The third installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has been put on hold, The Hollywood Reporter said. Crew members have been told that they are free to look for other work, the publication has learnt.

The Marvel Studios production distributed by Disney has been in the news after director James Gunn was fired from the franchise on July 21 when old offensive tweets by him resurfaced on social media. These tweets included jokes about paedophilia and rape.

The decision to put the production on hold could be related to Gunn’s firing, the publication said.

Gunn had written and directed the first two films, which were box office successes. Recurring members of the cast, including Dave Bautista, who plays the alien warrior Drax, expressed their dismay at Disney’s decision. On July 30, the cast, including Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, released an open letter criticising Gunn’s removal. “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,” the statement read. “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.”

However, on August 16, Disney announced that Gunn would not be re-hired.

“One person characterized the production hold as temporary and more of a ‘regrouping’ as Marvel and Disney look for a filmmaker to take on the third installment of a franchise that has grossed over $1.6 billion,” The Hollywood Reporter said. The names of the directors who could potentially replace Gunn include Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, the report added.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017).