The cast firmly had Gunn’s back the whole way, with Dave Bautista (Drax) even threatening to walk away from the franchise entirely. “We couldn’t imagine a third Guardians directed by anyone else,” Pom Klementieff (Mantis) told Empire. “It didn’t make sense at all. I mean, James changed my life. I’ll be grateful for him forever.” Zoe Saldaña also chimed in, “When you love and respect someone, you feel the highs and you feel the lows with them.” The cast quite simply didn’t want to do the movie without Gunn. They even signed an open letter in support of bringing Gunn back on board.

What’s interesting is that it was not a forgone conclusion that Gunn would come back to direct the film even after things settled. He had signed on to direct “The Suicide Squad” and it was clear his career wasn’t over. Ultimately though, Gunn needed to finish telling the story of Rocket Raccoon:

“I was not definitely going to come back. I had to really ruminate over whether that was what I was going to do … At the end of the day. The reason I came back was because I needed to finish Rocket’s story.”

Things, however, are looking up for Gunn well beyond “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” He recently became the co-head of DC Studios alongside Peter Safran, and is set to direct “Superman: Legacy” in addition to relaunching the entire DC Universe. No pressure. Gunn’s contract with Marvel expires in May following the release of his latest film and, at least for a while, that will be it for his work in the MCU. “I mean, who knows what the future is,” Gunn told Empire, “but I’m definitely at DC for the next few years, running a studio.”

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” hits theaters on May 3, 2023.