James Gunn Addresses 'Disrespectful' and 'Unkind' Backlash to Superman Recasting

James Gunn has responded to what he called a “disrespectul” and “unkind” response to some of his decisions since taking the helm of DC Studios — including removing Henry Cavill as Superman.

Gunn and Peter Safran took over DC Studios in October, with Gunn handling creative and Safran, a former manager and producer who counted Gunn among his clients, focusing on business and production. One of their first moves was to inform Henry Cavill that the next Superman film will not involve him because it focuses on a more youthful Superman.

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But the decision has prompted an outcry from some Cavill fans, a few of whom berated Gunn in terms that seem excessive in a discussion of who should play a pretend superhero. Gunn has been one of the most communicative and fan-friendly of all major filmmakers, routinely interacting with fans online and fielding questions about projects from his 2021 DC film The Suicide Squad to his new Disney+ special The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, the latest project in his Guardians of the Galaxy films. But his presence on social media, and attempts to be transparent about his decision-making as an executive, have also made him an attractive target for overzealous fans.

“One of the things Peter & I were aware of when we took the job as heads of DC Studios was a certain minority of people online that could be, well, uproarious & unkind, to say the least,” Gunn tweeted. “Our choices for the DCU are based upon what we believe is best for the story & best for the DC characters who have been around for nearly 85 years. Perhaps these choices are great, perhaps not, but they are made with sincere hearts & integrity & always with the story in mind.”

He added: “No one loves to be harassed or called names – but, to be frank, we’ve been through significantly worse. Disrespectful outcry will never, ever affect our actions. We were aware there would be a period of turbulence when we took this gig, & we knew we would sometimes have to make difficult & not-so-obvious choices, especially in the wake of the fractious nature of what came before us. But this means little to us in comparison to our jobs as artists & custodians in helping to create a wide & wonderful future for DC.”

Gunn’s new tweets, posted Monday, don’t seem to have ended the backlash. As of this writing, #FireJamesGunn was a trending topic on Twitter. Why does anyone care what Twitter thinks? Because there’s a precedent for Warner Bros. to make big decisions in response to social media outrage: after years of tweets demanding that the studio #ReleasetheSnyderCut of 2017’s Justice League, the studio did just that. The original version, by Zack Snyder, was shelved while he coped with his daughter’s suicide, and the studio enlisted Joss Whedon for a movie that pleased very few people.  It was a box-office disappointment with a 39 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Snyder’s version scored 71 percent, though there’s no way to do an apples-to-apples box office comparison: Snyder’s four-hour version was released on HBO Max in 2021, when Warner Bros. released most of its slate via streaming due to the pandemic.

Henry Cavill seemed to take the news of his Superman exit better than some of his fans. In discussing it on Instagram last week, he wrote that “this news isn’t the easiest, but that’s life.”

He continued: “The changing of the guard is something that happens. I respect that. James and Peter have a universe to build. I wish the and all involved with the new universe the best of luck, and the happiest of fortunes. … “For those who have been by my side through the years….we can mourn for a bit, but then we must remember…. Superman is still around. Everything he stands for still exists, and the examples he sets for us are still there! My turn to wear the cape has passed, but what Superman stands for never will. It’s been a fun ride with you all, onwards and upwards.”

The Cavill news came on the red-booted heels of news that DC Studios had also passed on Patty Jenkins’ treatment for Wonder Woman 3 despite her direction of Wonder Woman (2017) and Wonder Woman: 1984 (2020).

Main image: James Gunn, photographed by Art Streiber.