'The Suicide Squad' Director James Gunn Reflects On Being Temporarily Fired From 'Guardians Of The Galaxy 3'

Writer/director James Gunn's ascent to blockbuster filmmaking hasn't exactly been the smoothest one, to say the least. Many fans woke up one morning in July 2018 to the social media firestorm regarding Gunn and many wildly ill-advised tweets that were disingenuously unearthed by far-right commentators, posts that featured inappropriately crass jokes and made light of topics such as pedophilia and rape. The filmmaker, who only landed on Marvel's radar in the first place thanks to his intentionally provocative work with schlocky B-movie studio Troma, soon found himself fired by Disney as a result of the backlash.

Obviously, things have since improved for the controversial public figure. He subsequently added DC's The Suicide Squad and its HBO Max spin-off series Peacemaker to his busy plate, followed soon after with regaining his Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 gig. Gunn has taken responsibility and discussed these events previously, but a new interview has him giving his most in-depth conversation on the topic yet.

Gunn's frank and introspective comments throughout a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times have the added effect of giving readers a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes process of any major studio, particularly when a high-profile employee finds themselves in hot water. Gunn describes the events of that day in detail, particularly the moment when he first realized that his tweets wouldn't simply blow over and that his job was actually at risk:

"It was conveyed to me by Kevin Feige [the Marvel Studios president]. I called Kevin the morning it was going on, and I said, 'Is this a big deal?' And he goes, 'I don't know.' That was a moment. I was like, 'You don't know?' I was surprised. Later he called me — he himself was in shock — and told me what the powers that be had decided. It was unbelievable. And for a day, it seemed like everything was gone. Everything was gone. I was going to have to sell my house. I was never going to be able to work again. That's what it felt like."

Obviously, any filmmaker or public figure in general who chooses to be active on social media runs the risk of posting the wrong thing at some point in time, having those posts exposed to a much wider audience, and then dealing with the inevitable consequences. That most definitely applies to Gunn, and he goes on to expand on what he's learned, if anything, about choosing his words more carefully since then:

"Yes and no. I'm more considerate of people's feelings today. I had talked about this a lot before those tweets were [resurfaced]. They are awful things, that's what my sense of humor was back then. But before this ever happened, I realized that I had closed myself off to things I thought were schmaltzy because I didn't want to be vulnerable. This attitude — I can make a joke about anything, look how great I am — that's just not the fullness of me as a human being. And I learned that long before I got called out for the tweets."

Reckoning With His Past

As far as public accountability goes, this feels like the most any of us could possibly ask of someone who's made some blatant mistakes in their past. Gunn has previously apologized for his actions, but what's more encouraging is that he seems to recognize that this is now an inextricable part of his story on the path towards self-growth.

Complicating matters is the fact that, while certainly a self-inflicted problem to begin with, these posts were only brought to light by far-right reactionaries who jumped at the chance to silence a vocal political adversary. Along those lines, "Cancel culture" is an example of a specific slice of rhetoric that gets thrown around a lot these days, which Gunn was also asked about in regards to whether he considers himself a victim.

"I understand people's preoccupation with that term. But it's such a bigger issue than that. Because cancel culture also is people like Harvey Weinstein, who should be canceled. People who have gotten canceled and then remain canceled — most of those people deserved that. The paparazzi are not just the people on the streets — they're the people combing Twitter for any past sins. All of that sucks. It's painful. But some of it is accountability. And that part of it is good. It's just about finding that balance."

Again, these answers at least come across as honest and straightforward. There is certainly a broader discussion that needs to continue when it comes to which types of public figures are allowed to enjoy a redemption story vs those who are not afforded the same benefit of the doubt. Individually, however, we all can make our own judgment over whether Gunn appears changed by his experience.

The Times interview also explore many less fraught topics, such as when WB/DC came knocking at Gunn's door to offer him Superman (the very Monday after his firing by Disney, in fact!) as well as why he never even considered including Jared Leto's Joker in his Suicide Squad film (an exceedingly good call, in our opinion). Click through to read it in full yourself.