James Gunn

Screenwriter and director James Gunn applied his fondness for the comic book idiom -- as well as a healthy dash of irreverent humor -- to a host of popular genre films, including "Scooby-Doo" (2002), a remake of George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" (2004), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe bockbuster "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014). Born in St. Louis, Missouri on August 5, 1970, Gunn was raised in a large Irish Catholic family in the suburb of Manchester. As a child, he struggled to connect with his peers, but found solace in a huge comic book collection purchased for him by his father. From there, he began experimenting with Super 8 movies, which allowed him to experiment with early efforts in the horror genre. He briefly attended college but dropped out to play in a rock band. He also briefly supported himself as a hospital orderly in Tucson, Arizona while also writing and drawing comic strips for underground publications. Gunn completed his bachelor's degree at St. Louis University and headed for New York, where he received an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. While there, he penned his first novel, The Toy Collector (1999), while also exploring the world of low-budget filmmaking with the New York-based exploitation production company Troma Entertainment. Initially hired as an intern, Gunn was quickly promoted to write and co-direct one of the company's most substantial hits, the raunchy spoof "Tromeo and Juliet" (1996). In 2000, he relocated to Los Angeles to write and produce "The Specials" (2000), a superhero comedy with Rob Lowe, Thomas Haden Church and Judy Greer that became a minor cult hit on home video. Gunn scored his first major hit with the script for a live-action film version of "Scooby-Doo" (2002), starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini, and Matthew Lillard as the Mystery Machine team. This surprise hit was soon followed by a sequel, "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" (2004) and the script for director Zach Snyder's remake of "Dawn of the Dead" (2004). The success of both films made Gunn the first screenwriter to land two projects at the top of the box office in consecutive weeks. Gunn made his feature directorial debut with "Slither" (2006), a wry science fiction comedy that received critical acclaim but only modest box office returns. He then ventured into television, directing several pilots for Xbox Live as well as a short-form web series called "PG Porn" (2008-09) which parodied adult film tropes. After helming the dark superhero comedy "Super" (2009), Gunn scored his first major hit as director and writer with "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014) a tongue-in-cheek live action take on a lesser-known title from the Marvel Comics stable starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. The film scored big numbers at the box office, as well as near-unanimous critical praise for Gunn's reverential but tongue-in-cheek take on comic book space operas. The sequel, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017) was also a hit. In the midst of planning for the third film in the series, an online alt-right conspiracy theorist named Michael Cernovich, upset at Gunn's increasingly vocal criticism of Donald Trump, resurfaced a number of Gunn's old tweets from 2009 that included deliberately shocking and vulgar jokes about pedophilia and other taboos. In the ensuing uproar, Gunn was fired from directing "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" and relieved of his other duties in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, unlike in many other cases of Hollywood personalities losing jobs because of social media protests, there was a backlash against Disney/Marvel's quick decision, with many supporters pointing out that Cernovich himself had tweeted in support of raping women in the past. On July 30, 2018, a statement in support of Gunn was signed by the "Guardians of the Galaxy" cast, including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista.