Bautista previously railed against Disney for firing the Guardians of the Galaxy director, threatening to walk away from his contract if the studio did not use Gunn's script for the third installment, which has been delayed indefinitely as they look for a new director.
During a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Bautista acknowledged that Gunn had made some "gross ... terrible jokes" for "shock value....But at the end of the day, the thing I know the most, is that they were jokes, and this harsh, rash decision to fire him empowered some horrible, horrible people.”
Those people were extreme right-wing activists like Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, who dredged up Gunn's decade-old tweets and weaponized them after a political disagreement with the filmmaker on Twitter. Before getting Gunn fired, the pair were best known for advancing the debunked "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory, which alleged that high-ranking Democratic Party officials were involved in a child sex ring operating out of a Washington, D.C. restaurant. The conspiracy led to a deranged supporter to open fire on the restaurant in the hopes of liberating the non-existent children. The gunman got four years in prison and a nearly $6,000 fine aimed at fixing the damage done to the restaurant.
The restaurant has also reported threatening phone calls and an arson attempt on the property since Cernovich and Posobiec advanced the conspiracy theory.
Supporters of the self-identified trolls attacked Bautista after he stood up for Gunn in the weeks after the director's firing, which the actor admits was exhausting.
"It was draining," Bautista admitted. "But if I'm not the guy who defends my friends, who am I?"
Gunn was swiftly fired by Disney Studios chief Alan Horn after offensive past tweets resurfaced, which made light of pedophilia, rape and other abuses. The tweets were pulled from between 2008 and 2012, ceasing around the time Gunn was hired by Marvel Studios to helm the then-unproven Guardians franchise.
He had previously, and has again since, apologized for the tweets.
The entire Guardians of the Galaxy cast — Bautista, Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn — issued a joint statement shortly after the firing, declaring their support for Gunn.
Speaking to Buzzfeed last May ahead of the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gunn said working on the franchise forced him “into a much deeper way of thinking about... my relationship to people.”
“I was a very nasty guy on Twitter. It was a lot of f—ing edgy, in-your-face, dirty stuff. I suddenly was working for Marvel and Disney, and that didn’t seem like something I could do anymore,” Gunn said, explaining his time on the franchise made him more “sensitive” and “positive.”
“I mean, I really do love people. And by not having jokes to make about whatever was that offensive topic of the week, that forced me into just being who I really was, which was a pretty positive person,” Gunn said. “It felt like a relief.”
Bautista next returns as Drax in Avengers: Endgame, out in April.