James Gunn Opens Up About His Firing From Disney, 'The Suicide Squad', And More

The last year has been quite the roller coaster for James Gunn. Emphatically fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 after controversial decade-old tweets were exposed by far-right trolls, Gunn suddenly found himself gone from the blockbuster franchise he was the guiding force of. But it didn't last long. Within weeks he had been hired by Warner Bros. to direct their Suicide Squad sequel. Soon after, Disney came calling and brought him back into the Marvel fold, exactly where he had always been.

With all of that behind him now, Gunn has taken time to reflect in an interview with Deadline, and sounds like a guy who has made peace with what he's gone through, and accepts responsibility for his past actions that caused them. It's for that reason his fans have stuck by his side, and studios remained eager to work with him. That includes Disney exec Alan Horn, who approached Gunn about returning to the Guardians franchise he helped create...

"I was about to sit down and talk about The Suicide Squad with DC and I was excited about that. Alan asked me to come talk to him. I really believe he is a good man and I think he hired me back because he thought that was the right thing to do. I’ve known him a little, going back to the Scooby-Doo movies. I’ve always liked and admired him. I was touched by his compassion."

"You hear in Hollywood that everybody’s cutthroat. That’s true of a section of this industry, but there’s also a lot of really good people. I’m always attracted to finding that goodness in places we don’t expect, often in the characters in my movies. I got a little bit teary-eyed in his office. And then I had to go tell Kevin Feige I had just decided to do The Suicide Squad, so that made me very nervous."

Gunn feels no ill will towards Disney for what happened and acknowledges the things he said years ago and apologized for, which includes inappropriate jokes about rape, hurt a lot of people who didn't deserve it...

“I don’t blame anyone. I feel and have felt bad for a while about some of the ways I spoke publicly; some of the jokes I made, some of the targets of my humor, just the unintentional consequences of not being more compassionate in what I’m putting out there.”

“I know that people have been hurt by things that I’ve said, and that’s still my responsibility, that I wasn’t as compassionate as I should be in what I say. I feel bad for that and take full responsibility. Disney totally had the right to fire me. This wasn’t a free speech issue. I said something they didn’t like and they completely had the right to fire me. There was never any argument of that.”

Gunn didn't sit around for long after the firing, though. He admits studios were calling him "within the first two days", including Warner Bros. who hired him to write and direct The Suicide Squad...

“The ‘Suicide Squad’ sequel, it just instantly started flowing. I don’t think I’ve had as much fun writing a script since maybe ‘Dawn of the Dead.’ That’s what this whole movie has been like.”

Turning attention back to Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunn wouldn't give any plot details. It's still too early for that, but he did talk about the closeness he feels towards two characters in particular, and it sounds as if completing their stories will be a big focus for him...

"When you asked me what was saddest for me when I thought it was gone—and anybody at Marvel can tell you—it’s this very strange and attached relationship to Rocket. Rocket is me, he really is, even if that sounds narcissistic. Groot is like my dog. I love Groot in a completely different way. I relate to Rocket and I feel compassion for Rocket, but I also feel like his story has not been completed. He has an arc that started in the first movie, continued into the second and goes through Infinity War and Endgame, and then I was set to really finish that arc in Guardians 3. That was a big loss to me—not being able to finish that story—though I was comforted by the fact that they were still planning to use my script."

Gunn's next film is the superhero horror, Brightburn, which opens on May 24th. Following that is The Suicide Squad on August 6th 2021, and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 probably the following year.