Back in March, Disney shockingly announced that James Gunn would return to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, months after firing him after a series of crude jokes made by the director on social media years prior were resurfaced. Gunn has been quiet about his return, and his exit, ever since the original firing—but he’s finally spoken out.
Speaking to Deadline in an extensive interview, Gunn addresses the tumult of the day his firing was announced last July, and the crisis of conscience in his work that followed:
That first day… I’m going to say it was the most intense of my entire life. There have been other difficult days in my life, from the time I got sober when I was younger, to the death of friends who committed suicide. But this was incredibly intense. It happened, and suddenly it seemed like everything was gone. I just knew, in a moment that happened incredibly quickly, I had been fired. It felt as if my career was over.
He equally quickly learned that it wasn’t, however, with offers from studios — including Warner Bros., who tapped him to write and direct The Suicide Squad in the wake of his very public breakup with Disney — coming in in the wake of the ongoing turmoil the initial exit provided:
At the same time, I didn’t know what I believed. The news that I was hired back, it was a big story for a day and then it’s done. When all this happened, it went for days and days and days. As much as I wasn’t reading the news, I was feeling the shrapnel constantly through all of the texts and calls from my friends and family who were so upset at this or that. I finally had to be like, “Guys, I can’t focus on all the negative stuff right now, it just hurts me.”
The studios, for the most part, said, “We’d love to have you.” They called within the first two days. But I didn’t believe it. That’s the thing that I have to be honest about. On some theoretical level, I was like, “Well, maybe I do have a future.” I’m a fairly logic-oriented person and that helped, but emotionally, there was not a whole lot there to hold onto. That was good for me, too, because what I needed to do was stop making my career be what makes me worthwhile and start making me just be OK as myself. That is what I concentrated on. I concentrated on the fun.
But despite being candid about the stress he went through — including the targeted campaign by right-wing trolls who resurfaced Gunn’s controversial comments, lashing out at the director’s public distaste for President Trump — Gunn is also equally candid that he blames no one but himself for the gross remarks that lead to Disney firing him in the first place:
I was writing Suicide Squad and thought of Guardians 3 as being long gone. I guess it was a possibility for a while, but the initial conversations with Alan [Horn, Walt Disney Studios president] weren’t, “Let’s figure out if I should come back.” It was, “Let’s talk about this.” It was like the break-up of my marriage. I got divorced, and then had those conversations with my ex-wife: “Let’s get along as well as we possibly can and be kind to each other because we’re both a large part of each other’s lives...”
...I don’t blame anyone. I feel and have felt bad for a while about some of the ways I spoke publicly; some of the jokes I made, some of the targets of my humour, just the unintentional consequences of not being more compassionate in what I’m putting out there. I know that people have been hurt by things that I’ve said, and that’s still my responsibility, that I wasn’t as compassionate as I should be in what I say. I feel bad for that and take full responsibility. Disney totally had the right to fire me. This wasn’t a free speech issue. I said something they didn’t like and they completely had the right to fire me. There was never any argument of that.
There’s much, more to be found over at the original Deadline interview, but at least Gunn is frank about the situation that brought about his firing. While most Marvel fans — and Gunn himself — are happy to see the director return, it’s clear that Gunn wants it to be known he’s learned from the entire endeavour that necessitated his exit in the first place.