A new James Gunn project arrives in theaters this week with the superhero horror film “Brightburn” (in theaters Friday), even though for a bit it looked like it might be the last for a while.
Produced by Gunn and written by his younger brother Bryan and cousin Mark, “Brightburn” is a dark twist on the Superman origin: It centers on a 12-year-old boy (Jackson A. Dunn) from another world raised by a Kansas couple (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) as their own, but the kid turns out to be more evil than good.
It was expected to be the movie Gunn did before moving on to a third “Guardians of the Galaxy” for Marvel Studios, but last July he was fired by Disney after old and offensive tweets joking about rape and pedophilia were uncovered.
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Producer James Gunn on the set of "Brightburn." He recently was rehired to direct a third "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie. (Photo: BORIS MARTIN)
His “Guardians” cast rallied in support and Warner Bros. signed him to write and direct “The Suicide Squad” (which Gunn starts filming this September) before Disney eventually rehired him for the next “Guardians.”
“I deeply appreciate Disney’s decision and I am excited to continue making films that investigate the ties of love that bind us all,” Gunn wrote on Twitter.
Through those ups and downs, “Brightburn” was “definitely something I could focus on,” Gunn tells USA TODAY. “I like to work, so ‘Brightburn’ was a great help to me when I wasn’t doing anything.”
Through that tough period, Gunn adds, he “never even for a second” lost his enthusiasm for filmmaking or telling stories, which “is just innate to who I am. It could be through movies or books or TV or video games, I don’t care. I just love telling stories.”
Jackson A. Dunn stars as a boy who learns he has extraordinary – and deadly – abilities in "Brightburn." (Photo: SONY PICTURES)
But Gunn never saw his work on “Brightburn” being an escape from everything else going on.
“I’m always a person that focuses on what I’m doing now that’s right in front of me,” he says. “Any time I feel like I’m using something as an escape, I usually feel like that’s an unhealthy type of thing. Nothing ever felt like that in any way. I just had fun making ‘Brightburn.’ I was excited to make a movie with the people that I loved and cared about the most, with a concept that I thought was really dynamite.”
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