In a remarkable turn of events, Disney has reinstated James Gunn as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Disney fired Gunn in July 2018, after old, offensive tweets from the filmmaker were resurfaced by conservative personalities online. The firing was controversial, with Guardians of the Galaxystars, including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Dave Bautista, signing an open letter asking for the filmmaker to be rehired. Bautista, in particular, had been outspoken in his support of Gunn.
Marvel Studios put Guardians 3 on hold, though Marvel head Kevin Feige and others involved have maintained they intended to make the film happen. Guardians 3 never had a release date, but Gunn previously said it would open in 2020.
In the weeks after firing Gunn, there was speculation around town about who could replace the filmmaker, with agents lining up clients but by mid-fall, any perceived search seemed to have petered out, with many thinking that the project was on the back burner. What almost no one knew was that Marvel and Disney had never undertaken a search and had gone back to Gunn and made a deal…in secret, according to insiders.
After the firing, Gunn moved on to Warner Bros. and DC to write and direct The Suicide Squad, which has Idris Elba set to star and an Aug. 6, 2021 release date. Gunn plans on doing both films, with The Suicide Squadcoming first, according to sources.
When Gunn was fired, he issued a statement apologizing for his previous tweets.
“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative,” his July 2018 statement read. “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.”
The Guardians movies have been very successful for Marvel, pushing its cinematic universe into the cosmic sphere. The 2014 film earned more than $773 million worldwide while 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earned $863 million. The Guardians were a big part of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, on which Gunn served as an executive producer.
This article originally appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.