Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel have added their names to an open letter in support of ousted director James Gunn, who was fired by Disney earlier this month after off-colour jokes he made on Twitter years ago were uncovered.
The cast members said while they were not defending Gunn’s jokes about rape and paedophilia, they wanted to vouch for his upstanding character on set and denounce what they claim was a politically motivated “character assassination”.
The Walt Disney Company fired Gunn from directing the third instalment of the hit Marvel franchise 10 days ago after the tweets, which Gunn later deleted, were shared by alt-right agitator Mike Cernovich, who is known for promoting conspiracy theories.
“We fully support James Gunn,” the letter, which was also signed by main cast members Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Pom Klementieff and Michael Rooker, said.
We were all shocked by his abrupt firing last week and have intentionally waited these 10 days to respond in order to think, pray, listen and discuss.”
The signatories said said they wanted to share their experience of having worked with Gunn on the first two instalments of the series.
“The character he has shown in the wake of his firing is consistent with the man he was every day on set, and his apology, now and from years ago when first addressing these remarks, we believe is from the heart, a heart we all know, trust and love,” the letter, posted on the actors’ social media pages, said.
Cernovich sparked the original outrage when he shared Gunn’s old tweets, saying they epitomised “everything wrong with Hollywood”.
Gunn was swiftly fired just days later after Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn described the tweets as “indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values”.
Gunn subsequently apologised for the comments and denied having ever engaged in the behaviour mentioned in the tweets.
“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative,” Gunn said in a statement.
The cast members who signed the letter appeared to call out Cernovich for his role in what they called a “character assassination”.
Gunn’s current Twitter account regularly promoted left-leaning politics, and he frequently spars with right-wing personalities.
“There is little due process in the court of public opinion,” the actors wrote. “James is likely not the last good person to be put on trial.”
Gunn has been writer and director of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise since its inception.
He is credited with taking an obscure Marvel Comics title about a group of multicoloured space misfits and turning it into a a major money-maker that turned Pratt into a major movie star.
1. Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
The first two Guardians of the Galaxy instalments raked in more than $1.5 billion in global box office takings.
The cast said they look forward to working with Gunn in the future.
The controversy comes follows the high-profile cancelling of the re-booted sitcom Roseanne after its star and creator Roseanne Barr tweeted racist comments about a former Obama adviser.
After the Gunn story broke, Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson said he went through his timeline and deleted 20,000 old tweets out of caution.
“If trolls scrutinising it for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not’ move,” Johnson said.