Fans of James Gunn often wonder about the story of his life, as most of us do when we admire a prolific artist. Most know him as a writer and director of some of their favorite superhero box office hits but don’t know much about his other artistic endeavors, his personal life, or the upbringing that developed his interest in the arts and the film industry. If you are interested in the details of the life of this brilliant man, you won’t be disappointed.
Born James Francis Gunn Jr., the writer and director spent his childhood growing up in St. Louis. MO and Manchester, MO. He was born on August 5, 1966, in St. Louis, MO to parents, Leota Gunn and James F. Gunn. His father was an attorney, along with all of his uncles, and his mother was a homemaker who raised Gunn and his five siblings.
The Gunns were a Roman Catholic family, and their faith played a large role in the upbringing of their children. Although James says that he is “in some ways anti-religion,” he says prayer has an influential role in his life today. In 2016 he stated his opinion on religion by saying, “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 believe faith and spiritual belief is a very, very personal thing. If I started applying what I believe to everybody else it would be unfair to everybody’s individuality and I really hate that.”
James spent his high school years at the Jesuit St. Louis University High School and graduated in 1984. From there, he went on to attend Saint Louis University as well as the film school at Loyola Marymount University, located in Los Angeles. He finished his bachelor’s degree at Saint Louis University and went on to New York City to pursue his graduate studies. He attended Columbia University, the prestigious ivy league school in the heart of the bustling city, and finished with a Master of Fine Arts in prose writing.
After finishing his master’s, James Gunn was set to begin his career and embarked on a long artistic journey that has included creating music, along with directing and writing films and shows that range from web series’ television and major box office hits. In St. Louis in 1989, he started a band called The Icons and performed as their lead singer. Although they never hit the big time, the band did find some success with two of their songs, called “Sunday” and “Walking Naked.” The band stopped making music together in the mid-’90s, but these two songs made their mark by being featured in the movie Tromeo and Juliet. His ventures in music didn’t end there, though. He has also composed music for various films, including Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and Movie 43.
Scooby-Doo, released in 2002, wasn’t just a musical venture for Gunn, however, as he was the screenwriter for the film in addition to composing some of the music. The success he found with this film helped to build his reputation, and he continued on to write the movie’s sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. He also wrote the script for the 2004 remake of the 1978 film Dawn of the Dead and decided to further his career by moving into the field of directing. His 2006 comedy-horror film Slither was his directorial debut and the start of a journey that earned him great fame. Gunn also wrote Slither, and the alien parasite thriller is listed on Rotten Tomatoes’ 50 Best Ever Reviewed Horror Movies.
In 2008, James continued on his vibrant career path with short films Sparky and Mikaela and Humanzee! His following project was a comedy web series for Spike.com called James Gunn’s PG Porn. This 8-episode series cast mainstream actors alongside adult film stars and models to satirize pornographic films by inserting comedic situations at the point when sexual acts were about to commence. That wasn’t all that 2008 had in store for Gunn, though, as he acted as a judge on the VH1 reality show, Scream Queens. This show featured ten aspiring stars who competed for a role in the film Saw IV. His next big project was the 2010 film Super, which starred Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. This superhero comedy was a twist on typical superhero films, as it featured a B-list team of crime fighters and focused on their day-to-day lives instead of action-packed adventures.
In the next few years, James Gunn started truly seeing the fruits of his labor, as 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy debuted for Marvel Studios. James had co-written and directed the box office smash that grossed $772.8 million.
James’s success with his work on Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 was just the start of a string of hits that will only take Gunn to the heights of his soaring career. He wrote and directed the film’s sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, in 2017 and enjoyed the benefits of another huge hit that grossed $856 million. That wasn’t the end, though, as the studio kept him on to write and direct the next installment, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is expected to debut in 2023. He is currently working as writer and director for The Suicide Squad, which fans are anxiously anticipating in August of 2021. Still, the production of the third Guardians of the Galaxy film will start as soon as that wraps up.
You may think that a man as busy as James Gunn wouldn’t have time for a personal life, but he has, in fact, been married. He met Jenna Fischer, his ex-wife, as an acquaintance of his brother Sean in St. Louis. Sean also works in the arts, and he knew Jenna since high school when they performed in several plays together. Jenna and James hit it off from the start and married on October 7, 2000. One of their wedding highlights was a speech delivered by famed screen actor, producer, director, and writer Lloyd Kauffman. Although the couple enjoyed a seven-year marriage, they eventually decided to part ways and announced their separation on September 5, 2007. Their divorce was finalized a short time later in 2008.
Even though their marriage didn’t work out, the couple maintains a cordial relationship and even gives each other important tips and advice. Jenna was the one to suggest that James should hire a friend of hers who co-starred with her on The Office, Rainn Wilson. Gunn took her advice to heart and hired Wilson to star in his film Super. She has continued to wow fans in various roles in his other films.
James has not married again, but he has been involved in a romantic relationship with Jennifer Holland since 2015. He is at the peak of his vibrant career in the film industry and continues to get fantastic work. He is currently wrapping things up with The Suicide Squad, the sequel to Suicide Squad, which has had fans on pins and needles awaiting its release. Not long after that film hits the theatres in 2021, fans will be able to see his next big project, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3.
We have followed James Gunn’s career with interest in the SF-Fandom Forums. Here’s a discussion from 2013 about an interview he gave where James Gunn said we can save the world through science fiction. And I was very pleased to see Disney rehired James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
Places where you can follow James: