Comics on Film: 'Gambit' Just Can't Stay Lucky

Comics on Film: 'Gambit' Just Can't Stay Lucky

Jan 12, 2018

Although it seems like 20th Century Fox has been trying to create some larger cinematic effort to feature the popular X-Man Gambit since at least the production of 2003's X2: X-Men United, things have just simply not been able to come together for the "Ragin' Cajun." It seemed as though 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine was intended to serve as the motion picture launching pad for two characters from the X-Men franchise: Gambit being one and Deadpool being the other.

It of course ended up taking a while, but Deadpool hit the scene — and hit it big — in 2016, pushing the superhero genre to the limit with the fourth-wall-breaking "Merc with a Mouth." Though, where Deadpool survived his journey through development hell into a fully fledged and popular new X-Men sub-series, Gambit hasn't been so lucky. In fact, this week marked the exit of the third director from the fledgling project.

So...what's been going on with Gambit, exactly? On top of that, what issues seem to be making the creation of a solo film with him such a difficult endeavor to start? Let's take a look.
 

It Begins in the Origins

Although actor Channing Tatum has links to the role of Gambit going back to 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, he was chosen before the character would ultimately be written out of that film. So, Gambit's big screen debut would have to take place elsewhere.

In 2009, 20th Century Fox was gearing up to release what would technically be the first spin-off X-Men film, featuring Hugh Jackman's Wolverine in a solo effort, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, directed by Gavin Hood. Packed to the gills with a ton of different X-characters from the comics and the previous movies, 20th Century Fox had their eyes on two characters in particular to potentially make their own jump to the silver screen after the release of the solo Wolverine film. We all know what happened with Deadpool, but it was believed that actor Taylor Kitsch's performance as Remy LaBeau, aka Gambit, would be one of the breakout elements of the new film, and would lead him to star in future solo and team-up efforts.

When the 2009 film wasn't quite the smash success that 20th Century Fox was hoping it would be, spin-off projects would end up languishing. No word about a possible future for Gambit on film was heard for nearly five years, when all of a sudden, X-Men film series producer Lauren Shuler Donner revealed that she was developing a solo Gambit film with original choice Channing Tatum in January of 2014. By May, Tatum was signed on, and was expected to debut as the hero in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse ahead of his own film.

 

A Tale of Three Directors

Now seemingly moving along at a brisk pace, director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) was signed on to direct the film in June of 2015. Later that summer, Tatum was apparently nearing the end of his contract with Fox, and had to renegotiate, which resulted in stories emerging in the press that Tatum may be close to dropping out of said negotiations and leaving the Gambit project behind altogether. Instead, Tatum was re-signed, with eyes on him to apparently serve as a new "anchor" character since Hugh Jackman's time as Wolverine was quickly running out.

Wyatt dropped out of directing Gambit in September of 2015, citing scheduling conflicts, with other sources claiming that Wyatt's nervousness began to creep in when he encountered studio resistance to the idea of rewriting the script to suit his vision. Fox then began to quickly look for a replacement, settling on Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman. After Fox removed Gambit from a previously slotted October 2016 release, Liman and producer Simon Kinberg spoke positively about work progressing on the script. Ultimately, though, this collaboration was doomed as well, with Liman bowing out in August of 2016 to direct a DC Comics film for Warner Bros. instead. In a statement made to Latino Review about why he left the film behind, Liman cited the failure to settle on a good script as a primary factor.

Tatum would go on to work on other projects like Logan Lucky, but still remained verbally committed to Gambit. It would be a while before any news about a director came down, though, and while work had progressed on the screenplay, it was announced in October 2017 that Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Lone Ranger) had become attached to shoot for a February 2019 release window. Unfortunately, those scheduling conflicts creeped up again and Deadline reported yesterday that Verbinski dropped out of directing the film. The release date was then adjusted to June of 2019.

 

Why Is it So Hard to Make Gambit?

It's a little difficult to explain why this project seems to have such apparent difficulty, since it's both A) a part of a very recognizable franchise, and B) has a reasonably big name attached to it. The difficulties seem like they'll only get more complex now, especially since a deal between 20th Century Fox and the Walt Disney Company could throw any future plans for the X-Men film series in doubt, if Disney and Marvel Studios have any desire to fold those characters into the fabric of the highly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside the likes of the Avengers and Spider-Man.

Beyond that, though, it may just be creatively difficult to align Gambit as a new heavy-hitter in the X-Men film series, since the source material featuring him doesn't support him in a similar position. Most people who absolutely love Gambit are fans who were brought into the fold of the X-Men by the 1990's animated series on Fox Kids, where Gambit was a primary member of the X-Men's roster. In the comics, the character has served a bunch of different roles and has periodically supported his own solo series, but that's far from a regular occurrence in the comics.

All in all, Fox looks serious about moving forward with a Gambit film, and you have to give them credit: though their dedication to Deadpool may have wavered, their ultimate devotion to creating the movie did end up paying off. Whether Gambit is a character that can pull off a similar kind of rebirth is anyone's guess, but for a franchise that features a Phoenix, they sure seem to burn these projects down a lot on their own in hopes that those fires will kickstart a profitable rebirth.


Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango and others. He also hosts the podcasts Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek Podcast and Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at Movies.com, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

Categories: Comics, Features, Geek, Editorials
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