Ever since James Gunn was fired from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ this summer (following the release of decade old tweets dredged up by right wing activists and conspiracy theorists), fans have rallied around the director. This initially took the form of a social media backlash followed by more organized campaigns (including the #RehireJamesGunn hashtag), but now stands ready to enter the real world.
A group of activist fans who have dubbed themselves Guardians Family have taken it upon themselves to harness the power of advertising to aid their cause. Specifically, they’ve started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of funding a pair of billboards. The plan is to fund a pair of billboards (one in each location) near Disney’s theme parks in Anaheim and Orlando. Ideally, the billboards will remain in place for at least a month during the holiday season in order to maximize their exposure.
As of this writing, the campaign has succeeded in raising $2,360 of their current $6,000 goal. According to their latest update, this has been enough to secure both a design and location for the first billboard, catapulting the campaign into the realm of stretch goals. All this in just under a week. For more information or to donate, you can visit the campaign page here. There is also an active petition at Change.org urging Disney to reconsider Gunn’s firing.
Is any of this likely to succeed? Well, it’s easy to be cynical about this sort of thing, and as much as I would personally like to see Gunn restored to the helm of ‘Guardians 3’, a month ago I would have been the first to say that the odds weren’t good. Of course, that was before the film was indefinitely delayed. Now, does the delay in and of itself mean that Gunn is likely to be rehired? Of course not. All it really means is that the studio is taking its time to make sure the film is done right. (Reading between the lines, it also suggests that they’re not entirely sure what “doing it right” entails at this point.) But given Disney’s history with this sort of thing? For those who hope to see Gunn reinstated, this is very much a “no news is good news” situation. After all, the simple fact is that if Disney were intent on pressing forward in spite of this backlash, a replacement would have long since been named by now. Just look at ‘Ant-Man’, the closest analog to the ‘Guardians’ situation that Marvel has had to deal with. Peyton Reed was named as director a mere two weeks after Edgar Wright stepped down. Similarly, Lucasfilm recruited Ron Howard to finish ‘Solo’ within a week of Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s firing.
All that is to say that it’s anyone’s guess at this point. If it was as simple as “Gunn’s gone, let’s figure out what to do next,” we would have heard something official by now. And given that Gunn’s planned work with Marvel included not only ‘Guardians 3’ itself but also involved his taking a leading role in shaping the emerging cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – which is rumored to be a major factor in the studio’s post-‘Avengers 4’ narrative plans – his dismissal is obviously a huge blow to whatever plans were in place. And while the furor that erupted in the wake of his firing – including some very public condemnations by Dave Bautista and a letter of support from the entire principal cast – is almost certainly among the reasons that Disney hasn’t simply pushed forward with the film as they have in other cases where directors have been fired.
Of course, even though Disney seems to have tacitly acknowledged Gunn’s firing as a mistake, it’s still not as simple as just rehiring him. That’s thanks in part to the sheer amount of public attention involved (though things have quieted down since the height of the fan uproar in July and August) and perhaps more importantly to the corporate politics involved at Disney, an environment in which publicly backtracking on something like this could be taken as a damning show of weakness. That sort of face saving effort is, more than anything else, the likely reason that the studio has thus far held firm on the matter. But that still doesn’t mean that Gunn is gone for good (if he were, there are plenty of other studios that would already be falling over themselves to sign him).
While it’s impossible to know what might happen, we can nonetheless make some educated guesses. Of course, the most obvious outcomes are either that Gunn is gone for good or he finds himself rehired for ‘Guardians 3’. But honestly, neither of those seems like a given at this point. One plausible scenario is that Gunn could be rehired, but for a different Marvel project while ‘Guardians’ proceeds with Gunn’s script and a new director. This would bring him back into the fold, perhaps allowing him to serve as a consultant on ‘Guardians 3’. Now, Hollywood being Hollywood, a consultant (like a producer) is a title that can mean virtually anything. In this case, it could see Gunn do anything from assembling a list of song choices for the soundtrack to shadow direct the film (similar to ‘Return of the Jedi’, for which Richard Marquand received sole directing credit despite much of the film having been shot by George Lucas).
But as I said, that’s just a guess. And at this point, your guess is as good as mine.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more news on ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ and other upcoming Marvel films as it becomes available.