Fans and actors stand by Disney's ousted director James Gunn

James Gunn
James Gunn

WASHINGTON • In the weekend after writer-director James Gunn was ousted from Disney/ Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3, stars from his US$1.6-billion (S$2.1-billion) film franchise and other Hollywood colleagues have taken various tacks in response.

A few have been vocal on social media, directly protesting against 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 last Friday following 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 paedophilia - "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 United States President Donald Trump.

Fans responded rapidly to Gunn's firing. A #RehireJamesGunn hashtag campaign was launched on Twitter and a petition to "Rehire James Gunn" has more than 200,000 signatures.

In a statement last Friday, Gunn apologised 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.

He previously apologised for his online "jokes" in 2012, after entertainment website 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 on 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 (sic). I just want everyone to know I love ALL members of my GOTG family."

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 Marvel Cinematic Universe, tweeted a short video in which she wrote: "We are Groot. We are a family. We stand together."

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 from a parenting blog wrote, referring to Bautista's powerful, grey-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."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2018, with the headline 'Fans and actors stand by Disney's ousted director James Gunn'. Subscribe