The Guardians of the Galaxy cast has called for James Gunn to be reinstated as director of the movie after he was sacked this month over old tweets.

Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Vin Diesel signed an open letter in support of Gunn.

The stars said they were shocked by his removal 10 days ago.

The Walt Disney Co fired him from the third movie in the series after tweets from 2008-11 resurfaced in which he joked about rape and paedophilia.

WARNING: Some readers may find the language below offensive.

The cast said on Monday it had waited to issue a statement in order to "think, pray, listen and discuss".

They said they wished to express "our love, support and gratitude for James".

"Each of us looks forward to working with our friend James again in the future," they wrote.

"James is likely not the last good person to be put on trial," the cast members said.

"Given the growing political divide in this country, it's safe to say instances like this will continue, although we hope Americans from across the political spectrum can ease up on the character assassination and stop weaponising mob mentality."

Pratt added in an Instagram post: "Although I don't support James Gunn's inappropriate jokes from years ago, he is a good man."

Left-leaning Gunn has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, and the director's old tweets were identified by conservative critics.

Many of the posts, which include jokes about the Holocaust and Aids, are too offensive to be reprinted by the BBC.

But one tweet read: "I like when little boys touch me in my silly place."

Another said: "The best thing about being raped is when you're done being raped and it's like, 'whew this feels great, not being raped!'"

Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn said the tweets were "indefensible" and "inconsistent with our studio's values".

Gunn wrote and directed both of the first two Guardians of the Galaxy films. The third film is due out in 2020.

The first instalment was one of Marvel's most successful films, reaping $770m (540m) at the worldwide box office.

Gunn has also worked on the hugely successful Avengers franchise.

The filmmaker issued a statement earlier this month about the scandal.

"I have apologised for humour of mine that hurt people," he said. "I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies."

Some 350,000 people have signed a petition for Disney to rehire Gunn.