Walt Disney Studios Friday fired James Gunn as director of the upcoming sequel to “Guardians of the Galaxy” in response to old Twitter posts that resurfaced in recent days and included joking references to issues such as rape, pedophilia and AIDS.

“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,” Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said in a statement released by the Burbank-based company.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gunn was working on the script for the third installment of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” film series, with filming expected to begin this fall in Atlanta, with a planned 2020 release.

Gunn issued an apologetic statement saying he accepts Disney’s decision and regrets comments that he described as attempts at being 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,” Gunn said.

He said he takes “full responsibility” for his previous comments.

“All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse,” he said.

When Gunn’s Twitter posts — some dating back to 2008 — began surfacing this week, he tweeted a lengthy statement, also saying the old comments do not reflect who he is Friday.

“Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo,” he wrote. “As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.”

Gunn, 51, directed and co-wrote the first two “Guardians of the Galaxy” films.

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