'Guardians 2' Director James Gunn Addresses Past Mental Health Struggles In Note To Fans

By David Konow 05/09/17

The Marvel director opened up about his past struggles in a recent Facebook open letter to fans.

James Gunn

In a lengthy Facebook post, director James Gunn thanked fans for making Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a major box office success. In the touching post, he also confessed that he suffered a troubled childhood where entertainment became his escape, and eventually his salvation.

“When I was young I felt utterly alone, at times to the point of suicidal thoughts,” Gunn wrote. “I never felt like I belonged, had an incredibly difficult time connecting to other people and, despite having love around me, I had an impossible time experiencing it, or taking it in.”

Then through movies and music, Gunn continues, he could “see past the bland suburbs where I lived into a more magical world, a world more aligned with what I imagined. Sometimes these works were simply escapist fantasies that distracted me from the difficulties of my internal life. But other times, in the strongest moments—maybe through the words of Alice Cooper or Freddie Mercury, through [David] Cronenberg films, or even in Chewbacca’s growl, I experienced something deeper—the realization that I wasn’t completely alone. Someone out there was as weird and strange and whacked out as I was.”

So while Gunn is clearly pleased that the latest Guardians film is a tremendous success, “in the end, it’s not what matters to me. I write this now to let you know, but also to remind myself. Because I’m human and I sometimes forget.”

With superhero films like Guardians and X-Men, young audiences can see that misfits can rise to greatness, even if they’re shunned or misunderstood for being different or troubled. Gunn wants the characters of Guardians to serve as an inspiration for people who have emotional difficulties, because as he writes, the Guardians are “a group of heartbroken misfits whose lives have been bereft of tenderness and connection and who have a nearly impossible time trusting themselves or others. But they’re learning, one step at a time. They are me. They are you. We are Groot.”

In response to Gunn’s Facebook posting, one fan wrote, “As someone who has developed anxiety and depression, this is encouraging to read and makes me want to push forward. Thank you, James.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.