James Francis Gunn Jr. (born August 5, 1966 in St. Louis, Missouri) is an American film writer and director. Gunn's films are known for politically incorrect humour, bleakly comedic tones, and underlying themes of hope and optimism.
After getting his start with Troma Entertainment as a writer in The '90s he later went on to work as a director on a couple of cult films. He also did took a crack at working with more mainstream movies from major franchises in the form of writing the two live-action Scooby-Doo movies and the remake of Dawn of the Dead.
Gunn's breakout success arrived with the release of the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Guardians of the Galaxy, which he wrote and directed in 2014. In spite of relatively low expectations for the then-unknown superhero team, Guardians ended up being a massive hit, with his takes on the characters leaving an impression with audiences. Gunn was quickly rehired to write and direct the sequel, Vol. 2, and a third film. He also did some of the writing on the third and fourth Avengers movies, which prominently feature the Guardians as part of the ensemble.
Gunn was temporarily ousted from directing the third Guardians of the Galaxy film when several offensive jokes from his Troma days — which he had already apologized for — resurfaced, note but he was ultimately rehired by Disney for handling the situation professionally, aided by a large chorus of support from the fans and from Marvel's stable of talent. Between being fired and rehired, DC Films got his attention and quickly signed him on to work on a follow-up to Suicide Squad — which he titled The Suicide Squad — alongside a spin-off series for The Peacemaker for HBO Max. Meanwhile, Marvel signed Gunn on not just for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for 2023, but for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special in time for Holiday 2022. Suffice it to say, Gunn made lemonade out of lemons.
While Gunn is still involved in discussions regarding the expansion of the cosmic side of the MCU, he has stated that he sees Vol. 3 as his final MCU movie for now. Likewise, he has made no promises with regard to his future with DC after The Suicide Squad. However, while his future at DC is in doubt, his future at Warner is more clear, being set to co-write and co-produce the live-action/animated Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner film Coyote vs. Acme.
His works include:
- Tromeo and Juliet (1996, writer)
- The Specials (2000, actor and writer)
- Scooby-Doo (2002, writer)
- Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004, writer)
- Dawn of the Dead (2004, writer)
- Slither (2006, writer and director)
- James Gunn's PG Porn (20082009, creator, writer, producer, director)
- Super (2010, writer and director)
- Lollipop Chainsaw (2011, writer)
- Movie 43 (2013, co-director and co-writer, Beezel segment)
- The Belko Experiment (2017, writer and producer)
- Brightburn (2019, producer)
- Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, co-writer and director)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017, writer and director)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018, executive producer and uncredited writer)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019, executive producer)
- The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (Holiday 2022, writer and director)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (TBA 2023, writer and director)
- DC Extended Universe
- The Suicide Squad (2021, writer and director)
- Peacemaker (TBA, writer and director)
- Coyote vs. Acme (TBA; co-producer and co-writer)
Tropes associated with James Gunn's works include:
- Anti-Hero: Name a protagonist of his who isnt.
- Bathos: Its rare for a serious moment in his movies not to be followed by a joke and vice versa.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: Gray is the whitest his characters morality is going to get.
- Black Comedy: His stock in trade.
- Chekhov's Gag: Hes exceptionally good at setting up character moments and gags thatll be paid off later on.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Downplayed. His works are very offbeat, and sometimes downright bizarre. If you see a scene that makes you cringe or scratch your head and go, "Huh?" you can be guaranteed that it's him doing his own thing.
- Creator Cameo: Gunn plays a minor character in almost every movie he directs.note
- Creator's Pest: Like many people, he dislikes Scrappy-Doo, which is why he was written as the villain for the first Scooby-Doo movie.
- Gorn: Slither and Super have this in spades, with the former going into Body Horror and the latter veering into Bloody Hilarious.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Guardians, Lollipop Chainsaw, and especially Super have these in spades.
- Old Shame: His past off-color and offensive material on Twitter. He's mentioned he's ashamed of them and isnt capable of those remarks these days. Those eventually got him in trouble with Disney chairman Alan Horn and it got him kicked off of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for some time before Disney decided to put him back onboard.
- Older Than They Look: The page photo of Gunn was taken in 2014, when he was in his late-40s, though he looked to be about a decade younger.
- One of Us: Gunn is a fan of Kamen Rider, which he revealed when the franchise trended on Twitter due to the American debut of Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER.
- Playing Against Type: In an episode of James Gunn's PG Porn, he plays himself but as an abusive director.James Gunn: CAT! What don't you understand about fucking cat, Edward? C-A-T. It's the first word you learn in a fucking book! FUCK ME! God-damn it!
- Pragmatic Adaptation: So far a dependable trope for all his work based on previously existing material. While he is no doubt a fan of multiple properties he has worked on, he pretty much re-arranges the parts given to him with little worry about playing certain things straight. This is most likely due to his coming from Troma and ironically one of the reasons for his mainstream success. As while this practice doesn't always play well in, say, Romero and Scooby circles, it made him a perfect fit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its way of adapting comics.
- Production Posse: Many movies he directed have Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, and Gregg Henry in their cast, and Tyler Bates composing the score. His brother Sean Gunn also joined this posse during Super. Sadly, Nathan Fillion's appearance for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which consisted only of posters with his picture on them, got cut from the final film.
- Promoted Fanboy:
- James Gunn is a big fan of the Scooby-Doo cartoons and was beyond happy to write the two films.
- His Twitter makes it known that he's quite a fan of comic books, even before joining the MCU. He also basically made a point of trying to get Marvel and DC fanboys to get along with his helming The Suicide Squad.
- Refuge in Audacity: A frequent offender.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Tend to sit somewhere in the middle. As darkly comic and cynical as his films can get, they usually lean towards optimistic themes and how to remain hopeful in the face of darkness.
- What Could Have Been: He was set to direct a sequel to Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed but the plans were cancelled after the film didn't do well at the box office.