Production for third installment in Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has been put on hold, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Following Disney’s firing of James Gunn, who directed and wrote the first two Guardians films, over 10-year-old joke tweets, the movie’s fate has been up in the air. Now, it appears that its eventual filming is in a greater state of flux, as crew members who were prepping for pre-production in the fall have been told they’re free to take other work. THR sources describe the move as “temporary,” designed more as a “regrouping” for Disney and Marvel.
Disney is reportedly keeping Gunn on as writer to use his script, but it’s been scouting around for a new director, one presumably untouchable by any alt-right smear campaigns like the one that lost Gunn his job. Despite immense fan backlash and an unprecedented petition from the core Guardians cast, Disney stuck to its decision to let Gunn go earlier this month, according to a Variety report that surfaced details about a meeting between Alan Horn, the Walt Disney studio chairman, and Gunn to “clear the air” around his firing.
Gunn’s firing invigorated members of the right that have long despised Hollywood for its perceived liberal bias and recent anti-Trump sentiment. It’s also been viewed as retaliation for the firing of conservative voices like Rosanne Barr, who lost her rebooted sitcom on ABC back in May for a racist joke comparing a former Barack Obama advisor to a Planet of the Apes character. The successful targeting of Gunn has reignited a debate around what is or isn’t a fireable offense when the outrage for past actions, including old tweets that were posted before current employment, stems from a disingenuous and coordinated political strategy.
Gunn’s tweets made light of pedophilia, and he apologized for them years later and attributed them to a shock humor shtick of his back in the day. He also apologized again after Disney fired him, explaining, “As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.” Still, the company still saw it fit to let him go, likely due to the negative association it may have created between the tasteless jokes and its kid-friendly brand.
Of the members of the Guardians cast, the most vocal has been Dave Bautista, the retired professional wrestler who plays Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s routinely tweeted about his displeasure with Disney following Gunn’s firing. Earlier today, he further amplified criticism of Mike Cernovich, the alt-right figure largely responsible for getting Disney to pay attention and eventually react to Gunn’s old tweets.
It’s not clear whether Bautista has anything to do with Disney and Marvel’s decision today, and it’s unlikely he’d be able to singlehandedly halt production without solidarity from co-stars Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, and Zoe Saldana. But it’s clear the situation has only grown worse since Gunn’s firing in July, and it’s looking like pre-production on Vol. 3 won’t be happening any time soon.