In the weekend after writer-director James Gunn was ousted from Disney/Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” stars from his $1.6 billion film franchise and other Hollywood colleagues have taken various tacks in response.
A few have been vocal on social media, directly protesting Disney’s actions. Others have stayed silent or tweeted more obliquely during the controversy – some simply registering their solidarity through a phrase from the “Guardians” films: “We are Groot.”
Disney fired Gunn from the third “Guardians” movie Friday after a viral campaign last week spearheaded by conservative activists who resurfaced Gunn’s tweets, predominantly from between 2008 and 2012. Disney called the tweets – some of which Gunn had described as provocative “jokes” about rape and pedophilia – “indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values.” Gunn had become a particular target of online personalities on the political right after consistently tweeting his criticisms of President Donald Trump.
Fans responded rapidly to Gunn’s firing. A #RehireJamesGunn hashtag campaign was launched on Twitter, and a Change.org petition to “Rehire James Gunn” has more than 200,000 signatures. On Saturday, actress Selma Blair, a longtime friend of Gunn’s, shared the petition on Twitter, though she has since deleted her recent tweets in reference to Gunn.
In a statement Friday, Gunn apologized and said that he accepted Disney’s decision; that for years he has regretted his online attempts at being humorously provocative; and that the rediscovered tweets do not reflect who he is today. Gunn previously apologized for his online “jokes” in 2012, after the Mary Sue resurfaced some of his posts that critics called “homophobic and misogynistic.”
Dave Bautista, who plays Drax the Destroyer in the “Guardians” and “Avengers” films, responded strongly on Twitter, defending the man he has known in recent years.
“James Gunn is one of the most loving,caring, good natured people I have ever met,” tweeted Bautista, who added, “He’s made mistakes. We all have. Im NOT ok with what’s happening to him.”
Zoe Saldana, who plays Gamora in the “Guardians” and “Avengers” films, tweeted Sunday: “It’s been a challenging weekend I’m not gonna lie. I’m pausing myself to take everything in before I speak out of term. I just want everyone to know I love ALL members of my GOTG family.” Bautista responded to her by tweeting: “When it’s time you will speak from your heart like you always do,” adding the #WeAreGroot hashtag in solidarity.
Karen Gillan, who plays Nebula in the Marvel universe films, simply tweeted, “love to every single member of my GOTG family.”
Pom Klementieff, who plays the empath Mantis in the MCU, tweeted a short video in which she wrote: “We are Groot. We are a family. We stand together.”
“Guardians” star Chris Pratt did not address Gunn’s firing directly, instead tweeting Sunday the biblical verse James 1:19, which advises being “slow to speak, slow to anger.”
And Sean Gunn, James Gunn’s brother and a multi-role actor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, wrote on Instagram and Twitter that “working on these movies made my brother a better person,” adding: “I’m quite proud of how kind, generous and compassionate he is with the people in his life.”
Addressing the director’s past attempts at humor online, Sean Gunn wrote that “the struggle to find (his) voice was sometimes clunky, misguided or downright stupid, and sometimes wonderful, moving and hilarious,” and noted that while working on the “Guardians” films, he has seen his brother “transform from the guy who made up things to shock people.”
Sean Gunn wrote in an aside that neither he nor their mother ever thought the filmmaker’s “bluer material” was ever his funniest. (Both James and Sean Gunn have described to The Washington Post the abusive nature of the home they grew up in – and how that fostered the director’s “bluer” edge.)
In talking with the Post, James Gunn has also described the “Guardians” films, with their themes of family, as deeply personal projects.
The director was scheduled for a Sony panel Friday evening at San Diego’s Comic-Con International but did not appear.
“Guardians” actor Michael Rooker, who plays the tough but redeeming character Yondu, wrote that he was quitting Twitter, saying “we’re very tired & upset over the ongoing B---,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Rooker is close to Gunn, telling the Post last year about his “Guardians” director, with a full-throated laugh: “Off set, he’s like my bastard brother. But on set, he’s my dad.”
Blair tweeted her support of Gunn on Sunday, thanking him for his talent, decency and “evolution as a man.”
The actress also cited his support in helping her share her own #MeToo experiences in Hollywood, tweeting: “You propped me up when I was in a scary place, and guided me towards the decent and right thing to do. You have shown strength of character more than most anyone I know. You understood.”
Blair also tweeted: “If people are punished despite changing, then what does that teach people about owning mistakes and evolving? This man is one of the good ones.”
Elsewhere, some online commenters and sites noted the differences between the case of Gunn, who issued his offending tweets years ago, and that of Disney’s firing of Roseanne Barr in May from her ABC show, after a racist Twitter rant. Barr and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader are just two of the most recent cases of celebrities who created firestorms with their offensive tweets.
Some sites also noted the delayed social-media response by Gunn’s Hollywood colleagues.
“It’s a sad statement on our society that we have reached a point you have to be as brave as Drax to stand up for someone you care about,” Geek Moms wrote, referring to Bautista’s powerful, gray-skinned Guardian character. “Incidentally, while others have since come to stand beside Gunn, it was Dave Bautista who was the first reported to his side.”