The stars of Guardians of the Galaxy—Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan
Sean Gunn, Pom Klementieff, Chris Pratt, Michal Rooker and Zoe Saldana—published an open letter Monday in defense of writer/director James Gunn, in the hopes that he will be rehired for the next film. James was fired last week after conservative personalities resurfaced old tweets in which the filmmaker joked about controversial topics, including pedophilia and rape.
Chris shared the open letter via Instagram, writing, "Although I don't support James Gunn's inappropriate jokes from years ago, he is a good man. I'd personally love to see him reinstated as director of Volume 3. If you please, read the following statement—signed by our entire cast."
"We fully support James Gunn. 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, as well as discouraged by those so easily duped into believing the many outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding him," the open letter reads. Reiterating their "love, support and gratitude" for James, the cast clarified, "We are not here to defend his jokes of many years ago but rather to share our experience having spent many years together on set making Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2."
Noting that the director's character in the waking of his firing is "consistent with the man he was every day on set," the actors added that they accepted James' public apology, which "we believe is from the heart, a heart we all know, trust and love. In casting each of us to help him tell the story of misfits who find redemption, he changed our lives forever. We believe the theme of redemption has never been more relevant than now. Each of us looks forward to working with our friend James again in the future. His story isn't over—not by a long shot."
The actors are hopeful that Marvel Studios' parent company, Walt Disney Studios, will reverse its decision and not make an example out of James, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. "There is little due process in the court of public opinion. James is likely not the last good person to be put on trial. Given the growing political divide in this country, it's safe to say instances like this will continue, although we hope Americans from across the political spectrum can ease up on the character assassinations and stop weaponizing mob mentality," the nine actors wrote in their open letter. "It is our hope that what has transpired can serve as an example for all of us to realize the enormous responsibility we have to ourselves and to each other regarding the use of our written words when we etch them in digital stone; that we as a society may learn from this experience and in the future will think twice before we decide what we want to express; and in so learning perhaps can harness this capability to help and heal instead of hurting each other. Thank you for taking the time to read our words." The other actors shared the note on their Instagram accounts as well, with Vin adding, "We are Groot!"
Chris, Dave, Sean and Zoe previously voiced their support for James via social media.
James issued a public apology after Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn announced his firing. "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," he told E! News in a statement. "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 James' firing, Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson deleted 20,000 of his tweets; he is also developing a new Star Wars trilogy for Lucasfilm, which—like Marvel Studios—is owned by The Walt Disney Company. Rian told a Twitter user he was preemptively removing any possible ammunition that "right-wing trolls" might use against him. Meanwhile, a petition to reinstate James has garnered 339,000 signatures toward a goal of 500,000.