Updated at 4:23 p.m. with a statement from Gunn.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- James Gunn was fired Friday as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 because of old tweets that recently emerged where he joked about subjects like pedophilia and rape.
Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn said in a statement that the tweets are indefensible, and the studio has severed ties with Gunn.
Gunn has been writer and director of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise from the start, taking an obscure Marvel Comics title about a group of misfits and turning it into two huge hits that together totaled more than $1.5 billion in global box office.
Gunn on Thursday sent several tweets saying he was sorry for trying in the past to get laughs through shock value.
According to ABC News, Gunn issued a statement Friday afternoon. "My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative," he said. "I have regretted them for many years since -- not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don't reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.
"Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: Accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all."
Gunn's current Twitter account is heavy on left-leaning politics, and some on the right with whom he'd sparred found and promoted the tweets from 2008 to 2011 that led to his firing.
Disney did not announce a replacement director for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." Gunn had been writing the script and it's not clear how far along he was or whether new writers will be brought in. Marvel Studios has not announced a release date, though Gunn had said 2020 was the target.
The Guardians franchise stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and features the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.
The Associated Press