James Gunn attends the premiere of Disney And Marvel's 'Ant-Man And The Wasp' on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. He was rehired Friday by Disney after the company fired him last year over offensive 10-year-old tweets.
Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Disney rehires director who joked about AIDS, rape and pedophilia

“Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn says he is “incredibly humbled”

Director James Gunn’s past tweets joking about AIDS patients, rape and having sex with children got him booted from the next “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie.

Not quite a year later, he’s back.

“I deeply appreciate Disney’s decision and I am excited to continue making films that investigate the ties of love that bind us all,” Gunn said in a statement posted to his Twitter account. “I have been, and continue to be incredibly humbled by your love and support.”

“Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2” is among the projects that Marvel Studios, a Disney subsidiary, has filmed in Atlanta in recent years. Its stars were seen around town a good bit. Chris Pratt checked out a Fayette County Kiwanis Club event and met with young patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Gunn posted this heartfelt farewell to Atlanta work on “Guardians vol. 2” concluded:

The movie was released in 2017, about a year before the old tweets resurfaced. Gunn deleted them but of course they live on since the Internet is forever.

“Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS,” he posted in 2008.

“I like it when little boys touch me in my silly place. Shhh!” he posted in 2009.

“Wondering which Disneyland character would be the worst to get raped by,” he posted later that year.

Others are even more lewd. Here’s one roundup with some redactions making it slightly more SFW.

Author and commentator Eric Schiffer, CEO of ReputationManagementConsultants.com, initially doubted Gunn would be rehired. 

“Gunn’s comments are so inconsistent with Disney it would be like killing Mickey Mouse to bring him back and try to mix his brand to what Disney stands for,” Schiffer said shortly after Gunn was fired. “They’re disgusting and they make you question his rationality. There should be limits on how people speak about children.”

His take on the rehiring: "Because Gunn has spoken horrifically about children, bringing him back to Disney’s payroll would hit their brand of ‘family friendly’ entertainment hard."

The cast of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchise is speaking out on behalf of fired director James Gunn (second right). From left: Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Gunn and Chris Pratt.

MORE: Where Marvel stars like to hang out in Atlanta 

Gunn’s Twitter feed had been quiet since July 2018, when he posted a series of tweets apologizing for the posts that got him sidelined.

PAST COVERAGE: James Gunn got into it with a fan at Atlanta Film Festival screening

James Gunn’s dog ate pot-infused coffee beans in Atlanta and nearly died

 At the time, Gunn found himself among the list of celebrities suffering from self-inflicted professional wounds stemming from ill-considered tweets. ABC canceled “Roseanne” after Roseanne Barr’s tweet comparing Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett to an offspring of "Muslim Brotherhood & Planet of the Apes." She later said she was referring to anti-Semitism, but the backpedaling didn’t save her job. The show later rebooted as “The Connors” with its former lead character said to have died from an overdose.

More recently, actor and comedian Kevin Hart exited as Oscars host amid outrage over past anti-gay tweets

While Barr was widely repudiated by network officials and her own co-stars, Gunn enjoyed his cast members’ support almost immediately.

“Although I don’t support James Gunn’s inappropriate jokes from years ago, he is a good man. I’d personally love to see him reinstated as director of Volume 3,” Pratt posted with an open letter he signed along with cast members Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff and Sean Gunn (James Gunn’s brother).

“We fully support James Gunn,” it begins. “We were all shocked at his abrupt firing last week and have intentionally waited these 10 days in order to think pray, listen and discuss.”The letter goes on to say no one defends “his jokes of many years ago” but otherwise makes no mention of the tweets that got Gunn fired.

Fans crowd-funded a billboard urging Gunn be rehired.

Disney’s response suggested that Gunn’s departure from its Marvel Studios project was final.

"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," Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said in a statement at the time. Since then, Deadline reports, Horn has met with Gunn several times and apparently was satisfied with the director’s apology.

Gunn is eager to get back to work.

“I am tremendously grateful to every person out there who has supported me over the past few months,” he posted. “I am always learning and will continue to work at being the best human being I can be.”

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About the Author

Jennifer Brett
Jennifer Brett
Jennifer Brett is a multiplatform journalist and digital coach. She writes The Buzz blog for accessAtlanta.com.