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Disney re-hires sacked Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn

The surprise re-hire suggests that Disney’s strategy in dealing with the controversy was simply to leave the project on the backburner until such time as it felt able to reinstate Gunn.

At the time of Gunn’s sacking there were reports the studio was interviewing for a replacement director; whether that search for a replacement was genuine remains unclear.

To give Gunn’s reinstatement some commercial context, the two already released Guardians of the Galaxy films have brought Disney a combined box office of around US$1.63 billion.

In the wake of Disney’s decision to reinstate him, Gunn thanked those who had supported him after his sacking.

“I am tremendously grateful,” he said. “I deeply appreciate Disney’s decision and I am excited to continue making films that investigate the ties of love that bind us all,” he said.

The offensive social media posts were made by Gunn in 2008 and 2009 and were found on Gunn’s Twitter timeline and republished by the right-wing website The Daily Caller.

Under Gunn's leadership, Guardians of the Galaxy has earned Disney around US$1.63 billion in box office receipts.

Under Gunn’s leadership, Guardians of the Galaxy has earned Disney around US$1.63 billion in box office receipts.Credit:AP

The offensive posts included included jokes about rape and child abuse.

The decision to recirculate them in 2018 was seen at the time as a deliberate response to Gunn’s criticism of US president Donald Trump.

Caught in a year where the #MeToo movement had heightened sensitivity around such controversies, the Disney studio moved quickly to sack Gunn, despite his value to their business.

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“The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him,” Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said last year.

At the time, Gunn acknowledged the posts, saying they were made by him at a time in his life when he saw himself as a “provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo”.

Gunn also said he accepted the decision made by Disney to sack him.

“Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then,” he said.

“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative,” he said. “I have regretted them for many years since.”

Gunn described the posts as “stupid, not at all funny [and] wildly insensitive”.

“They don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time,” Gunn said. “All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be.”

Since leaving Disney, Gunn was hired by Warner Bros to direct The Suicide Squad, it’s 2021 follow-up to the 2016 superhero film Suicide Squad.

It is understood that Gunn will continue working on that project, even after his return to the Disney-owned Marvel fold.

According to reports in Hollywood trade publications, production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will commence when Gunn’s work on The Suicide Squad has wrapped.

Michael Idato is entertainment editor-at-large of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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