There's a lot of pressure when it comes to directing a movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially after creating two huge successes with the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. James Gunn had to figure out how to manage fan expectations along with creating something that felt artistically satisfying while crafting the sequel, and getting to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was another huge challenge. With all of the pressure to create something as beloved as the first two installments, Gunn might actually be relieved that he doesn't have to helm the third and final installment.
It's no secret that James Gunn was initially hesitant to jump on board the MCU with Guardians of the Galaxy. At a panel in May of 2017, the director admitted that he almost turned the project down because he didn't think that it was a "good idea." The main reason for the hesitation was because of Rocket Racoon. Gunn thought that it was "Bugs Bunny in the middle of The Avengers," and thought the idea of a talking raccoon was just too weird. Obviously, the director ended up changing his mind in the end after he figured out how to approach the character in an emotional way. When it came time to discuss Guardians 3, Gunn never seemed that excited about the project. Just before Guardians 2 arrived in theaters, the director said this.
"Right now I really am just concerned with doing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I'm not sure what I'm going to do after this... Marvel has talked to me about continuing on. I'm not sure if that's what I want to do or if that's not what I want to do."
In June of 2016, nearly a year before Guardians 2 came out, there was much talk that Guardians of the Galaxy 3 would be getting a new director. In the press, James Gunn continued to be apprehensive about returning, and offered this at one point.
"I'm not yet sure whether I'm going to do Vol 3. This one [Guardians 2] was more emotionally exhausting."
He later went onto say this.
"There will be a Guardians 3, that's for sure. We're trying to figure it out. I'm trying to figure out what I want to do really, that's all it is. I got to figure out where I want to be, what I want to spend the next three years of my life doing. You know, I'm going to make another big movie; is it the Guardians or something else? I'm just going to figure it out over the next couple of weeks."
James Gunn continued to expressed hesitation right after the second installment hit theaters. Gunn and Yondu actor Michael Rooker are very close friends, and killing off the character was almost too much for Gunn to handle. Gunn is not alone in his feelings. Yondu became a fan-favorite character in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but making the third installment without Rooker almost made Gunn walk away. He explains.
"Let me tell you, there was nothing harder for me than the choice to kill Yondu in this movie. Michael Rooker, for all the crap I give him, is one of my closest friends in the world and the last thing I wanted to do was to make a movie without Michael Rooker in the future. I almost didn't do Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 because there was no Michael Rooker in it and I couldn't see making the movie without him. He means that much to me and I love him that much."
James Gunn went on to say that killing off Yondu was the "hardest choice I've ever had to make from a storytelling perspective." The director went through a bunch of rewrites that had the character survive, but felt that it would cheapen the film in the end. As for bringing Yondu back from the dead, Gunn declared that it would never happen while he was involved with the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy 3 was already going to be difficult in terms of it being the final movie in a trilogy and is now on indefinite hold.
Now that James Gunn has been fired by Disney, he may actually feel a sense of relief because he never wanted to make Guardians of the Galaxy 3 in the first place. Gunn was very active on social media and did his best to answer all of the fan questions that he could, but he also might have gotten sick of his life being stuck in the MCU 24/7. The director can rest easy knowing that he brought two of the most beloved and unexpected hits to Marvel Studios and gave some pretty weird characters complex emotional backgrounds, that show off real flaws. You can check out James Gunn's initial hesitation about directing Guardians of the Galaxy 3 below, provided by James Gunn's Facebook page.