James Gunn Back On as 'Guardians of the Galaxy 3' Director

James Gunn-Getty-H 2019
Christopher Polk/Getty Images
The filmmaker had been fired last July.

In a remarkable turn of events, Disney has reinstated James Gunn as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Disney fired Gunn last July, after old, offensive tweets from the filmmaker were resurfaced by conservative personalities online. The firing was controversial, with Guardians of the Galaxy stars, including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Dave Bautista, signing an open letter asking for the filmmaker to be rehired. Bautista, in particular, had been outspoken in his support of Gunn.

Marvel Studios put Guardians 3 on hold, though Marvel head Kevin Feige and others involved have maintained they intended to make the film happen. Guardians 3 never had a release date, but Gunn previously said it would open in 2020.

In the weeks after firing Gunn, there was speculation around town about who could replace the filmmaker, with agents lining up clients but by mid-fall, any perceived search seemed to have petered out, with many thinking that the project was on the back burner. What almost no one knew was that Marvel and Disney had never undertaken a search and in fact became convinced he should be given a second chance. In the fall, Disney went back to Gunn and quietly made a deal, according to insiders.

After the firing, Gunn moved on to Warner Bros. and DC to write and direct The Suicide Squad, which has Idris Elba set to star and has an Aug. 6, 2021 release date. Gunn plans on doing both films, with The Suicide Squad coming first, according to sources. 

After the news broke, Gunn — who has been silent on Twitter since his firing — tweeted a statement.

"I am tremendously grateful to every person out there who has supported me over the past few months," Gunn wrote Friday on Twitter. "I am always learning and will continue to work at being the best human being I can be. I deeply appreciate Disney's decision and I am excited to continue making films that investigate the ties of love that bind us all. I have been, and continue to be incredibly humbled by your love and support. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Love to you all."

When Gunn was fired last year, he issued a statement apologizing for his previous tweets.

"My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative," his July 2018 statement read. "I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don't reflect the person I am today or have been for some time."

The Guardians movies have been very successful for Marvel, pushing its cinematic universe into the cosmic sphere. The first Guardians movie in 2014 earned more than $773 million worldwide, while 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earned $863 million. The Guardians were also a big part of last year's Avengers: Infinity War, on which Gunn served as an executive producer, while Karen Gillan's Nebula is a key part of Avengers: Endgame, which Gunn also is executive producing.