James Gunn (born August 5)[n 1] is an American screenwriter, director, producer, novelist, actor, and musician. He started his career as a screenwriter in the mid-1990s, writing the scripts for Tromeo and Juliet (1996), 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 also as a director, starting with Slither (2006). He subsequently wrote and directed the web series PG Porn, and the superhero films Super (2010), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).
Gunn was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He was raised between St. Louis and Manchester, Missouri. His brothers are actor Sean, actor and political writer Matt, screenwriter Brian, and former Senior Vice President with Artisan Entertainment Patrick. He also has a sister named Beth. Their parents are Leota and James F. Gunn, an attorney. Gunn's surname is derived from the Irish name MacGilGunn, meaning "sons to the servants of the god of the dead".
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.
Gunn and his brothers all attended the Jesuit St. Louis University High School, where he graduated in 1984. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Louis University. While at Saint Louis University, Gunn created political cartoons for the school's student weekly, The University News. 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." He earned a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University in 1995.
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. Gunn has continued to work in music, composing songs for Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and Movie 43.
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. 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. 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.
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 [and] racoon crime fighting team and they fight crime in both the forest world, among the furry animals, and in the human world". 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.
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. 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."
Gunn co-wrote and directed the Marvel Studios adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy, which was released on August 1, 2014. His brother Sean Gunn has a role in the film. Gunn has appeared as an actor, mostly in smaller roles or uncredited appearances in his own projects.
[P]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.
Gunn wrote and produced the horror film The Belko Experiment, which was released in 2017. In 2016, he directed three Stan Lee cameo scenes in one day, for the film Doctor Strange and two unrevealed projects.
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.
Gunn married actress Jenna Fischer on October 7, 2000, in an event that Gunn's hometown paper said was officiated by Lloyd Kaufman, 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.” The two had originally met in the St. Louis area through Gunn's brother Sean, who had acted in plays alongside Fischer in high school. After seven years of marriage, Gunn and Fischer announced their separation in a joint statement on September 5, 2007. In 2010 Fischer helped Gunn with casting Rainn Wilson, her co-star on The Office, in Gunn's film Super.
As of late 2015, Gunn is in a relationship with actress Jennifer Holland.
Gunn was raised in a Catholic home, but has said that he is "in some ways, antireligion", although he later clarified,
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.
|1996||Tromeo and Juliet||Yes||Yes||Found a peanut father||Also associate director|
|1997||Sgt. Kabukiman Public Service Announcement||Yes||Insane Masturbator||Television short|
|1997–2000||The Tromaville Cafe||Yes||Yes||Yes||Mike the Crazy Boom Guy||Also creator|
|2000||The Specials||Yes||Yes||Yes||Minute Man|
|2000||Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV||Yes||Doctor Flem Hocking|
|2003||Doggie Tails, Vol. 1: Lucky's First Sleep-Over||Yes||Riley||Direct-to-video|
|2003||Melvin Goes to Dinner||Yes||Scott|
|2004||Dawn of the Dead||Yes|
|2004||Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed||Yes||Yes|
|2004||LolliLove||Yes||Yes||James||Also executive producer
Uncredited as writer
|2006||Slither||Yes||Yes||Yes||Hank||Uncredited as actor|
|2008–2009||James Gunn's PG Porn||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Various roles||Web series
Also executive producer
|2012||Lollipop Chainsaw||Yes||Video game|
|2013||Movie 43||Partial||Partial||Segment: "Beezel"|
|2013||Thor: The Dark World||Mid-credits scene||Uncredited|
|2013||Holliston||Yes||John Anguish||Episode: "Honesty"|
|2014||Guardians of the Galaxy||Yes||Yes||Yes||Maskless Sakaaran, Baby Groot||Also CGI actor in end-credits scene |
|2015||Con Man||Yes||Raaker 2.0||Web series|
|2016||Doctor Strange||Guest||Guest||Uncredited; Stan Lee cameo scene|
|2016||The Belko Experiment||Yes||Yes|
|2017||Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2||Yes||Yes|
|2018||Avengers: Infinity War||Yes||Post-production; executive producer|
|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 Steve Baker, Ricky Bitt, Will Carlough, Tobias Carlson, Jacob Fleisher, Patrick Forsberg, Will Graham, Bob Odenkirk, Claes Kjellstrom, Jack Kukoda, Bill O'Malley, Matthew Alec Portenoy, Greg Pritkin, Rocky Russo, Olle Sarri, Elizabeth Wright Shapiro, Jeremy Sosenko, Jonas Wittenmark, and Jonathan van Tulleken)||Won|
|2014||Golden Raspberry Award||Worst Director||Movie 43 (shared with Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Patrik Forsberg, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Ratner, Will Graham, and Jonathan van Tulleken)||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|
|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|
James Gunn '84, filmmaker and screenwriter; Brian Gunn '88, screenwriter; Matt Gunn '90, writer for HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher; Sean Gunn '92, actor.
Gunn graduated from SLUH in 1984. (Several sources, including IMDb.com, say he was born in 1970, but you do the math.)
And while he directed the Stan Lee cameo in director Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange, he did not direct the Marvel Comics impresario’s cameos in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok or Spider-Man: Homecoming. But, he reveals, 'I did do one that I can’t talk about.'Additional WebCitation archive on May 5, 2017.
So, yes, I’m returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Am I going to have any involvement with Infinity War, yes, I'm an executive producer on Infinity War.