Marvel Studios director James Gunn has opened up about his struggles with addiction and mental health in a new interview.
The newly appointed DC Studios boss has been on a winning streak of late, releasing his final Guardians of the Galaxy film to rave reviews and preparing to direct his first film in the new DCU, Superman: Legacy.
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Gunn over the years. The director has always been candid on social media which has led to him being very open about the challenges he’s overcome throughout his life.
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James Gunn Reflects on His Personal Struggles
In a new interview with EL PAÍS, James Gunn revealed how the process of making films has helped him deal with his past traumas.
Gunn told the outlet that his “demons change over the years” moving from substance addiction to the more current challenges he faces as a high-profile director such as “money, power, attention, negativity”:
“My demons change over the years. I was an alcoholic as a young person, and a drug addict. I went through a number of crazy years. I think that for me, it’s really about focusing on the creative process and not being distracted by money, power, attention, negativity, and just focusing on the creative process.”
The director has been open about his personal struggles in the past. In response to a Tweet in July 2022, Gunn revealed he was a “violent teenager addicted to drugs” but was able to enter recovery and heal with the support of his family:
“As someone who was himself a violent teenager addicted to drugs & entered recovery with the help & love of his family, as well as someone who has seen dozens of other young men stay sober & become fruitful members of society, these are not the only two options.”
Gunn added in his recent interview with EL PAÍS that the creative process has been a huge anchor for him and that if he maintains this focus then “everything works out really well”:
“If I can do that, then everything works out really well. It still can be a struggle, mentally. But life is difficult enough without me making it more difficult.”
This is not the first time Gunn has cited creativity and entertainment as his saving grace. In an honest Facebook post in 2017, he wrote that after facing “suicidal thoughts” in his youth he found solace in “popular entertainment”, which included his love of Marvel comics:
“When I was young I felt utterly alone, at times to the point of suicidal thoughts. 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.
But I found my respite in popular entertainment – Marvel comics, science fiction and horror films, the music of The Sex Pistols, The Replacements, and Queen.”
It’s clear that Gunn’s personal struggles are reflected in his work, with his Facebook post detailing how he sees himself in the “heartbroken misfits” of the Guardians of the Galaxy:
“[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.”
“And no matter how much world leaders are telling you we aren’t in this together, we are. You are not alone.”
The Creative Healing Process
Mental health remains a huge challenge in society and James Gunn is just one of many high-profile people in Hollywood to have grappled with these issues.
In 2021, Batman actor Ben Affleck spoke about his struggles with alcoholism during the filming of Justice League, saying “it’s a hard thing to confront” and adding that these types of issues are “the most ordinary thing in the world in Hollywood.”
MCU actors Simu Liu and Tom Holland have also cited social media and stardom, as a result of their superhero roles, as having an impact on their mental health.
For Gunn at least, it’s empowering to see that the creative process has been able to offer him some respite. Hopefully, his being open with these issues and how to overcome them will help others who are in a similar place.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is currently playing in theaters.