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James Gunn is no longer directing the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the third installment of the successful Marvel franchise starring Chris Pratt.
The news comes after controversial tweets by the filmmaker were resurfaced by conservative pundits and the website Daily Caller. Nearly a decade old, the tweets include crude jokes about pedophilia and rape.
"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," said Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn in a statement to ET.
Shortly after Gunn released a statement obtained by ET:
“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 said.
“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.”
Gunn also reacted to the backlash earlier this week, tweeting: “Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.”
The news comes as Comic-Con is underway in San Diego, during which Gunn was supposed to appear at Sony’s Friday presentation. According to multiple reports, he's no longer expected to attend.
Gunn wrote and directed the first two installments of the Guardians franchise, and was in pre-production on the third one, which was slated for theatrical release in 2020.