The fan community went mildly bananas when it emerged the other day that James Gunn would indeed be directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. After all, this is quite the turnaround, as last summer he was famously fired by Disney for off-color tweets he made over a decade ago, and the recent announcement that he’d be helming Warner Bros.’ The Suicide Squad seemed to confirm that he would no longer work with the House of Mouse. But now, out of the blue, he’s back. So what really happened?
Well, the official story seems to be that Walt Disney Studios chief Alan Horn considered that Gunn’s tweets crossed a line, and was uncomfortable with him representing the family friendly face of Disney. The story (as reported by Screen Rant) claims that Horn and Gunn met multiple times in the period since his firing. In these meetings, Horn expressed admiration of the dignified way Gunn handled the situation, which prompted him to give him his job back.
It’s a perspective that very conveniently makes all parties involved look good. Horn gets to look magnanimous and merciful, while Gunn gets to be praised for dealing with a crappy situation with dignity and without burning any bridges. If you ask me, though, I think it’s probably a bit more complicated than that.
My bet is that the elephant in the room throughout this whole process was the negotiations for the Disney/Fox deal. This multi-billion dollar merger represents a huge IP acquisition for Disney, with the promise to expand the studio’s reach for the next few decades. Negotiations were fierce, and it’s possible the studio absolutely didn’t want any bad publicity that’d give Fox a reason to argue for a better price.
My theory’s that Gunn’s known he’d be back in the director’s chair for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for a long time, if he ever actually truly left the project at all. It’s notable that Disney apparently never seriously searched for a replacement for him, either. Perhaps they realized that the best way to save face was just to go through this whole rigamarole?