Back in 2018, Dis­ney fired direc­tor James Gunn, who was at the time work­ing on the sec­ond sequel to his Mar­vel Cin­e­mat­ic Uni­verse film Guardians of the Galaxy. The fir­ing came in response to a smear cam­paign by a not­ed alt-right media per­son­al­i­ty, who resur­faced some bad-taste jokes about pedophil­ia that Gunn had tweet­ed, in some cas­es more than a decade ago. The pub­lic fir­ing result­ed in sev­er­al weeks of inter­net uproar, with fan peti­tions call­ing for Gunn’s rein­state­ment, and the Guardians of the Galaxy cast speak­ing up on his behalf, both via a for­mal pub­lic let­ter to Dis­ney and via inter­views and their own social media out­lets. Gunn moved on to a new posi­tion at Warn­er Bros., script­ing Sui­cide Squad 2, but ear­li­er this year, Dis­ney rehired Gunn to helm Guardians of the Galaxy 3. The film hasn’t yet been giv­en a release date on Disney’s long-term the­atri­cal release slate.

Through­out the whole process, Gunn was large­ly silent apart from apol­o­giz­ing for the past tweets and explain­ing where they came from. But today, in a frank con­ver­sa­tion with Dead­line, he spoke about his expe­ri­ences over the past year, his ini­tial respons­es to the fir­ing, why he com­pares it to his divorce, and what the rehir­ing expe­ri­ence was like for him.

Per­haps most notably, Gunn says he doesn’t blame any­one but him­self for the fir­ing, and that he takes “full respon­si­bil­i­ty” for his past tweets, and doesn’t con­sid­er them a free-speech issue. He focus­es more on his emo­tion­al reac­tions after the fir­ing, and par­tic­u­lar­ly about how oth­er people’s respons­es to it made him feel tru­ly loved for the first time:

I’m like a lot of peo­ple who come out here and want to be rich and famous, to have peo­ple love them … My appa­ra­tus for being loved was my work, and being famous. I had nev­er real­ly expe­ri­enced before that feel­ing of being loved so deeply. It has been a prob­lem for me in rela­tion­ships, in friend­ships; I can expe­ri­ence lov­ing anoth­er per­son but I have a very dif­fi­cult time expe­ri­enc­ing being loved. In that moment, the appa­ra­tus which was my only hope for feel­ing love was torn away from me and I had absolute­ly noth­ing. I didn’t know what I was sup­posed to do. Should I be locked away?

And then came this out­pour­ing of real love. From my girl­friend Jen; my pro­duc­er and my agents; Chris Pratt call­ing me and freak­ing out; Zoe Sal­dana and Karen Gillan, all call­ing and cry­ing. Sylvester Stal­lone Face­Time-ing me. And, of course, Dave Bautista, who came out so strong. That amount of love that I felt from my friends, my fam­i­ly, and the peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ty was absolute­ly over­whelm­ing. In order for me to have ful­ly felt that love for the first time, the thing that need­ed to hap­pen was the appa­ra­tus by which I was feel­ing false­ly loved had to be com­plete­ly tak­en away.

He also address­es how he even­tu­al­ly asked the peo­ple in his life to stop focus­ing on his fir­ing because he couldn’t han­dle the neg­a­tiv­i­ty and want­ed to move on. And he talks about the expe­ri­ence of hear­ing from oth­er stu­dios that want­ed to hire him, and how much fun he’s hav­ing with Sui­cide Squad 2.

Of every­thing revealed in the inter­view, Guardians of the Galaxy fans may be most grat­i­fied to read about the plot­line he most wants to pay off in the third film, regard­ing Rock­et Raccoon’s per­son­al devel­op­ment:

I relate to Rock­et and I feel com­pas­sion for Rock­et, but I also feel like his sto­ry has not been com­plet­ed. He has an arc that start­ed in the first movie, con­tin­ued into the sec­ond and goes through Infin­i­ty War and Endgame, and then I was set to real­ly fin­ish that arc in Guardians 3. That was a big loss to me—not being able to fin­ish that story—though I was com­fort­ed by the fact that they were still plan­ning to use my script.

The full con­ver­sa­tion is avail­able at Dead­line.

Pho­to by Chris­t­ian Petersen/Getty Images

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