The stars of the Guardians of the Galaxy film franchise have publicly backed a campaign to get the director James Gunn reinstated to the third film in the series. Disney sacked him ten days ago, after offensive tweets, written in 2008, re-emerged.
Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke last October, the Hollywood establishment has been quick to respond to suggestions of harassment, sexism or racism within the industry. One of the most high profile examples has been the ABC network firing Roseanne Barr for series of offensive tweets about a former adviser to President Obama, which likened her to a monkey.
With similar speed, on the same day that the director James Gunn’s ten year old tweets – making jokes about rape and paedophilia – resurfaced, Disney sacked him.
The studio’s chairman said the tweets were “indefensible” and inconsistent with its values. Gunn – who’d written and directed the first two films in the Guardians of the Galaxy series – said he regretted his failed attempts to be provocative – and insisted that they didn’t reflect who he was now.
In the days that followed, a number of Hollywood figures backed him, including Guardians star Dave Bautista and the actress Selma Blair, who said his compassion had helped her reveal her experiences of harassment during the height of the #MeToo campaign. And an online petition to reinstate him has received more than three hundred and forty thousand signatures.
Tonight, in an open letter, nine of the main cast members – including Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Zoë Saldaña and Karen Gillan – said they fully supported him, praising his heart and character. They said it had been an honour working for him and said they’d been encouraged by the outpouring of support for him.
Gunn had publicly criticised Donald Trump and his old tweets were exposed by a conservative blogger, Mike Cernovich, prompting the cast to urge Americans from across the political spectrum to stop weaponising mob mentality.
Illustrative of their concerns, since Gunn’s sacking, two other prominent liberals in Hollywood have found themselves in hot water in similar circumstances. Dan Harmon, the creator of Ricky and Morty, apologised after an old sketch resurfaced, in which in appears to rape a baby doll. And the host of the satirical Daily Show, Trevor Noah, saw an old stand-up routine of his posted online, in which he made offensive jokes about aboriginal women in Australia.
In their open letter, the Guardians of the Galaxy cast said their was little due process in the court of public opinion and noted that it was unlikely that Gunn would be “the last good person put on trial.” They said they each looked “forward to working with our friend James again in the future. His story isn’t over – not by a long shot.”
Hollywood is finding itself in the cross-hairs of a number of very different gun-fights, as political activists take advantage of #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite sensitivities in Tinseltown, with liberals using social media to target conservatives and conservatives uncovering old material to try to topple liberals, all against the backdrop of an industry that already has an itchy trigger finger, keen to prevent any more scandals that could tarnish its image.