James Gunn, the director of the Guardians of the Galaxy superhero film franchise, has been fired by Disney over a series of recently-emerged old tweets in which he made jokes about rape and paedophilia.
“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 chairman Alan Horn said in a statement on Friday.
In a statement, Gunn said in response that he regretted and took full responsibility for the tweets.
On Thursday, Gunn had said on Twitter about the old posts, saying that while he viewed himself as a “provocateur” who told “jokes that were outrageous and taboo”.
“I have regretted them for many years since – not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time,” Gunn said in a statement.
“It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago,” the 51-year-old American added.
Gunn wrote and directed the two previous Guardians of the Galaxy films, taking an obscure Marvel Comics title about a group of multi-coloured misfits and turning it into a space opera decked with comedy and retro music that made Chris Pratt a major movie star.
The two instalments of the franchise brought in more than $US1.5 billion at the global box office.
A third instalment in the series was due to be released in 2020. It is not clear who would now direct the film.
The old tweets were unearthed and published by the conservative Daily Caller news website, prompting calls for Disney to sack Gunn.
Gunn has been an outspoken critic of US President Donald Trump and said in December that he did not care if his stance resulted in him losing fans.