Disney officially fired and severed ties Friday with Guardians of the Galaxy franchise writer-director James Gunn, who in 2017 was appointed architect of the growing cosmic side of the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Gunn’s pair of blockbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, served as an entryway into a largely unexplored landscape of the MCU — glimpsed only briefly in Thor and The Avengers — and operated as set up for the expansion into space explored in the mostly-cosmic Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War, and soon, the space-focused Captain Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Because of his handling of the Guardians franchise, Gunn was to shepherd the direction of the MCU cosmos in tandem with Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige.
Gunn was first tapped to consult on the Guardians characters — Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and friends — in Infinity War, “dealing with the characters, changing what needs to be changed, saying what’s being done well and checking in and making sure everything is going to plan,” Gunn told IGN in June 2017.
Asked about his future deeper involvement in the off-Earth portion of the universe, Gunn confirmed he and Feige “talk about it all the time.”
“It’s already a part of what I’m doing with Marvel and the conversations that Kevin and I have every day. When we’re talking about Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and that story, that’s a story that will lead to other stories,” Gunn said. “It’s innate to the DNA that that’s the end of a trilogy but it’s the beginning of a whole other element of the Marvel Cosmic universe. That’s a part of what I’m doing now.”
By August, Gunn — who was busy scripting Vol. 3 — told THR he consulted regularly with Feige and that “scripts are already in the works” for new projects to expand the MCU galaxy in Phase 4, adding the pair where “discussing what is the next iteration of cosmic characters and where are the characters that we’ve already created going to go in the next batch of films.”
By September, Gunn confirmed at a convention he was “shepherding the future of the Marvel cosmic universe” and was “also creating movies around Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”
The trilogy closer is now on the hunt for a director, but Marvel will have to hurry — Vol. 3 was supposed to enter pre-production “very, very soon,” Feige said in late June, ahead of a planned January shooting start.
Feige and Marvel Studios have yet to issue a comment on the controversy. It remains to be seen how Gunn’s removal will affect Marvel Studios’ cosmic expansion moving forward or what changes, if any, will be made to Vol. 3 aside from a director change. Gunn previously completed and turned in a draft on the script, which he said is set post-Infinity War.
Gunn was swiftly fired by Disney Studios chief Alan Horn over Gunn’s history of “offensive” and “indefensible” comments published on social media. Over the course of years, Gunn repeatedly published crude and often graphic tweets centered around pedophilia, molestation, rape, and other abuses.4comments
He previously came under fire in 2012, after he won the Guardians of the Galaxy directing job, for other unrelated comments published to his own website that GLAAD deemed “anti-gay” and “sexist.”