Why Disney Fired James Gunn as Director But Are Keeping Him as Writer

After firing James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Disney apparently has no plans to bring the director back, yet still intends to use his script, meaning his name will still be on the finished product. If Disney is so intent on erasing Gunn’s name from the project, why not remove him entirely instead of just taking him out of the director’s chair? The answer may be simply due to the way movie writing credits are assigned.

After a political spat on Twitter led to trolls unearthing some old, offensive, and distasteful jokes by the Guardians of the Galaxy director, Disney acted swiftly to remove him from the project. In the days since, fans have pleaded with the mega-corporation to reinstate Gunn, explaining that the jokes were from a decade ago, that Gunn has changed, publicly renouncing his past offensive humor a number of times, and that the effort to get him fired was a bad faith act by a group with political motivations, but Disney hasn’t budged. Guardians of the Galaxy 3 will move forward without the man that first bought the team to the big screen. But that doesn’t mean he’s off the project entirely.

Related: Disney Not Rehiring James Gunn is a Big Mistake for Marvel (And Beyond)

It’s not uncommon for directors to be removed from projects, even in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s usually a fairly pain-free ordeal. Edgar Wright can leave Ant-Man during the early stages of production, and Patty Jenkins can do the same with Thor: The Dark Worldand most people don’t know the difference. Edgar Wright still has a writing credit for Ant-Man, but that situation was far less charged than Gunn and Guardians of the Galaxy 3, where Disney’s entire objective was to distance themselves from his name.

Gunn had already turned in the first draft of his script back in June, and while initial rumors suggested Disney was going to move on without his treatment, more recent reports have said that Disney is still going to use Gunn’s script, finishing the story he set out to tell, just without Gunn himself behind the camera.

The WGA Protects Gunn’s Writing Credit

If Gunn’s name is too offensive for Disney to leave attached to a family friendly movie, then why is it not too offensive to leave on the script? After all, it’s Gunn’s writing that got us into this mess in the first place, so why isn’t Disney making the same effort to also get his name off the script? The short answer is they may not be able to.

While the requirements for screen credit from the Directors Guild of America is fairly cut and dry about who does and doesn’t get credit for directing a movie, the Writers Guild is a little more complicated. Unlike the DGA, the WGA gives credit for partial work. A lot of credit. A writer can get credit without ever having even seen the script if a character they originally created appears at any point or a story they originally wrote serves as inspiration for the screenplay. Having written both Guardians of the Galaxy 1 andand written at least a complete draft for Guardians of the Galaxy 3, he may not own the actual Guardians IP, the amount of work Disney would have to go through to make sure Gunn didn’t get credit would still be immense, and even that wouldn’t even guarantee they could successfully keep his name out of the credits.

Related: Why Disney Isn’t Rehiring James Gunn For Guardians of the Galaxy 3

Joss Whedon famously rewrote basically the entire script for Speed, but because his contributions didn’t change the fundamental story in any meaningful way, he didn’t earn a writing credit. The studio even tried to list him as a writer, but the WGA removed the credit, leaving Graham Yost as the sole credited writer.

In another situation, Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly did a full rewrite of the initial Jurassic World script by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and attempted to take full credit, but the WGA determined the new material still included elements that originated in the original Jaffa & Silver script, mandating that they receive story credit.

Page 2 of 2:It’s Almost Impossible To Get Gunn’s Name Off At This Point

It’s Almost Impossible To Get Gunn’s Name Off At This Point

These aren’t unique situations, either. Tons of movies have similarly complicated writing credits, and the one thing that’s clear is writing the original story gives a writer a massive benefit when it comes to determining credit. Not only did Gunn submit that first draft, but if Disney decided to have someone rewrite it they’d be concluding a story established by Gunn through the last 2 films. It’s virtually impossible to get the Gunn out of the Guardians at this point, and writing a story with that intent is sure to be an abysmal failure, just for the sake of keeping him out of the credits.

If the options are rewriting the entire script with the intent of getting Gunn out of the credits – but having him probably credited anyway – and just embracing Gunn’s script as the conclusion of his Guardians trilogy, but with a different director showing their face in interviews, the second option makes the most sense for Disney.

Related: Why Rehiring James Gunn Is Harder For Disney Than Fans Realize

Outside of those two options, Disney’s only alternates are to cancel the movie altogether – which won’t happen – or to simply roll the characters into another movie, like Thor 4, as secondary characters. While the latter sounds like a cool opportunity, and should maybe be considered on its own merit, will not be an effective way to wrap up the ongoing story arcs for each of the Guardians.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Disney doesn’t truly want to part ways with Gunn and firing him as director is merely a public facing move, while keeping him as director, where his most valuable talent lies anyway, is a way of keeping him involved in the MCU.

There’s always been a possibility Disney could bring Gunn back, but it seems like that’s not the case at this point. Thanks to the hasty firing, bringing him back is far more complicated than it would have been, had Disney taken a more measured approach been. Despite seemingly significant public support, at least on social media, Disney is stubbornly sticking by its decision.

Guardians of the Galaxy 3 doesn’t have a release date yet, but summer 2020 was the most likely bet before Gunn’s firing. If Disney and Marvel don’t want to push that release date back, a new director will need to be found before long. Disney’s rush to fire Gunn may have resulted in them finding their back against a wall, considering it will be next to impossible to get his name out of the credits entirely. In an effort to avoid scrutiny over Gunn’s tweets, it seems like Disney’s decisionmaking has resulted in the conversation centering on Gunn anyway, and they can’t even successfully get him out of the credits.

MORE: Screen Rant’s Thoughts On James Gunn’s Firing

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