James Gunn has been hired by Warner Bros and DC to write with an eye to direct the next installment of the Suicide Squad franchise. It’s the first job he’s taken since he parted ways with Disney, which let him go from the lucrative Guardians of the Galaxy franchise in July in the wake of old controversial tweets that had been compiled by alt-right journalists and sent to Disney.
Warner Bros had director Gavin O’Connor attached to that film, but he is now engaged in directing Ben Affleck in the Brad Ingelsby-scripted drama Torrance, which is also at the studio. The studio has been in talks with Gunn to step in and develop this film, and the deal was made after he was settled out of Guardians of the Galaxy 3 by Disney.
Gunn’s departure was a shocking one, but numerous studio execs told Deadline that they were eager to try to find a project with Gunn, who’d written and was expected to direct the third Guardians after his first film’s $773 million global gross was surpassed by the first sequel, which grossed $863 million worldwide. It has been easy for studios to run from filmmakers caught up in this #MeToo moment, but Gunn was the decided exception. Many felt that his attempt to be provocative at a time he was coming out of the Troma film factory were only words, even if his missives were indefensible.
In comments he posted following his firing from Disney, Gunn himself wrote: “My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. 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. Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.”
Gunn is bringing a completely new take on the property to Suicide Squad, the first installment of which was directed and scripted by David Ayer for Warner Bros and DC, and grossed $746 million. The franchise has already spawned the spinoff Birds of Prey, with Margot Robbie bringing her antihero Harley Quinn to a female-driven film which will be directed by Cathy Yan, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead set to play The Huntress and Jurnee Smollett-Bell to play Black Canary.
Following Disney’s dismissal of Gunn, which happened just as San Diego Comic-Con was getting underway, his Guardians cast members all spoke out in favor of the director, imploring Disney to reconsider. There was a meeting between Gunn and Alan Horn, but the studio stuck to its guns in pushing out Gunn.
It is unclear who will direct the next Guardians film, though there has been speculation that Thor: Ragnarok‘s Taika Waititi would be a logical candidate given the offbeat nature of that hit film matched the quirkiness of Guardians. It is unclear whether or not that will happen but it will be easier for another director to take the reins now that Gunn has resumed his career at Disney’s superhero factory rival, DC.
Since Gunn is adding his own spin to Suicide Squad, don’t be surprised if he finds room for Dave Bautista, who played the brawny deadpan Drax in the first two films. Bautista has been especially outraged in statements of support for Gunn.
Gunn, who produced the Sony film BrightBurn, is repped by UTA and The Safran Company.