James Gunn has been removed as director of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise after a series of offensive tweets were unearthed that referenced topics such as paedophilia and rape.

Gunn’s provocative humour has drawn ire from many in the past, but among the tweets that forced Marvel and Disney to sever ties were “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place” and “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’” which were posted before the director landed Guardians. Other topics touched on in the tweets were the 9/11 attack, AIDS, and the Holocaust.

Disney responded to the news quickly, with Disney Studios chairman, Alan Horn saying: “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

For his part, James Gunn issued a response to his firing, apologising in a series of tweets that read:

“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.”

In the wake of the firing, Gunn did not appear at the Sony Pictures Hall H presentation where he was expected to promote a new horror he is producing for the studio.

Today, Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista came to his director’s defence with a short statement in his own Twitter thread, which read: “I will have more to say but for right now all I will say is this..@JamesGunn is one of the most loving,caring,good natured people I have ever met. He’s gentle and kind and cares deeply for people and animals. He’s made mistakes. We all have. Im NOT ok with what’s happening to him.”

More on James Gunn and the fate of Guardians Vol. 3 when we have it.

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