James Gunn Almost Made A Movie About Gaming’s Best Assassin

James Gunn pitched a Hitman movie just before landing Guardians of the Galaxy.

By Vic Medina | Published

James Gunn has a great story for anyone dealing with rejection. Gunn revealed, while responding to a fan on Twitter, that he once hoped to do a movie based on the video game Hitman, a personal favorite of his. However, his pitch for the film was rejected, and a chance at his dream project evaporated. However, just a few weeks later, he was offered the chance to write and direct Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which changed his life forever. “I was bummed then,” Gunn said of the rejection of his proposed Hitman film. “But thank God, because I would have never been able to do GotG if they had said yes!”

The story of Gunn’s hiring for the first Guardians of the Galaxy, right on the heels of his rejection by the producers of Hitman, should be an inspiration for anyone hoping for a personal or professional breakthrough. Back in 2012, James Gunn wasn’t exactly an A-list director. The St. Louis native had just made the jump from doing small-budget independent films for Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma Studios to doing more mainstream fare like the 2006 horror film Slither with Nathan Fillion and the 2010 superhero action comedy Super with Rainn Wilson. His biggest claim to fame was writing Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and he hoped his pitch for a Hitman film would be his breakthrough.

Timothy Olyphant in Hitman (2007)

However, while the studio liked him, one of the Hitman producers didn’t like him or his pitch, and it was rejected. There had already been one Hitman film released, starring Timothy Olyphant (Justified, The Mandalorian) as Agent 47. It was a modest hit, doing better in overseas markets, and James Gunn thought a hard-core, R-rated approach more faithful to the video game that inspired it would work better. One of the producers disagreed, and Gunn found himself wondering where his career would go next. Just a few weeks later, however, Marvel came calling.

Thankfully, Kevin Feige at Marvel Studios was looking to take a chance on lesser known filmmakers to handle some Marvel projects. It’s a practice that continues to this day, and in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy, it paid off. Feige contacted Gunn in 2012 about doing Guardians, and his pitch for the film–which included Star-Lord’s Walkman and the use of music to help tell the story–won them over, and the rest is comic book movie history.

As Comic Book Resources pointed out, the situation worked out well for Marvel, Gunn, and the Guardians cast, and not so well for the producers of the Hitman series. Guardians of the Galaxy was a smash hit, earning over $750 million worldwide. The film made Chris Pratt a superstar, after years in a supporting role on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. James Gunn would go on to write and direct two Guardians sequels, with Volume 3 coming to theaters next year. He would jump over to DC to write and direct 2021’s The Suicide Squad and create the HBO spinoff series Peacemaker, with John Cena in the lead. He also wrote and directed The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special which premieres on the Disney+ streaming service this December and acts as an “epilogue” to Phase 4 of the MCU, according to Gunn. A Hitman sequel would eventually be made in 2015, but Hitman: Agent 47, now starring Rupert Friend (Obi-Wan Kenobi) in the lead role was a critical and box office bomb.