In a dramatic turn of events last summer, James Gunn was fired by Disney after a series of old, offensive tweets resurfaced—tweets featuring jokes about pedophilia and rape. Despite the outpouring of support from colleagues, the stars of his two Guardians Of The Galaxy movies, professional peers, and friends, Disney showed no signs of rehiring Gunn, who had previously apologized for his “edgy” jokes. But then something kind of amazing happened: Disney rehired Gunn, who had already moved on to write and direct The Suicide Squad for Warner Bros. He will now direct Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 when he finishes work on the DC film. In the months since, Gunn has kept mostly quiet about his firing and rehiring, but in a surprisingly in-depth discussion with Deadline, the filmmaker opens up about the experience, shedding a positive light on a rather upsetting—but crucial—moment in his career.
Over the course of a rather lengthy interview, Gunn reflects on how he felt throughout every step of the firing and rehiring process. Speaking of Disney’s Alan Horn, Gunn says, “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 always liked and admired him. I was touched by his compassion.” That optimism and compassion is consistent throughout the interview, in which Gunn thoughtfully compares his split with Disney to an amicable divorce:
But I would hate to look back on the six years that my wife and I were together and think, Oh, what a waste of time. Instead, I think it was a time when I really grew a lot and we were really good to each other. There were some problems, and we just weren’t supposed to be married, but it was well worth living that six years with my ex.
I wanted to feel that way about Disney. I didn’t want to look back and feel bitter, upset or angry. Of course all sorts of emotions are attached to it. But I just wanted to be comfortable saying goodbye and splitting up, and that’s where my head was at, even in the very early meeting we had, a week or two weeks after it all happened.
Gunn goes on to reiterate that he blames himself and no one else for his firing. Despite the fact that he made those jokes however many years in the past, they were still things that he had put out into the world. “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,” he said. Gunn seems to have spent his time in Disney limbo doing quite a bit of self-reflection, reckoning with his anger (at himself) and distancing himself from negativity on social media.
Most importantly, Gunn views the situation for what it truly was—an opportunity to learn and grow from his mistakes:
There’s a lot of really positive stuff that’s coming out of all of this, and one of those positives is I was able to learn. People have to be able to learn from mistakes. If we take away the possibility for someone to learn and become a better person, I’m not sure what we are left with. I’ve learned all kinds of things about myself through this process.