James Gunn

James Gunn

Birth name: James Francis Gunn Jr.
Born: August 5, 1966
Age: 52
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
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Biography

James Francis Gunn Jr.[2] (born August 5, 1966) is an American filmmaker, actor, novelist, and musician. He started his career as a screenwriter in the mid-1990s, writing the scripts for Tromeo and Juliet (1996), The Specials (2000), Scooby-Doo (2002) and its sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004), and the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead. He then started working as a director, starting with the horror-comedy film Slither (2006). He subsequently wrote and directed the web series James Gunn's PG Porn (2008-2009), the superhero film Super (2010), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and its sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).

Gunn was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He was raised between St. Louis and Manchester, Missouri.[3][4] His brothers are actor Sean, actor and political writer Matt, screenwriter Brian,[5] and former Executive Vice President with Artisan Entertainment Patrick.[6] He also has a sister named Beth.[7] Their parents are Leota[8] and James F. Gunn, an attorney.[9] Gunn states his surname is derived from the Irish name MacGilGunn, meaning "sons to the servants of the god of the dead".[10]

Growing up, Gunn was influenced by low-budget films such as Night of the Living Dead and Friday the 13th. He read magazines like Fangoria and attended genre movie screenings, including the original Dawn of the Dead at the Tivoli Theatre in St. Louis. At the age of 12, he began making 8 mm zombie films with his brothers in the woods near their home.[11]

Gunn and his brothers all attended the Jesuit St. Louis University High School, where he graduated in 1984.[12][9] He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Louis University.[13] While at Saint Louis University, Gunn created political cartoons for the school's student weekly, The University News.[14] Gunn said that, at an unspecified time in his college education, "I went to two years undergraduate film school at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. But I was pretty screwed up at the time, and had to leave. Years later I went to graduate school at the Columbia University School of Fine Arts but I studied prose writing, not film writing."[15] He earned a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University in 1995.[16]

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Career

Music

While living in St. Louis, Gunn started a band, The Icons, in 1989, serving as lead vocalist. The group released the album Mom, We Like It Here on Earth in 1994, and its songs "Sunday" and "Walking Naked" were featured in the film Tromeo and Juliet. The Icons disbanded in the mid-1990s.[17] Gunn has continued to work in music, composing songs for Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and Movie 43.

Film and television

Gunn promoting Guardians of the Galaxy at San Diego Comic-Con, 2013

Gunn began his career in filmmaking with Troma Entertainment in 1995, for which he wrote the independent film Tromeo and Juliet. Working alongside his mentor Lloyd Kaufman, the co-founder of Troma, Gunn learned how to write screenplays, produce films, scout locations, direct actors, distribute films, and create his own poster art.[11] After contributing to several other Troma films, Gunn in 2000 wrote, produced and performed in the superhero comedy The Specials, directed by Craig Mazin and featuring Rob Lowe, Thomas Haden Church, Paget Brewster, Judy Greer and Jamie Kennedy.

Gunn's first major Hollywood screenplay was Scooby-Doo in 2002. In 2004, he wrote the screenplays for the remake of Dawn of the Dead and the sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. With these films, Gunn became the first screenwriter to have two films top the box office in consecutive weeks.[18] That same year, he executive produced and starred in the mockumentary LolliLove, directed by and starring his then-wife Jenna Fischer. His film directorial debut was the 2006 horror-comedy Slither, which was included on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the 50 Best Ever Reviewed Horror Movies.[19]

Gunn's next projects included the comedy short film "Humanzee!" which was originally intended exclusively for the Xbox Live's Horror Meets Comedy series of short comedy films by horror directors, it was replaced with "Sparky and Mikaela" which debuted on Xbox Live on December 31, 2008. In an April 2009 interview on The Jace Hall Show, Gunn described "Sparky and Mikaela" as being "about a human racoon crime fighting team and they fight crime in both the forest world, among the furry animals, and in the human world".[20] Gunn also has a short-form web series for Spike.com titled James Gunn's PG Porn.

In 2008, Gunn was a judge on the VH1 reality television show, Scream Queens where 10 unknown actresses compete for a role in the film Saw VI, where he directed contestants during acting challenges.[21]

In 2009, Gunn announced he was going to write and direct Pets, a comedy about a man who is abducted by aliens who want to turn him into a household pet, with Ben Stiller, Stuart Cornfeld and Jeremy Kramer producing.[22] However, by March 2009, Gunn announced, "Pets unfortunately, is done. I'm gone. I left the project for various reasons. I hope it sees the light of day somehow, but it won't be with me attached as director."[23]

In 2010, Gunn released Super, a dark comedy and superhero satire starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. Gunn co-wrote and directed the Marvel Studios adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy, which was released on August 1, 2014.[24] His brother, Sean, has a role in the film. Gunn has appeared as an actor, mostly in smaller roles or uncredited appearances in his own projects. Dan Gilroy and Jack Black separately lamented the proliferation of superhero films,[25] Gunn responded in a Facebook post, saying in part:

opular fare in any medium has always been snubbed by the self-appointed elite. ... What bothers me slightly is that many people assume because you make big films that you put less love, care, and thought into them then people do who make independent films or who make what are considered more serious Hollywood films. ... If you think people who make superhero movies are dumb, come out and say we're dumb. But if you, as an independent filmmaker or a 'serious' filmmaker, think you put more love into your characters than the Russo Brothers do Captain America, or Joss Whedon does the Hulk, or I do a talking raccoon, you are simply mistaken.[26]

Gunn wrote and produced the horror film The Belko Experiment, which was released in 2017.[27] In 2016, he directed three Stan Lee cameo scenes in one day, for the film Doctor Strange and two unrevealed projects.[28][29][30]

Gunn wrote and directed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).[31][32][33] Gunn was slated to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but in July 2018, Disney removed Gunn as the director amid controversy over off-color jokes he had tweeted.[34]

In October 2018, Gunn was hired to write a completely new script for Suicide Squad 2, with the intention of also serving as director, after its original director Gavin O'Connor left due to scheduling issues.[35][36]

Other media

Gunn wrote a novel in 2000, The Toy Collector, a story of a hospital orderly who steals drugs from the hospital which he sells to help keep his toy collection habit alive. In 1998, he and Troma's President Lloyd Kaufman co-wrote All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger, about his experiences with Kaufman while working at Troma. He wrote the story for Grasshopper Manufacture's video game Lollipop Chainsaw.[37]

Firing from Disney

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In July 2018, alt-right conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich drew attention to tweets that Gunn wrote between 2008 and 2012, joking about topics like rape, child abuse, and pedophilia.[38]

Amid criticism of the tweets, Disney severed ties with Gunn. He was fired as director of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 film;[39] he was also dismissed from a role to help lead Marvel's planned "Cosmic Universe".[40] Gunn responded: "I have regretted for many years since. 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 my sincere and heartfelt regret To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies."[39][41]

Disney's decision received criticism from several entertainers and journalists, including actors Dave Bautista, Selma Blair, Patton Oswalt, David Dastmalchian, Michael Ian Black, Mikaela Hoover, Mike Colter, Alex Winter, David Hasselhoff, directors Joe Carnahan and Fede Alvarez, comics artist Jim Starlin, musician Rhett Miller, comedian Jim Jeffries, Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland, journalist David A. French, and Troma Entertainment founder and president Lloyd Kaufman.[42][43][44] Bobcat Goldthwait, who worked as a voice actor on the 1997 Disney film Hercules, responded to the incident by asking Disney to remove his voice from an upcoming park attraction based on the film.[45]

A number of media outlets openly criticized Disney's decision, including Collider, Cartoon Brew, The Daily Dot, The Independent, National Review, MovieWeb, and Vulture.[38][43][46] An online petition urging Disney to re-hire Gunn received over 400,000 signatures.[42][47]

On July 30, 2018, Guardians of the Galaxy cast members Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Sean Gunn, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, and Michael Rooker released a joint statement through social media expressing their support for Gunn.[48]

Personal life

Gunn married actress Jenna Fischer on October 7, 2000, in an event that Gunn's hometown paper said was officiated by Lloyd Kaufman,[9] but which Gunn later clarified had not been: "They said I was married by Lloyd Kaufman, which is not true. He was at my wedding and he gave a speech."[30] Gunn and Fischer had originally met in the St. Louis area through Gunn's brother Sean, who had acted in plays alongside Fischer in high school.[11] After seven years of marriage, Gunn and Fischer announced their separation in a joint statement on September 5, 2007,[49] divorcing in 2008.[50] In 2010, Fischer persuaded Gunn to cast Rainn Wilson, her co-star on The Office, in Gunn's film Super.[11]

Gunn has been in a relationship with actress Jennifer Holland since 2015.[51]

Gunn was raised in a Roman Catholic family and has mentioned how prayer continues to play an important role in his life,[52] but has also said that he is "in some ways, anti-religion".[53] Gunn explained his views in detail in 2016:

My personal take is that there is a role for spirituality in some people's lives and I think that a belief in God can be a good thing for a great amount of people I do not like any sort of faith or religion that is based on exclusivity, meaning any sort of religion that says you're damned to hell or you're not going to be saved because you don't believe the same thing I do. I believe faith and spiritual belief is a very, very personal thing and if I started applying what I believe to everybody else it would be unfair to everybody's individuality and I really hate that.[54]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Director Writer Producer Actor Role Notes
1996 Tromeo and Juliet Associate Yes No Yes Found a peanut father
1997 Hamster PSA Yes Yes No No Short film
2000 The Specials No Yes Yes Yes Minute Man
2000 Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV No No No Yes Doctor Flem Hocking
2002 Scooby-Doo No Yes No No
2003 Doggie Tails, Vol. 1: Lucky's First Sleep-Over No No No Yes Riley Direct-to-video
The Ghouls No No No Yes
Melvin Goes to Dinner No No No Yes Scott
2004 Tube No Yes No No
Dawn of the Dead No Yes No No
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed No Yes Yes No
LolliLove No Uncredited Executive Yes James
2006 Slither Yes Yes No Uncredited Hank Feature film directorial debut
2008 Sparky & Mikaela Yes Yes Yes No Web short(s)
Humanzee! Yes Yes Yes Yes James
2010 Super Yes Yes No Yes Demonswill
2013 Movie 43 Yes Yes No No Segment: Beezel
Thor: The Dark World Uncredited No No No Mid-credits scene[55]
2014 Guardians of the Galaxy Yes Yes No Yes Maskless Sakaaran, Baby Groot Also CGI actor in end-credits scene [56]
2016 The Belko Experiment No Yes Yes No
Doctor Strange Uncredited Uncredited No No Guest director
Stan Lee cameo scene[28][29]
2017 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Yes Yes No No
2018 Avengers: Infinity War No No Executive[57] No
2019 Untitled Avengers film No No Executive No
BrightBurn No No Yes No Post-production[58]

Television

Year Title Director Writer Producer Actor Role Notes
1997 Sgt. Kabukiman Public Service Announcement No No No Yes Insane Masturbator TV short
1997-2000 The Tromaville Cafe Yes Yes No Yes Mike the Crazy Boom Guy Also creator
2008-2009 James Gunn's PG Porn Yes Yes Executive Yes Various roles Web series
2013 Holliston No No No Yes John Anguish Episode: "Honesty"
2015 Con Man No No No Yes Raaker 2.0 Web series[59]

Video games

Year Title Director Writer Producer Actor Role Notes
2012 Lollipop Chainsaw No Yes No No
2013 LocoCycle[60] No No No Yes Big Arms Chairman

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title Result
2005 Bram Stoker Award Best Screenplay Dawn of the Dead Nominated
2006 Chainsaw Award Highest Body Count Slither Won
2007 Saturn Award The Filmmakers Showcase Award Slither Won
2014 Golden Raspberry Award Worst Screenplay Movie 43 (shared with co-writers) Won
2014 Golden Raspberry Award Worst Director Movie 43 (shared with co-directors) Won
2015 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Guardians of the Galaxy (shared with Nicole Perlman) Nominated
2015 Hollywood Film Awards Blockbuster of the Year Guardians of the Galaxy Won
2015 Critics' Choice Awards Best Action Film Guardians of the Galaxy Won
2015 Saturn Award Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture Guardians of the Galaxy Won
2015 Saturn Award Best Director Guardians of the Galaxy Won
2015 Saturn Award Best Writing Guardians of the Galaxy (shared with Nicole Perlman) Nominated

Bibliography

Year Title Notes
1998 All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger with Lloyd Kaufman
2000 The Toy Collector
2003 Make Your Own Damn Movie: Secrets of a Renegade Director Introduction only
Charities

James Gunn supports the following charitable cause: ALS (amyrotrophic lateral sclerosis).

[ Source: Wikipedia ]