“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,” Walt Disney Company Chairman Alan Horn said in a statement Friday.
Gunn’s old tweets have since been deleted, but users posted screenshots that appear to show the director had written jokes about rape and others like, “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.”
A rep for Gunn, who directed Guardians of Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, released a statement to EW after Disney announced its decision.
“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative,” Gunn said. “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.”
He continued: “Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.”
Gunn also addressed the old remarks in a series of tweets posted online Thursday night.
“Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo,” he wrote. “As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.”
He went on to explain how he “apologized” in the past for his humor and clarified he wasn’t “living” out these “shocking jokes.”
He concluded: “I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.”
Despite the cryptic events of Avengers: Infinity War and the still mysterious fourth Avengers film, plans had already been announced for Gunn to continue with developing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3., which seems to be a major work for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker teased the sequel “will help to set up the next 10, 20 years of Marvel movies” after Avengers 4. He had even posted the cover of the script for the third film in a post on social media in June.
Gunn had teased an appearance during a Sony Pictures panel at Comic-Con on Friday at 6:15 p.m. PT. However, an insider close to the situation told EW that Gunn is not expected to attend the panel.
This article has been updated with a new statement from Gunn.