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James Gunn In Talks to Direct Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (Exclusive)

The "Slither" and "Super" helmer is the studio's choice to shepherd the superhero space fantasy.

Guardians of the Galaxy Art - P 2012

James Gunn has emerged as Marvel Studios' choice to direct its upcoming space superhero saga Guardians of the Galaxy.

After a lengthy search, sources say that Marvel executives now are talking exclusively with Gunn, whose previous credits include the genre films Slither and Super. The studio is said not to have ruled out others in the running —  Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man) and Half Nelson helming team Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden were in the mix, according to sources — in case talks with Gunn's reps do not lead to a deal.

Marvel is said to like Gunn's sensibility and his ability to mix comedy elements with action and horror, a quality he shares with The Avengers director Joss Whedon, who, with his exclusive contract with Marvel, is now a major architect of the company's expanding universe.  

Marvel declined to comment.

Galaxy is the first original title in Marvel’s “Phase 2" of movies, which also includes Iron Man 3, sequels to Captain America and Thor, and Avengers 2.

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Marvel officially announced the movie at Comic-Con. Earlier this month, THR reported that it hired Chris McCoy to rewrite the space adventure movie, which had a previous draft of a script by Nicole Perlman.

While there have been several incarnations of the Guardians team in the comics over the years, the movie’s lineup will include Drax the Destroyer, a human resurrected as a green warrior with the sole purpose of killing Thanos (the villain in the Avengers final-scene tease); Groot, a giant tree-man; Star-Lord, a gun-toting half-human/half-alien intergalactic vigilante; Rocket Raccoon, a genetically engineered animal with a knack for guns and explosives; and Gamora, the last survivor of her species who was saved by Thanos to be his assassin but now battles him.

Earlier this week a logline made the rounds describing the plot as concerning “a U.S. pilot who ends up in space in the middle of a universal conflict and goes on the run with futuristic ex-cons who have something everyone wants."

If a deal comes together, it would mark yet another unconventional director choice for a big Marvel movie. The studio raised eyebrows by handing over Iron Man to a then-untested Jon Favreau, Thor to Kenneth Branagh, who was known for arthouse pics, and The Avengers to TV showrunner Whedon. All the movies became international hits. 

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Guardians would be a major break for Gunn, who is best known for directing the low-budget Super and Slither. Super, released in 2010, is an indie action comedy starring Rainn Wilson and Liv Tyler about a schlub who decides to be a superhero despite lacking any skills. Slither is a horror comedy made by Gold Circle Films that starred Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks. Slither only made $7.7 million domestically, though a galactic sum compared to Super’s $322,000 domestic take.

But Gunn, who wrote Warner Bros’s live-action Scooby-Doo movie and its sequel, has a cult following and rose through the moviemaking machine of low-budget farm Troma Entertainment, run by genre king Lloyd Kaufman.

Gunn is repped by UTA.

Email: Borys.Kit@thr.com

Twitter: @Borys_Kit