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'Guardians of the Galaxy' Brings Fame, Scrutiny to Director Gunn; Read His Sweet Thank You to Fans

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood August 4, 2014 at 1:32PM

The success of "Guardians" is a big deal for director James Gunn, who until now was known for cult faves like "Slither" and "Super." Bringing home the bacon on a Marvel blockbuster that could --with repeat business--rival the top performers of the year catapults Gunn onto Hollywood's A list. He's already on board for a "Guardians" sequel, planned for summer 2017. With fame comes increased scrutiny, however.
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James Gunn
James Gunn

James Gunn should be a very happy man after this weekend, with "Guardians of the Galaxy" blowing past box office expectations and grossing a remarkable $94 million in the U.S. and Canada.

It was the biggest August opening ever and the third-highest opening this year, with two sequels nabbing the top slots: Michael Bay sequel "Transformers: Age of Extinction" and Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."  And while the film's stars--Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel--get much credit, director and co-writer James Gunn's work was roundly praised by critics.

Zoe Saldana in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
Zoe Saldana in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

The success of "Guardians" is a big deal for the director, who until now was known for cult faves like "Slither" and "Super."  Bringing home the bacon on a Marvel blockbuster that could --with repeat business--rival the top performers of the year catapults Gunn onto Hollywood's A list. He's already on board for a "Guardians" sequel, planned for summer 2017.

With fame comes increased scrutiny, however, including the revisiting of an unfortunate 2011 blog post that Gunn has been unsuccessful in squashing. Issues of misogyny plague him, also, because word is circulating that Gunn wrote the movie we see on screen, throwing out the work of Nicole Perlman, who selected the cosmic space comic, churning out a series of drafts over two years in Marvel's writers' program that yielded a potential green light movie. Marvel turned the script over to writer-director Gunn, who did enough of an overhaul to earn WGA's co-writer credit with Perlman--which is hard for a director to get. Yet it seems ungenerous at best for anyone to deprive Perlman of her just desserts. (Many women are cheering her success in a very male universe.) Thankfully, Marvel, recognizing its lack of female superheroes, has given her "Black Widow" to write for Scarlett Johansson while Gunn continues solo on "Guardians 2." (Speaking of female superheroes, Sony is jumping in with an unidentified female superhero for the "Spider-Man" universe, to be written by Lisa Joy--will it be Spider-Woman, Black Cat or Silver Sable? And Sony is chasing "The Heat" director Paul Feig to create a female "Ghostbusters" comedy.)

Thus it should help Gunn's profile that he posted on Facebook Sunday a sweet letter thanking all of his fans and expressing amazement at how well the film has done. (He thanks Marvel and many of his collaborators--not Perlman.) Read the full post below.

“Thanks to all of you who saw (and are seeing) Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend, from the bottom of my heart. The Guardians are a group of oddballs, outcasts, and geeks. The movie is for anyone who ever felt cast aside, left out, or different. It's for all of us who don't belong. This movie belongs to you. And, today, I think we're doing okay.I am of course happy with all the film has accomplished box-office-wise. But what touches me the most is that the film I told the folks at Marvel I wanted to make two years ago is the film that you're seeing in theaters today - it's that so many of you seem to be directly EXPERIENCING the film I INTENDED. The cast, the producers, the crew, and I felt like we were making something special while we were making it. But it is very rare that a director's INTENTIONS in creating a film, or a scene, or a character, or a line of dialogue are, seemingly, specifically what is experienced by an audience (not to mention critics!), and that seems to be what has happened here. You have allowed a talking raccoon - for a moment, a minute, or a day - to make you a little more human. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

If I relied on myself to implement these intentions, the film would be a shambling mess. But instead, I had a wonderful cast, genius producers, an incredibly brave studio, sublimely talented visual effects artists, great editors, and the best damn crew of mostly-British bastards to actually implement these intentions for me. Where I had a good idea they would, through alchemy, transform it into a great one. Many of you involved are friends of mine on Facebook. Many of you will read this somewhere else. I love you all.

You may remember me posting here a couple weeks ago how sad I was to be finishing up the film, that I was having trouble letting go of Rocket, and that I was going to miss him. But seeing him (and Groot, and the rest of the team) embraced by the world like they have been, to be UNDERSTOOD, makes it a wonderful letting go. It's like giving a foster pet up for adoption to the most wonderful parents in the world.

And, of course, I'm not really saying goodbye as, while many of you have been enjoying the film, I've spent this weekend hard at work on the sequel. I couldn't help myself! The results are nice but it's really the creative process I love and that keeps me going. I'm on fire with this thing! The Guardians have so many hardships and heartaches and triumphs ahead of them, and I can't wait to share them with all of you.

Onto week two...

Love, James”

This article is related to: James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.