Chris Pratt (Star-Lord/Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper (Rocket the Raccoon), Vin Diesel (Groot), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Michael Rooker (Yondu), and Sean Gunn (Kraglin) banded together to throw their support behind James Gunn, their director of two movies, who was fired by Disney over inappropriate jokes he had made ten years ago.
“We fully support James Gunn,” the open letter said. “We were all shocked by his abrupt firing last week and have intentionally waited these ten days to respond in order to think, pray, listen and discuss.”
“In that time, we’ve been encouraged by the outpouring of support from fans and members of the media who wish to see James reinstated as director of Volume 3.”
The Guardians clearly want to see Gunn reinstated too, but how likely is it that Disney will acquiesce to their request? Sure, there’s a significant amount of star power to their collective names but if they’re all still under contract to appear in future films they can’t really do much more than send this letter.
— Karen Gillan (@karengillan) July 30, 2018
Normally, actors joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe sign a six-movie deal, which includes their dalliances in other franchises like the Avengers one or in Robert Downey Jr’s case Spider-Man: Homecoming. The Guardians have appeared in four films (Avengers 4 included) so they are still contractually obliged to appear in two more, so Disney doesn’t really need to worry about getting them all back for future instalments unless they want to breach their contracts.
The company may have to worry about morale on set, as it seems the cast will be pretty annoyed if Gunn isn’t rehired to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but there’s not really that much of a precedent for a director to be very publicly fired and then welcomed back into the fold.
The only one that really comes to mind is Richard Donner who was fired by Warner Bros from completing Superman II in the late 1970s only to be rehired by them, 26 years after the film’s release, in order for him to cut his own version. That’s a pretty long time to wait to make the movie you wanted to so it’s hard to imagine Disney changing its mind over Gunn so soon, even though the company does like working with the same directors.
Both the Marvel and Star Wars franchises have seen filmmakers work on multiple movies over the years and Gunn seemed to be in pretty good stead with the studio until a load of alt-right activists decided to campaign for his removal. However, Disney might want to spin this situation by giving an underrepresented director a chance. It would certainly be harder for the cast to come out against the hiring of a non-white or male director when opportunities are already so few for them in the big ol’ world of blockbusters.
And given Disney has already been making strides to improve the diversity behind-the-scenes as well as on camera, replacing Gunn with a female director, or director of colour, could appease many Marvel fans who may have been critical of his firing.
The Walt Disney Company has been quite savvy over the years in the way they indirectly recognise the complaints of its consumers. It released more female Star Wars toys after the backlash stemming from the “Where’s Rey?” social media campaign and confirmed the return of Billy Dee Williams in Star Wars: Episode IX after three years of fans asking the same question about Lando, without really admitting to any mistakes over either issue.
Sadly for Gunn, one man’s sacking probably won’t cause enough outrage for fans of the MCU to not see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 directed by someone else. People still went to see Ant-Man after Edgar Wright famously parted ways with Disney, and have come back in bigger numbers for the sequel.
So as much as the Guardians’ open letter will have been a welcome show of support for the director, it seems unlikely that it will make much difference to the omnipotent force that is Disney.