James Gunn (filmmaker)

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James Gunn
James Gunn - Guardians of the Galaxy premiere - July 2014 (cropped).jpg
Gunn at the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere in July 2014
Born (1970-08-05) August 5, 1970 (age 44)[1]
Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Saint Louis University, Bachelor of Arts
Columbia University, Master of Fine Arts
Occupation Screenwriter, director, film producer, novelist, actor, musician
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Jenna Fischer (2000-2008; dissolved)
Relatives Sean Gunn (brother), Matt Gunn (brother)
Official website

James Gunn (born August 5, 1970) is an American writer, director, producer, actor, and musician. His siblings include Sean and Matt Gunn.

Gunn started his career as a screenwriter in the late 1990s, and has written the scripts for Tromeo and Juliet (1996), Scooby-Doo (2002), 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 in 2006. He subsequently wrote and directed the web series James Gunn's PG Porn and the superhero films Super (2010) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

Early life[edit]

Gunn was born in St. Louis, Missouri[1] and raised there and in Manchester, Missouri.[2][3] His brothers are Sean, an actor; Matt, an actor and political writer; Brian, a writer and producer; and Patrick, a film and media professional, formerly a Senior Vice President with Artisan Entertainment.[4] His sister, Beth Gunn, is an employment litigation attorney in Los Angeles, California.

Gunn's father, James F. Gunn, is a partner and corporate attorney with the law firm Thompson Coburn in St. Louis.[5] Gunn's surname is derived from the Irish name MacGilGunn meaning "Sons to the Servants of the God of the Dead".[6]

Growing up, he 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.[7]

Gunn and his brothers are all graduates of Saint Louis University High School, a Jesuit high school located in Kings Oak, St. Louis.[8] James went on to attend Saint Louis University, also founded by the Jesuits, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 1992.[9][10] He studied film at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles for 2 years but left before graduating.[11] He later earned a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University in 1995.[12]

Music career[edit]

Gunn started a band in 1989 while he still lived in St. Louis called The Icons, an alt rock, gothic rock, and new wave group in which he served as the lead vocalist.[13] The group achieved some regional success with the 1994 album Mom, We Like It Here on Earth, and their songs "Sunday" and "Walking Naked" were featured in the film Tromeo and Juliet.[14] The Icons called it quits in the mid-1990s and its members went their own ways. Gunn has continued to work in music, composing songs for Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and Movie 43.[15]

Film and television career[edit]

Gunn began his career in filmmaking with Troma Entertainment in 1995, for whom 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 even how to create his own poster art.[7] After contributing to several other Troma films, in the year 2000 Gunn wrote, produced and performed in his own superhero comedy, The Specials, directed by Craig Mazin and featuring Rob Lowe, Thomas Haden Church, Paget Brewster, Judy Greer and Jamie Kennedy.[citation needed]

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 Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. With these films, Gunn became the first screenwriter to have two films top the box office in consecutive weeks.[16] That same year, he executive produced and starred in the mockumentary LolliLove, directed by and starring his then-wife Jenna Fischer. His directorial film debut was the 2006 horror-comedy Slither. Slither was included on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the 50 Best Ever Reviewed Horror Movies.[17]

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.[18] In an April 2009 interview on The Jace Hall Show, Gunn described Sparky and Mikaela as being "about a human racoon crime fighting team and they fight crime in both the forest world, among the furry animals, and in the human world".[19] Gunn also has a short form web series for Spike.com titled James Gunn's PG Porn, which made EW's The Must List.[20]

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.[21]

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.[22] 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."[23]

In 2010, Gunn released the film Super, a dark comedy and superhero satire starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page.

Gunn co-wrote and directed the Marvel Studios adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy, which was released on August 1, 2014.[24] His brother, Sean Gunn had an "integral part" in the film. With the successful opening of the critically acclaimed film, Gunn wrote an extended letter of thanks on Facebook for its supporters:

"Thanks to all of you who saw (and are seeing) ‘Guardians of the Galaxy' this weekend, from the bottom of my heart. The Guardians are a group of oddballs, outcasts, and geeks. The movie is for anyone who ever felt cast aside, left out, or different. It's for all of us who don't belong. This movie belongs to you. And, today, I think we're doing okay."[25]

On July 26, 2014 at the Marvel Studios San Diego Comic-Con International presentation, it was announced that Gunn would assume the helm for the sequel of Guardians of the Galaxy.[26] Gunn has appeared as actor, mostly smaller roles or uncredited appearances in his own projects.[27]

After the 2015 awards season saw many filmmakers speak out against comic book movies, Gunn came to the defense of the genre, calling them out for thinking comic book filmmakers aren't as serious as others. "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." [28]

Other media[edit]

Outside of filmmaking and television, Gunn also penned 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 co-wrote alongside Troma's President Lloyd Kaufman All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger, about his experiences with Kaufman while working at Troma.

He also wrote the story for Grasshopper Manufacture's video game Lollipop Chainsaw.[29]

Personal life[edit]

He married actress and fellow St. Louis native Jenna Fischer on October 7, 2000, in an event officiated by Lloyd Kaufman.[5] The two had originally met in the St. Louis area through James' brother Sean, who had acted in plays alongside Fischer in high school.[7] After seven years of marriage Gunn and Fischer announced their separation in a joint statement on September 5, 2007.[30] Fischer and Gunn divorced less than a year later.[31] The two remain friends, and in 2010 Fischer helped Gunn with casting her The Office co-star Rainn Wilson in Gunn's film Super.[7]

Gunn has since dated Kayo Dot violinist Mia Matsumiya[32] and model Melissa Stetten.[33]


Year Film Functioned as Notes
Director Writer Producer Actor Role
1996 Tromeo and Juliet Yes Yes Found a peanut father also associate director
2000 The Specials Yes Yes Yes Minute Man
2000 Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV Yes Doctor Flem Hocking
2002 Scooby-Doo Yes Yes
2003 The Ghouls Yes
2003 Doggie Tails, Vol. 1: Lucky's First Sleep-Over Yes Riley direct-to-video
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
2010 Super Yes Yes Yes Demonswill
2012 Lollipop Chainsaw Yes video game
2013 Movie 43 Partial Partial Segment: "Beezel"
2013 Thor: The Dark World Mid-credits scene uncredited[34]
2013 LocoCycle[35] Yes video game
2014 Guardians of the Galaxy Yes Yes Yes Maskless Sakaaran, Baby Groot also CGI actor in end-credits scene [36]
2015 Con Man Yes web series[37]


Cameos from filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman have been present in every Gunn feature film. Musician Rob Zombie has cameos in the same films as well, but in voice roles.

Actor Tromeo and Juliet
The Specials
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
PG Porn
Sparky & Mikaela
Scream Queens
Lollipop Chainsaw
Movie 43 segment "Beezel"
Guardians of the Galaxy
Elizabeth Banks Yes Yes
Stephen Blackehart Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Linda Cardellini Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nathan Fillion Yes Yes Yes Yes
Seth Green Yes Yes
Sean Gunn Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gregg Henry Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mikaela Hoover Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lloyd Kaufman Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Valentine Miele Yes Yes Yes
Michael Rooker Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rob Zombie Yes Yes Yes


Year Title Notes
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

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Title Result
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 Director Movie 43 Won
2014 Golden Raspberry Award Worst Screenplay Movie 43 Won
2015 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Guardians of the Galaxy (shared with Nicole Perlman) Nominated


  1. ^ a b "James Gunn profile". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 11, 2014. 
  2. ^ Allison Babka (August 1, 2014). "5 Weird Things about STL Native and Guardians of the Galaxy Director James Gunn". Daily RFT. Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
  3. ^ James Gunn (September 1, 2010). "Facebook Page". Facebook. 
  4. ^ Patrick Gunn profile, qualiacapital.com; accessed December 4, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Lee Enterprises. "St. Louis director James Gunn goes galactic". stltoday.com. Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
  6. ^ April 4, 2012 interview, 404 Podcast Ep. 1047.
  7. ^ a b c d "A Conversation With Director James Gunn", stlmag.com; accessed November 25, 2014.
  8. ^ "Notable Alumni: SLUH". St. Louis University High School. Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
  9. ^ Profile, linkedin.com; accessed November 25, 2014.
  10. ^ Profile, cinema.usc.edu; accessed November 25, 2014.
  11. ^ James Gunn official website, jamesgunn.com; accessed November 25, 2014.
  12. ^ Reference to Gunn, arts.columbia.edu; accessed November 25, 2014.
  13. ^ James Gunn (younger) profile, blogs.riverfronttimes.com; accessed December 4, 2014.
  14. ^ Tromeo and Juliet profile, imdb.com; accessed December 4, 2014.
  15. ^ "James Gunn". IMDb. Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Strike Let St. Louisan James Gunn Widen His Horizons". St. Louis Post Dispatch. October 24, 2008. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  17. ^ "RT’s 50 Best-Reviewed Horror Movies". Rotten Tomatoes. October 24, 2008. Retrieved October 8, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Xbox Live Show Sparky and Mikela". Celebrifi. October 27, 2008. Retrieved January 3, 2009. 
  19. ^ "James Gunn & Brutal Legend". The Jace Hall Show. Season 2. Episode 5. 20089-04-16. 
  20. ^ "The Must List: What's Hot for the Week of Oct. 5, 2008". Entertainment Weekly. October 5, 2008. Retrieved January 3, 2009. 
  21. ^ "A Search For Authenticity on the Set of 'Scream Queens' Season 2". BloodyDisgusting. Retrieved December 4, 2014. 
  22. ^ Michael Fleming (September 20, 2007). "New Regency adopts 'Pets' pitch – James Gunn to write and direct comedy". Variety. Retrieved January 3, 2009. 
  23. ^ James Gunn (March 31, 2009). "Re: A Few Things..". Retrieved August 5, 2010. 
  24. ^ Lesnick, Silas (September 18, 2012). "James Gunn Confirmed to Direct and Rewrite Guardians of the Galaxy". Superherohype.com. Archived from the original on September 18, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  25. ^ Gilman, Greg (August 4, 2014). "‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Director James Gunn Writes Heartfelt Letter to Thank Fans for Record-Breaking Debut". The Wrap. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  26. ^ "Marvel announces 'Guardians of the Galaxy' sequel". yahoo.com. July 26, 2014. 
  27. ^ James Gunn at the Internet Movie Database
  28. ^ Lealos, Shawn S. (23 February 2015). "James Gunn Speaks Out Against Superhero Bashers". Renegade Cinema. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  29. ^ Johnny Cullen (August 1, 2011). "Warner to publish Grasshopper's Lollipop Chainsaw". vg247. Retrieved August 1, 2011. 
  30. ^ Reuters (September 12, 2007). "'Office' actress Fischer, husband separate". Reuters. Retrieved January 3, 2009. 
  31. ^ "Jenna Fisher Finds Love One Year After Divorce". Contact Music. September 24, 2008. Retrieved January 3, 2009. 
  32. ^ Jeremy Taylor (April 21, 2010). "Mia Matsumiya – Rock Violinist, Contortionist, Legal Dwarf". Asylum. 
  33. ^ "Decently Funny Podcast: Stetten and Gunn Are a Lot of Fun". August 22, 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  34. ^ Connelly, Brendon (October 22, 2013). "Alan Taylor And Kevin Feige Express Rather Different Opinions About Thor: The Dark World’s End-Credits Tease". Bleedingcool.com. Archived from the original on October 22, 2013. Retrieved October 22, 2013. 
  35. ^ "Twisted Pixel Games: We Make Awesome". Twistedpixelgames.com. Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
  36. ^ Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Official Motion Picture Soundrack ZinePak. ZinePak. p. 45. 
  37. ^ McNary, Dave (March 11, 2015). "‘Firefly’ Stars Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion Reunite for Crowdfunded ‘Con Man’ Series". Variety. Retrieved March 12, 2015.