Gambit: The troubled timeline of the X-Men spin-off stuck in development hell

Sam Ashurst
Contributor

We used to think that Gambit’s mutant power involved charging objects with kinetic energy, but now we reckon he’s got an uncanny ability to destroy movie projects.

With the news that production has been halted indefinitely after yet another director left the X-Men spin-off movie, we’ve put together the following timeline – which appears to demonstrate just how cursed the cinematic version of the character seems to be.

2003Bryan Singer hires Hugh Jackman’s stunt double, James Bamford, to play Gambit in X2, and they shoot a cameo scene. Singer deletes the scene, deciding that he needs a more high-profile actor to play the popular character.

2004 – Singer considers Keanu Reeves as Gambit for the third X-Men film (which became The Last Stand), before the director drops out of the project to make Superman Returns.

2005 – Developing The Last Stand, writers Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn consider including Gambit in a cameo role. Josh Holloway is approached, but is unable to commit because of his Lost schedule. Channing Tatum is also considered, but the character is written out of the script before casting can be confirmed.

2007 – Gambit is written into X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Channing Tatum is re-approached for the role, but is tied up making GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra. Taylor Kitsch is cast, signing a three-picture deal. Fox executive Jeff Katz is confident Gambit will be well-received, saying, “there is a level of strategy in how we grow these things, and what characters can transition between multiple films.”

2009X-Men Origins: Wolverine is released and is badly received by fans and critics alike, with the portrayal of Gambit being highlighted as one of several low points. Kitsch would never play the character again.

2013Channing Tatum publicly expresses interest in a Gambit movie. “Gambit’s my favorite. I’m from New Orleans, around that area. My dad’s from New Orleans, and I like to do a Cajun accent. I could do it for real. No knock on Taylor Kitsch, though, ’cause I actually like his Gambit, but I’ve always lived around Cajun people … Gambit was always like the woman-loving, cigarette-smoking, drinking [guy]. He was the punk rock of all the superheroes.”

2014X-Men franchise producer Lauren Shuler Donner confirms Channing Tatum has officially signed up for the Gambit movie, telling Total Film: “He’s a rogue, Channing, he’s a rascal, just like Remy LeBeau, and he can handle the action, we all know that. And he’s got a really good heart. He’ll be great for Gambit.”

Josh Zetumer is hired to write the screenplay, based on a story treatment by comic writer Chris Claremont, Gambit’s creator. Tatum signs on to produce the film, along with Donner and Kinberg.

2015 – In January, Fox sets October 7, 2016 as Gambit’s release date – a quick turnaround for a superhero movie. Tatum approaches Darren Aronofsky, Gareth Evans, J.C. Chandor and Bennett Miller to direct, but they all decline the offer.

In June, Rupert Wyatt signs on to helm the film. In August, Léa Seydoux is cast in the lead female role. In September, Wyatt leaves the project – citing a schedule clash, with rumours the director was uncomfortable with a perceived lack of control of the project.

Tatum approaches directors Joe Cornish, Doug Liman, Shane Black, and F. Gary Gray. Liman signs on.

2016 – After replacing Wyatt in late 2015, Liman awaits a new draft of the Gambit script. The film is officially removed from its October release date. Co-writer Kinberg says, “Gambit will have its own different flavour and tone to it, will be more like a heist movie and a sexy thriller in a way.”

Kinberg adds later, “the most important thing is getting the tone and the voice right … [we are] hoping that Gambit is like what Deadpool was – the start of a new franchise within the X-Men universe – we want to make sure we get it right.”

In August, Liman leaves the project, stating he is, “all about the script, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ve gotta connect to the script.”

2017Tatum sees the positive side of Liman leaving the project.

“I think we got super, super lucky,” Tatum says. “I think a lot of setbacks, we’ll look at them in hindsight as giant blessings. Because we were making it, [and] we’re writing a movie right at the turn of a paradigm shift in movies. So we got lucky that we didn’t just come out with ours, which I don’t think was fully formed. It was a good idea. We were going in the right direction. And then we got to learn from two really beautifully different kinds of a complete paradigm shift [in] Logan and Deadpool.”

In October, Pirates of the Caribbean helmer Gore Verbinski signs on to direct. The film is given a February 14, 2019 release date. In December, Disney buys Fox, the studio that owns Gambit.

2018 – In another ‘giant blessing’ for Tatum, Gore Verbinski leaves the project, citing ‘creative differences.’ The film’s release date is moved to June 7, 2019.

2018 – Fox has reportedly pulled Gambit from its production schedule. It was due to begin shooting in New Orleans in March. The film is said to have been put on hiatus until a new director has been found.

The struggle to make a Gambit movie continues.


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