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Marvel’s Phase 4 May Need to Be Radically Different After James Gunn's Firing

Marvel's Future Stars Aren't Happy

Another complication is that Marvel's stars are distinctly unhappy with the decision to fire James Gunn. Nobody's been more outspoken about this than Dave Bautista, who plays Drax. In his view, Gunn had long since moved on from the immature tweets he posted long before working for Disney, and the decision to fire Gunn saw the House of Mouse cave in to what Bautista calls "CyberNazis." He's openly described continuing to work for Disney as "nauseating," even threatening to quit if Marvel chose not to use Gunn's script for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Bautista shows no sign of quieting down about this, still tweeting about it in the last week.

We have no idea how strongly the rest of the Guardians cast are reacting to Gunn's departure; but we do know that they all seem to take Gunn's side in the matter as well. In the immediate aftermath of the firing, several of the other actors - most notably Zoe Saldana and Chris Pratt - voiced their support for the director. Ten days later, the united cast signed an open letter in which they declared that they fully backed him. "We cannot let this moment pass without expressing our love, support, and gratitude for James," they wrote. "We are not here to defend his jokes of many years ago but rather to share our experience having spent many years together on set making Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2." In their view, Gunn's apology was from the heart, "a heart we all know, trust, and love."

This leaves Marvel in a very different position indeed. In PR terms, what kind of statements can they expect from the cast when they're doing the rounds promoting Avengers 4 next year? There's no doubt at all that they'll be asked about it, and Bautista at least can be expected to be quite candid about his opinions. Looking beyond Avengers 4, it may be something of a relief for Marvel that contracts for the Guardians cast are close to running out; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was intended to be "the end of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy."

Looking beyond Dave Bautista and Guardians of the Galaxy, what do Marvel's other stars feel about all this? It's worth remembering that Gunn was targeted on social media because of his outspoken views on Donald Trump, and many of Marvel's A-listers have been equally critical of the president. Although they weren't as close to him as the Guardians of the Galaxy cast, they're still familiar with him. So it would hardly be a surprise if other Marvel actors, including the likes of Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, are also upset at Gunn's abrupt firing. This could potentially even have an impact on contract renegotiation, should any of those stars be considering extending their time with Marvel Studios. What's more, other actors and directors may even be reluctant to approach Marvel, fearful that their political views will lead to them being targeted on social media just as Gunn was. Future casting may have become a little more difficult for Marvel.

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James Gunn's departure, and the delayed production of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, are a nightmare scenario for Marvel Studios. In the short-term, Marvel has to decide what to do about their 2020 release slate; in the long-term, the consequences could run on for years, affecting everything Marvel already had penciled in. Making matters worse, several of the actors themselves have openly sided with Gunn, and it's hard to know just how unhappy the rest are with Disney's decision. This could have a massive impact on the future shape of the MCU.

Key Release Dates
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
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