'Guardians of the Galaxy' director James Gunn defends Chris Pratt against latest social media backlash

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·5 min read

In 2018, Chris Pratt and his Guardians of the Galaxy costars shared an open letter voicing support for director James Gunn in the wake of Gunn’s firing over a series of old offensive tweets exposed by right-wing activists.

Now it’s Gunn, who was reinstated by Disney/Marvel as director of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 3 in 2019, defending Pratt once again.

Director and producer James Gunn speaks as actor Chris Pratt looks on at his Walk of Fame Star ceremony in Hollywood in 2017. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Director and producer James Gunn speaks as actor Chris Pratt looks on at his Walk of Fame Star ceremony in Hollywood in 2017. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The filmmaker engaged in a heated exchange with a pair of Twitter users on Monday over his lead Guardians star, though he might as well have issued an open letter of his own, given the backlash Pratt has faced in recent years for his religious affiliation, among other things.

In response to a viral tweet that suggested Marvel replace Pratt with (semi?) lookalike actor Patrick Wilson as superhero Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, Gunn fired back: “For what? Because of your made-up, utterly-false beliefs about him? For something that someone else told you about him that’s not true? Chris Pratt would never be replaced as Star-Lord but, if he ever was, we would all be going with him.”

Subsequently replying to another tweet, since made private, asking the director if he was “cool” with Pratt attending a church that shared homophobic views, Gunn sought to clear the record.

“He isn’t. I know the church he currently goes to. Do you? (The answer is you don’t, but you heard from someone who heard from someone who heard from someone where he goes to church, so decided, ‘yeah, okay, I’ll believe this terrible thing I heard online about this celebrity!’)”

What church that is — and what its views are on gay rights — is where the story gets a little blurry. (Pratt is obviously entitled to religious privacy.)

The media has long tied Pratt to Hillsong, a global evangelical megachurch that has drawn criticism for declaring homosexuality a sin and not allowing gay people in leadership roles. “We are a gay welcoming church but we are not a church that affirms a gay lifestyle,” leader Brian Houston writes on the church’s website. In 2019, though, Houston said Pratt had never been a Hillsong member.

According to USA Today, Pratt and wife Katherine Schwarzenegger are regulars at Los Angeles’s Zoe Church, which is often vaguely described as an “affiliate” of Hillsong, or “Hillsong-adjacent,”likely because its cofounding pastor Chad Veach formerly preached at Hillsong (and is still featured on its website). Unlike Hillsong, Zoe Church’s views on homosexuality have not been publicly documented, but as MEAWW notes, Veach and his wife Julia were executive producers on a 2017 film called The Heart of Man, about people who "have struggled with sexual brokenness," which included "same-sex attraction." The church built by Instagram, as Veach described it to the New York Times, also reportedly includes Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin among its members.

It's unclear which institution transgender actor and activist Elliot Page was referring to when he put Pratt on blast in 2019, sharing an interview the Marvel actor did with Stephen Colbert about spirituality with the comment, “Oh. K. Um. But his church is infamously [anti-LGBTQ] so maybe address that too?”

Pratt responded to Page’s criticism a few days later: “It has recently been suggested that I belong to a church which ‘hates a certain group of people’ and is ‘infamously anti-LGBTQ.’ Nothing could be further from the truth,” he wrote on Instagram. “I go to a church that opens their doors to absolutely everyone.”

It’s also difficult to gauge which institution Gunn is referring to by claiming the actor’s critics are basing their beliefs on what they heard “from someone who heard from someone who heard from someone where he goes to church.” If Pratt won’t openly volunteer where he attends church, Gunn sure as hell won’t, either.

Gunn is among several Marvel power players to defend Pratt in the face of backlash the popular Parks and Recs alum and Jurassic World star has faced in recent months.

In October, Avengers costars Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr. and Zoe Saldana (along with Gunn) shared kind words about Pratt after the actor was dragged on Twitter as the “worst Hollywood Chris” ostensibly for his religious ties and perceived (but never proven) conservative politics.

Pratt “is as solid a man there is,” Ruffalo wrote. “I know him personally, and instead of casting aspersions, look at how he lives his life. He is just not overtly political as a rule. This is a distraction.”

Downey Jr. called Pratt “a real #Christian who lives by #principle” and said he “has never demonstrated anything but #positivity and #gratitude.”

“You got this [Chris],” Saldana tweeted at her costar. “Your family, friends, colleagues & everyone who’s ever crossed paths with you knows your heart and your worth!”

Said Gunn: Pratt “is the best dude in the world. I’ve spent hours & hours sharing my deepest truths with this man, as he has with me. Please stop assuming what he believes, politically or in any other way, because he’s a Christian.”