NEW YORK • The Guardians Of The Galaxy are taking on the guardians of the far-right galaxy.
Deriding what they called "mob mentality", Chris Pratt and his Guardians castmates released a letter of support on Monday for director James Gunn. He was fired from the movie franchise on July 20 after online vigilantes flagged his tweets.
The tweets - mostly written between 2009 and 2012 - contained jokes about paedophilia, Aids, rape and the Sept 11 attacks. They were put in the spotlight two weeks ago after Gunn criticised United States President Donald Trump on Twitter.
Walt Disney, which controls the Guardians series through its Marvel Studios unit, swiftly fired Gunn, calling the tweets "indefensible and inconsistent with our studio's values".
But Disney was quickly condemned in some quarters for reacting to a social-media shaming that appeared to have been undertaken as political payback.
The firing also stirred debate over how Hollywood should handle transgressions made during a more anything-goes era.
"There is little due process in the court of public opinion," Pratt and eight of his co-stars, including Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, wrote in the open letter.
"James is likely not the last good person to be put on trial. We hope Americans from across the political spectrum can ease up on the character assassinations and stop weaponising mob mentality."
Noting that Gunn had repeatedly apologised, the cast members also said: "In casting each of us to help him tell the story of misfits who find redemption, he changed our lives forever. We believe the theme of redemption has never been more relevant than now."
Gunn, 51, has long been an online instigator. He was slammed in 2012 for making anti-gay and sexist comments on a blog. Still, Disney hired him to write and direct the first Guardians movie, which was marketed as family entertainment.
It took in US$773 million (S$1.05 billion) worldwide in 2014.
A sequel, also written and directed by Gunn, collected about US$864 million last year.
He has lately been consulting on a Guardians-themed addition to Epcot theme park at Walt Disney World in Florida.
The letter released by Pratt and his co-stars did not join fan petitions in demanding that Gunn be rehired as director of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3, which is set to begin shooting soon.
But they did say that Gunn had their "full support" and that they were "shocked" by his ouster by Disney, especially since the tweets were written "many years ago".
Disney is unlikely to reverse its decision to fire Gunn. Doing so would force the company to explain why his tweets were less offensive than the racist one that prompted Disney to fire Roseanne Barr from sitcom Roseanne in May.
The movie industry has long tolerated vulgar comments and behaviour - particularly from its creative ranks. But as the #MeToo and Time's Up movements have taken hold over the past year, some people are starting to contemplate what constitutes a proper response.
Over the weekend, Ms Terry Press, president of CBS Films, ruminated on the topic on her Facebook page after several women accused Mr Leslie Moonves, CBS' chief executive, of sexual misconduct in decades past.
"I do not believe that it is my place to question the accounts put forth by the women," she wrote, "but I do find myself asking that if we are examining the industry as it existed decades before through the lens of 2018, should we also discuss a path to learning, reconciliation and forgiveness?"