slated to begin in February 2019.

This entire situation has been bad on many levels, and it's hard to say whether Gunn being rehired would make things worse or defuse the ongoing controversy. Do you think Disney should give Gunn a second chance, or does the studio have no recourse but to move on?