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Major studios are lining up to hire James Gunn after Disney firing

08.08.2018

Just when you thought Ben Affleck's waffling about continuing to play The Dark Knight was the hottest merry-go-round in town, along comes Disney and their on-going struggle to disassociate themselves with controversial filmmaker James Gunn. Unless you've been living under a rock since July 20th, you're likely to be aware that the House of Mouse fired Gunn as director of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 after a series of reprehensible tweets posted by the Marvel movie helmer between the years 2008-2011 were unearthed as part of a not-so-elaborate smear campaign. In the tweets, the Tromaville alum joked about such hot-button topics as pedophilia, racism, and homophobia. Understandably, this is not a look that Disney was willing to sport, and so the studio removed Gunn as director of the upcoming Guardians sequel post haste. As a consequence to what some had felt was a knee-jerk reaction on Disney's behalf, many came to Gunn's defense, including the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY cast, who'd penned an open letter asking that Gunn be reinstated as director of the highly-anticipated Marvel film.

While Disney has yet to sever their ties with Gunn entirely, a new report from The Hollywood Reporter claims that several major studios are itching to work with Gunn on a series of upcoming projects. "I’d work with him in a heartbeat," said one senior executive at a rival studio who wishes to remain anonymous. Oh, and before we start thinking up some cloak-and-dagger style scenarios here, the reason for the execs anonymity is because, technically, no one is allowed to approach Gunn with new projects until his exit from Disney is finalized. “I’ve been advised that we can’t bring anything to him until the Disney matter is 100 percent resolved,” says another studio executive. As you know, it's always best to cover your ass with this sort of thing, particularly when an industry powerhouse like Disney is involved. Oh sure, they may appear to have a soft, family-friendly exterior, but I assure you that Disney has teeth, and those fangs are as sharp as Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones.

According to THR, Gunn, represented by UTA and attorney Andrew Hurwitz, is still involved in a bout of intricate negotiations with Disney concerning his exit settlement. Sources close to the matter are also saying that while Gunn was contracted for the third Guardians film, the deal was likely to not be part of a "pay or play" agreement. What's "pay or play" mean, you ask? Well, it's a status that would require Disney to pay Gunn his full agreed upon fee regardless of whether his original material or talents are used in the making of the film or not. It's a deal that's typically baked in to a movie deal when the project is not officially greenlit or falls within eight weeks of the start of production. As it happens, Gunn's situation does not reside under this category, due in-part to the tweets being posted long before the contract was signed, sealed, and delivered. What this ultimately means is that Gunn could walk away from the Guardians Vol. 3 project with an estimated total of $7 to $10 million in his pocket, despite his lack of participation.

Furthermore, two sources close to the ordeal are saying that Disney is still contemplating the use of Gunn's script for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3. It's also being said that just because Gunn is potentially out of Guardians 3 entirely, that he could still go on to be hired for other Marvel-related projects down the road. “An end-all verdict hasn’t been issued and conversations with Marvel are still ongoing,” says a source familiar with the on-going fallout.

In what is surely not the end for James Gunn, it sounds as if plenty of studios are willing to give him a shot at creating blockbusters for their rival banners. “Most people feel his comments were coming out of his brand of comedy [at the time he made them],” says another studio exec. “Having an inappropriate sense of humor shouldn’t be a crime.”

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