Kurt Russell, Disney star of the ’60s, steps up to defend James Gunn

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Kurt Russell stepped up to defend James Gunn on Saturday night.

He didn’t go as far as saying “Disney must re-hire James,” but it’s clear that he feels Gunn was fired in error. Disney severed its business relationship with the Guardians of the Galaxy director in July after fringe alt-right interests resurfaced Gunn’s old and admittedly controversial tweets from a decade ago.

Tweets, it should be mentioned, that Gunn himself owned and apologized for a number of years ago.

“It’s sad. But it’s a part of our fabric now and I get it,” Russell told Variety on Saturday. “But I do think we’re getting a little too sensitive on maybe some of the wrong people.”

Russell’s words echo the sentiments expressed in an open letter from the main Guardians cast to Disney. In the letter, which hit social media last week, the film’s stars bemoaned the “character assassinations” and “weaponizing of mob mentality” that have become increasingly common during the Donald Trump era.

“You have to realize that when you are in that world as a comedian, a writer, whatever you’re always stretching the boundaries and trying to find something which lead him to something that the world loves, which is Guardians of the Galaxy,” Russell said. “He has a wonderful heart and a wonderful mind. I hope he is forgiven.”

Russell played the cosmic entity known as Ego in Gunn’s Guardians sequel, but there’s more to him speaking up than an actor defending his one-time director. The legendary actor has quite a history with Disney.

Back in the mid-1960s, early in Russell’s career, the actor — then in his teens — signed a 10-year contract with The Walt Disney Company. He worked a lot during that time, appearing in numerous film and TV roles, and he developed a close relationship with studio founder Walt Disney in the process.

There’s even a sort-of-true “modern legend” that suggests Russell’s name was the last thing Disney wrote down in his office before he died. The truth (as it’s understood) isn’t quite as glamorous: Before he died, Disney did indeed write “Kirt Russell” on a piece of paper found on his desk. But as far as it being the very last thing he ever scrawled down — probably not.

Let’s be clear: Disney isn’t likely to re-hire Gunn. Whether you agree with the studio’s decision or not, sources on the inside have already said that’s not a course of action under consideration. But for Russell, a self-admitted “hardcore Libertarian” and the closest thing Disney has to royalty, to say something is at the very least noteworthy.

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