Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 after years-old tweets surfaced that featured coarse humor, including jokes about rape, pedophilia, and the September 11 terrorist attacks. Made years before Guardians of the Galaxy, most of the tweets had already been discussed when Marvel hired Gunn. He had previously apologized for the comments and acknowledged that they were in poor taste.
Those jokes, and some previously unexplored, were used against Gunn as part of a campaign to get him fired after he ran afoul of right-wing activists on Twitter led by one of the primary "Pizzagate" conspiracy theorists. Gunn reiterated his position that the jokes were inappropriate and apologized again, but said that they represented immature attempts at being "edgy" and were not representative of the person he is now.
The next day, Disney fired Gunn, saying that "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." The movie, which was expected to being production soon, has been put on an indefinite hold while the studio assesses what to do next.
The petition was organized almost immediately thereafter, with organizer Chandler Edwards admitting at the top, "I'm smart enough to know this most likely won't change anything but hopefully, this could get Disney to realize the mistake they made and not do it again in the future."
The film's entire principal cast signed a letter urging the studio to rehire Gunn, a course which was reportedly considered and then rejected. Franchise star Dave Bautista has been particularly vocal in his support for Gunn, saying that if Disney did not use Gunn's script for the final film in the trilogy, he would ask to be released from his contract.
"We fully support James Gunn. We were all shocked by his abrupt firing last week and have intentionally waited these ten days to respond in order to think, pray, listen, and discuss," an open letter from the cast said in part. "In that time, we've been encouraged by the outpouring of support from fans and members of the media who wish to see James reinstated as director of Volume 3 as well as discouraged by those so easily duped into believing the many outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding him....We are not here to defend his jokes of many years ago but rather to share our experience having spent many years together on set making Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2. The character he has shown in the wake of his firing is consistent with the man he was every day on set, and his apology, now and from years ago when first addressing these remarks, we believe is from the heart, a heart all know, trust, and love. In casting each of us to help him tell the story of misfits who find redemption, he changed our lives forever. We believe the theme of redemption has never been more relevant than now."
The future of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is in question as some fans would rather see no movie than a movie without Gunn. The latest reports before the film was put on hiatus suggested that Disney's exit negotiationis with Gunn would likely include a deal to use the first draft of his screenplay as a starting point, so that the original vision of the Guardians trilogy could remain at least somewhat intact.