The outlet learned Friday Marvel Studios froze production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 to "regroup" on the project following the firing of series writer-director James Gunn in July. Marvel was gearing up for a January shooting start under Gunn but the Disney-owned studio is now taking a "measured approach" in its search for a replacement director.
Waititi emerged as a fan-favorite pick to step in and helm the third entry in the irreverent and cosmic-centric franchise after reinvigorating Chris Hemsworth's golden-haired demigod in threequel Thor: Ragnarok, which earned high praise for its light touch and Guardians-like offbeat sense of humor.
Variety reported earlier this month Gunn would not be rehired for Vol. 3 and acknowledged rumors Marvel would turn to its already-tried-and-tested stable of directors in search of a suitable replacement, but ruled out Waititi, Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau, and Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War directors Anthony and Joe Russo, citing prior commitments.
Beyond next year's Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home, Marvel has yet to announce its post-Avengers 4 slate. The studio is in early development on a Scarlett Johansson-led Black Widow prequel set sometime before the events of The Avengers and has other irons in the fire, including not-yet-officially-announced sequels for Doctor Strange and Black Panther.
Marvel has a near-dozen untitled projects in the works to release between 2020 and 2022, any of which could have been the focus of a meeting with Waititi, who has expressed interest in re-teaming with the studio on either a fourth Thor or another project.
"I would like to come back and work with Marvel any time, because I think they're a fantastic studio, and we had a great time working together," Waititi told CinemaBlend.
"And they were very supportive of me, and my vision. They kind of gave me a lot of free reign, but also had a lot of ideas as well. A very collaborative company. I'd love to do another Thor film, because I feel like I've established a really great thing with these guys, and friendship. And I don't really like any of the other characters."
The New Zealand filmmaker's biting wit aside, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige is optimistic Waititi will be tapped for a future Marvel project, telling ScreenRant, "I would love, love, love to work with Taika again and I have every confidence that we will."
Gunn was famously fired by Disney after years-old tweets involving concerning subject matter — including rape, pedophilia, and other abuses — resurfaced on Twitter. The family-friendly studio is sticking to its guns despite the backing of the entire Guardians cast, who released a joint statement expressing their support of the ousted director.
Marvel has yet to officially date Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but signs pointed to the studio releasing the movie on its already-staked-out May 1, 2020 release date.