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Dave Bautista, Patton Oswalt and others defend James Gunn after Disney firing

‘I’m not ok with what’s happening to him’

Annual E3 Gaming Industry Conference Held In Los Angeles Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Guardians of the Galaxy actor Dave Bautista defended his longtime director, James Gunn, after Gunn was fired from Disney yesterday following backlash from a far-right blogger over offensive and controversial decade-old tweets.

“I will have more to say but for right now all I will say is this,” Bautista, who plays Drax in the films, tweeted. “James Gunn 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. I’m not ok with what’s happening to him.”

Bautista’s remarks represent the first public acknowledgement of the situation from a member of the Guardians cast, but he’s not alone in condemning Disney’s actions. Comedians like Patton Oswalt and Rufus Hound have also expressed their own frustrations and concerns over Gunn’s firing.

“This is one of the less disgusting tweets from Mike Cernovich, the dude who, after running a Gamergate-style smear campaign, just got James Gunn fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3,” Oswalt tweeted, pointing to an old Cernovich tweet. “Okay have a good weekend.” (Gamergate is a reactionary, hateful campaign that targeted women and marginalized people in the games industry and manufactured a cover of being interested in “ethics in games journalism” that began in 2014.)

“Disney, your stories are so often about redemption,” Hound tweeted. “To fire James Gunn for jokes made as a younger man, jokes for which he has already apologized, goes against the moral code you taught us all when we were kids. No sense in cutting loose a good man. I urge you - rehire him.”

Oswalt, Hound and Bautista’s statements come just one day after Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn issued a statement on the situation. “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,” Horn said.

It’s not just celebrities and comedians criticizing Disney’s decision to fire Gunn. Critics have called out the company for giving into an aggressive attack by far-right blogger Mike Cernovich, best known for popularizing “PizzaGate,” a false and dangerous conspiracy theory that alleged Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chair ran a child sex ring at the basement of a Washington pizzeria. It resulted in a North Carolina man arming himself with an assault rifle and going to that restaurant to “self-investigate” the situation. He fired three shots into the pizzeria. No one was hurt, and he received a four-year federal prison sentence in a plea agreement.

Cernovich, who has tweeted offensive statements about rape and other controversial topics, presented Gunn’s tweets as evidence that he had uncovered an underground pedophile ring operating in Hollywood. Since yesterday, Cernovich has used past tweets from actor and comedian Michael Ian Black to suggest Black was “another Hollywood pedophile”.

Black responded to Cernovich in a detailed tweet thread this morning, stating, “As somebody who has in the past made jokes about a whole host of topics, including molestation, I have never denied the horrors of it whereas you, actually charged with rape in 2003, have denied whether ‘date rape is possible’?”

“Mike, we’ve had this conversation before,” Black tweeted. “There’s a qualitative difference between a comedian making jokes - even offensive jokes (me)- and somebody being charged with rape in 2003 (you) ... Moreover, you are an overt racist and conspiracy theorist who pushed Pizzagate and have repeatedly smeared people, baselessly accusing them of, primarily, pedophilia.”

Those “baseless” accusations, as Black calls them, have already begun to spread on Twitter. Over the past few days, Cernovich has tweeted aggressively about Hollywood, pedophilia and accusing the media of protecting celebrities. His accusations have since caught the eye of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who said that if Gunn’s “tweets are true, he needs to be prosecuted.”

“These James Gunn tweets are just horrible,” Cruz tweeted. “Child rape is no laughing matter. As Texas [solicitor general], I handled far too many child sexual assaults. Truly evil. I’m glad Disney fired him, but if these tweets are true, he needs to be prosecuted.”

None of Cernovich’s tactics are new. Cernovich frequently uses his audience on Twitter to spread a conspiracy theory like PizzaGate, aggressively tweeting and retweeting his opinion and facts, along with other people who add to the narrative he’s trying to spin. As The Washington Post reported in 2017, his “Twitter feed and website are a relentless stream of unproven accusations and theories about the left, the establishment or others whom Cernovich sees as an enemy.”

Polygon has reached out to Disney for further comment on the situation, and will update if more information becomes available.

Update: Sean Gunn, James Gunn’s brother and an actor in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, issued a statement today over his brother’s firing. Sean Gunn tweeted about his brother’s development as a person and artist, pointing to personal growth that occurred over the last decade. His full statement can be read below.

I hope it goes without saying that I love and support my brother James. And I’m quite proud of how kind, generous, and compassionate he is with the people in his life, whether they are friends, family, colleagues, fans, or strangers.

Since he was a kid, it was clear he had a desire (maybe destiny) to be an artist, tell stories, find his voice through comics, films, his band. The struggle to find that voice was sometimes clunky, misguided, or downright stupid, and sometimes wonderful, moving, and hilarious.

Since devoting his entire life to the Guardians movies and MCU six years ago, I’ve seen him channel that voice into his work on those movies and seen him transform from the guy who made up things to shock people.

I saw firsthand as he went from worrying about “softening his edge” for a larger audience to realizing that his “edge” wasn’t as useful of a tool as he thought it was. That his gift for storytelling was something better.

I saw that he was more open-hearted than the guy who needed to get a rise out of people by making nasty or offensive jokes (or whatever you choose to call them--I don’t think his bluer material was ever his funniest and neither does Mom).

In many respects this change in my brother was reflected in the change that the Guardians go through. I’ve heard my brother say many times that when Quill rallies the team with “this is our chance to give a shit”--to care--that it’s the pep talk he himself needed to hear.

It’s part of what made working on the Guardians movies such a rewarding experience for the cast, myself included. We managed to find ourselves involved in a big-budget superhero movie that was, at its core, deeply personal. That’s a gift. And that’s why it’s good.

This isn’t new information, by the way. It’s all stuff that James has explained many times in interviews, in more detail and more eloquently. It’s not some new spin. It’s always been part of the story.

So I guess my hope is that fans continue to watch and appreciate the Guardians movies, not despite the fact that the filmmaker used to be kind of a jackass, but because of it. They are, after all, movies about discovering your best self.

Working on those movies made my brother a better person, and they made me one too. I’m proud of that. Peace.

Update (July 23): Guardians of the Galaxy actors Zoe Saldana (Gamora) and Chris Pratt (Star-Lord) have also spoken out over Gunn’s firing. Their sentiments are below.

“It’s been a challenging weekend I’m not gonna lie,” Saldana tweeted. “I’m pausing myself to take everything in before I speak out of term. I just want everyone to know I love ALL members of my GOTG family. Always will.”

“‘Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters. Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger,’” Pratt tweeted. “JAMES 1:19.”

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