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James Gunn is sharing more details around his 2018 Marvel firing, including how he got the news and his feelings around “cancel culture” following that experience and his eventual rehiring a year later.
In a new interview with The New York Times, the Suicide Squad director said that it was Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige who ultimately delivered the news that Gunn had been let go, and shared both his and Feige’s shock around the decision.
“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,” Gunn recalled. “Later he called me — he himself was in shock — and told me what the powers that be had decided.”
Gunn was overwhelmed after hearing the news and felt his entire career was over. “It was unbelievable. And for a day, it seemed like everything was gone. Everything was gone,” Gunn continued. “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.”
Gunn was fired as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2018 after a number of conservative personalities resurfaced old tweets in which the filmmaker made jokes about pedophilia and rape.
In a statement released the day of his firing, Gunn said that, “I understand and accept the business decisions taken today,” and that he “regretted” the words in those tweets “because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.”
Following the news of his firing, Guardians castmembers were among many who came out in support of Gunn, even penning a letter advocating for his reinstatement. “I felt really fulfilled and loved in a way that I had never felt in my entire life,” the filmmaker said.
When asked whether he felt he was a victim of cancel culture, Gunn responded, “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,” Gunn explained. “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.”
During the wide-ranging interview, Gunn also spoke about being only the second director to helm both a DC and a Marvel film — and the first “to receive a directing credit on the Marvel and DC movies.” (Joss Whedon went uncredited after taking over duties on Zack Snyder’s Justice League.) The filmmaker said he does see differences in Marvel’s and DC’s approaches to their franchises, “but not as many as people probably think.”
“There’s no doubt Kevin Feige is way more involved with editing than people are at Warner Bros. He gives more notes. You don’t have to take them and I don’t always take them,” Gunn said of his work with Marvel.
As for DC, Gunn thinks it’s “great” that the studio can do both R-rated and family films, and said it works because “the folks over at Warner Bros. are really interested in building out a world and creating something that’s unique to the filmmakers.”
“That is one of the ways in which DC can distinguish itself from Marvel,” Gunn continued. “What I do is very different from what [the Ant-Man director] Peyton Reed does, it’s very different from what [Iron Man director Jon] Favreau did, it’s different from Taika [Waititi, the director of Thor: Ragnarok]. But not as different as Shazam! and Suicide Squad, however.”
“The fact that they did Joker, which is a totally different type of movie, that to me is cool. I’m very excited about Matt [Reeves]’s movie [The Batman]. They’re getting some really good filmmakers involved. They’re always going to be hit or miss — I just don’t want them to get boring,” he later said.
As for whether he has plans to work with either studio in the future, the filmmaker says it’s up in the air. “I have no clue what I’m going to do. For me, Guardians 3 is probably the last one. I don’t know about doing it again. I do find, because of the ability to do different stuff in the DC multiverse, it’s fun.”
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