Members of the cast of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies have issued an open letter in favour of director James Gunn, who was fired by producer Disney on July 20 for decades-old offensive tweets about rape and paedophilia.

The statement is signed by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Sean Gunn, Pom Klementiff, Michael Rooker, and Karen Gillan. Until the sacking, Gunn was attached to the third part of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, which was supposed to be out in 2020.

“We were all shocked by his abrupt firing last week and have intentionally waited these ten days to respond in order to think, pray, listen, and discuss,” read the statement, which was posted on the social media accounts of Pratt and Saldana. “In that time, we’ve been encouraged by the outpouring of support from fans and members of the media who wish to see James reinstated as director of Volume 3 as well as discouraged by those so easily duped into believing the many outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding him.”

Gunn propelled the 2014 movie and its 2017 sequel to global success. The tweets were unearthed by conservative website The Daily Caller and dated back to 2008-09. The website found the posts after Gunn made tweets critical of US President Donald Trump and Right Wing political commentator Ben Shapiro.

In a statement, Gunn said, “My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. 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.”

Walt Disney Studios quickly distanced itself from the hit-making director: “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

Following Gunn’s sacking, Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson mass deleted thousands of older tweets.

Actress Selma Blair shut down her Twitter account in solidarity with Gunn. “If people are punished despite changing, then what does that teach people about owning mistakes and evolving?” she tweeted before pulling the plug. “This man is one of the good ones.”