If Marvel does not rehire James Gunn to direct Guardians of the Galay vol. 3 -- which is the safe bet in today's installment of the ever-churning rumor mill surrounding this controversy -- they will likely go outside of their normal circle and hire someone new to Marvel.
According to Variety, while Disney is disinclined to rehire Gunn, the report also seemed to exclude popular fan picks like Taika Waititi, Joe and Anthony Russo, and Jon Favreau.
The explanation is simple enough: those are all superstar directors with a lot of other irons in the fire, and Disney's need to get the Guardians threequel back on track relatively quickly would be complicated by asking them to step away from another project. In some cases, their other projects are also for parent company Disney, which makes the math even harder.
Gunn was fired from the movie in July, after a number of offensive tweets from before his time with Marvel were revived by alt-right provocateur Mike Cernovich and a social media campaign was mounted to have him fired. Cernovich had targeted Gunn due to the director's vocal opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Besides being removed as writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3, Gunn's status on an as-yet-undisclosed project for Sony, which was to be announced at Comic Con International in San Diego, is up in the air. The project's announcement and Gunn's appearance were both cancelled after his firing by Disney.
As pressure mounted on social media ahead of his firing, Gunn had reiterated an earlier apology for the tweets that got him in trouble, originally made before Guardians of the Galaxy went into production. The Guardians of the Galaxy cast and other celebrities have issued statements in support of Gunn, asking for the public to believe him when he says that he has changed in the years since he published the offensive remarks.
Critics have countered that Gunn was "old enough to know better" even a decade ago, or that some of the tweets -- which included jokes about rape and pedophilia -- are unforgivable for someone who works at a family-friendly company like Disney. A few outliers and conspiracy theorists have speculated that the jokes indicate Gunn actually is a pedophile or rapist, with former Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz suggesting that Gunn "should be prosecuted" if the tweets "are true."
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story repeated erroneous reports that some Marvel actors had unfollowed Gunn's Twitter account following the firing. We regret the error.
Gunn has said that he understands the business decision Disney made, and reiterated his apology for the jokes, saying that he accepts responsibility for them.
Before working at Disney, Gunn worked on Warner Bros.' live-action Scooby-Doo franchise and with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder on a remake of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. His non-franchise films (which include Slither, Super, and Tromeo and Juliet) have tended to be edgy, sexy, violent, and subversive, which at first made him seem like an odd choice to join the safe, predictable Marvel Studios family. A number of these tweets, as well as since-deleted blog posts, came up in interviews and thinkpieces around the time Marvel brought Gunn on board.
Variety suggests that it is likely "Disney will reach outside the Marvel family to find a director with the kind of offbeat sensibility to handle the comic-book franchise."
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3, which was designed as the final installment with the current crop of Guardians characters, was slated for a 2020 theatrical release, which puts the production up against a wall in terms of finding a competent new director and developing a new script (Gunn had already turned in at least one draft) in time to begin production for the projected release date.