Development of Gambit

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Gambit is an upcoming American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is intended to be the fourteenth installment of the X-Men film series. The film is set to be directed by Gore Verbinski, from a script by Josh Zetumer that was based on a story by the character's creator Chris Claremont; Channing Tatum will star in the title role.

Tatum was looked at for several early attempts to include Gambit in the X-Men films, but was not available for that character's film introduction in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Taylor Kitsch portrayed the character instead, but was not well received. Producer Lauren Shuler Donner expressed interest in a Gambit film starring Tatum in early 2014, and the actor officially signed on that May. Rupert Wyatt and Doug Liman were both attached as director to the film at different times during development, before Verbinski joined and a February 14, 2019 release date was set.

Early development[edit]

On the set of the 2003 film X2, director Bryan Singer hired James Bamford, who was acting as the stunt double for Wolverine, to film a short cameo as the character Gambit. The scene was ultimately cut from the film, and Bamford believed that a better known actor would be cast in the role for any future appearance.[1] Singer wanted the character to have a large part in the sequel, X-Men: The Last Stand, with Keanu Reeves in the role, but ultimately did not return to direct that film.[2] A new writing team of Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn were set to write the sequel's screenplay by studio 20th Century Fox after Singer's departure, and though the pair wanted to include the character, they felt there was only room for a cameo appearance given the larger roles of other new characters more relevant to the film's storylines. They decided to save Gambit for a larger role in a future film,[3] before that decision was made, Josh Holloway had been looked at for the part, but had to take himself out of consideration due to his filming schedule for the series Lost.[4] Channing Tatum was then chosen for the role, but the character was written out of the script before he could be officially cast.[5]

By October 2007, Gambit was believed to be appearing in the spin-off film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, set for release in 2009.[6] Tatum was unable to re-commit to the part then because of scheduling conflicts with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,[5] and Taylor Kitsch was ultimately cast in the role. Kitsch signed a three-picture deal.[7] Fox executive Jeff Katz was confident that the character would be well received, saying, "there is a level of strategy in how we grow these things, and what characters can transition between multiple films", and hinting that the character could move on to his own standalone film as was the plan with Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool.[8] However, the film was not critically well received, and Kitsch's performance did not become the breakout hit expected; in September 2013, Tatum expressed interest in taking over the role from Kitsch, saying, "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."[9]

X-Men franchise producer Lauren Shuler Donner revealed in January 2014 that she and Tatum had begun planning a Gambit film, saying, "That doesn't have to be a great big movie. It's a thief in New Orleans, it's a whole different story. He's on board, and I have to get the studio on board."[10] That May, Tatum officially signed on to star in a Gambit film that was intended to be the beginning of a standalone franchise featuring the character. Tatum was expected to first appear as the character in X-Men: Apocalypse, to introduce his version of the character ahead of his spin-off film;[11] in early October 2014, Tatum said that he had been discussing the film's story with the producers, and that they were looking for a writer.[12] At the end of the month, Josh Zetumer was hired to write the screenplay, based on a story treatment by comic writer Chris Claremont, Gambit's creator. Tatum was also set to produce the film with his company Free Association's Reid Carolin, as well as Donner and Kinberg;[13] in January 2015, Fox gave the film an October 7, 2016 release date.[14] Over the next few months, Tatum approached Bennett Miller, Darren Aronofsky, Gareth Evans, and J.C. Chandor to direct the film, but they all turned him down.[15][16] In May, Zetumer completed his first draft of the script, which Tatum described as a "killer" origin story, he said that the film is "going to be changing some of the tropes of these movies. It’s always about saving the world, but maybe we’re going to shift things a little bit."[17]

Rupert Wyatt[edit]

In June 2015, Rupert Wyatt signed on to direct the film,[18] and Tatum said, "We finally found someone that I really do believe wants to make Gambit". He added that he would no longer be appearing in Apocalypse, and that he thought a film based on Gambit was "a really unique opportunity" among superhero films,[19] he had begun learning to throw cards and sleight-of-hand tricks for the part, from magician David Kwong who was friends with Carolin from College. Filming was set to begin in New Orleans in late October or early November of that year.[20] By the end of July, the film was believed to mostly focus on "mobsters and thieves [rather than] 'end-of-the-world' stakes", but Fox also wanted to "load up on spectacle and make this character as popular as possible" with a large $154 million budget planned, to be mostly spent in Louisiana.[21] Several actresses were being tested for the female lead opposite Tatum, including Léa Seydoux.[22]

Producer and star Channing Tatum promoting Gambit at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con[23]

Tatum was renegotiating his contract with Fox at the end of July 2015, and was believed to be close to dropping out of the project,[22] this was due to Fox's intention to have Tatum become one of the "anchor characters" of the franchise following the retirement of Hugh Jackman as the series' former lead character Wolverine, which would be a major commitment for Tatum to make. Backend compensation was also an issue for Tatum. Within days, the issues had been resolved and Tatum was once again set to star and produce, it was noted that his "participation hardly was in any real danger" due to the commitments Tatum had already made to the project.[24] The female lead role, Belladonna Boudreaux, was described as "hotly contested", with Rebecca Ferguson and Abbey Lee also testing for the part.[25] Ferguson soon chose a role in The Girl on the Train instead, and Seydoux was cast by the end of August.[26]

In September, Wyatt left the film after changes to the filming schedule caused a clash with another project Wyatt was committed to,[27] he was also believed to have become "skittish" about directing the film due to wanting to rewrite the script and "conceive the world that he is filming", leading to differences in opinion on elements of the script with Fox, Tatum, and Kinberg.[28]

Doug Liman[edit]

Fox began "furiously" meeting with potential replacements for Wyatt in hopes of keeping the film's release date, including directors Doug Liman, Joe Cornish, Shane Black, and F. Gary Gray. Liman was in final talks to take on the film in November 2015,[29] he had already begun working on the screenplay with Tatum, Carolin, Zetumer, and Kinberg. The latter noted that the X-Men franchise was beginning to branch out into different tones with the irreverant, R-rated Deadpool, and that "Gambit will have its own different flavor and tone to it, will be more like a heist movie and a sexy thriller in a way."[30] In January, filming was set for March 2016.[31]

Fox officially removed Gambit from its October release date in February 2016.[32] Liman soon chose to direct the film The Wall while waiting for a new draft of the Gambit script, intending to then begin production on Gambit at the end of 2016. Tatum and Carolin were looking for a new writer to undertake the rewrite and pursue a different creative direction for the film, while Liman was expected to discard Wyatt's casting of Seydoux and begin casting from scratch himself.[33] Kinberg explained in May that the group had collectively been unhappy with the film's script, but were now "very close" to completing it, he added that "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."[34] In July, Kinberg praised the script for Gambit and said that they were now aiming to begin filming at the beginning of 2017.[35] However, Liman left the project the next month in a "mutual split" with Fox, choosing to instead direct the DC Comics-based film Dark Universe.[36] Liman later explained that he is "all about the script, and I just wasn't feeling it. I've gotta connect to the script."[37]

Re-development and Gore Verbinski[edit]

In November 2016, Gambit was expected to begin development again with a new director after Tatum completed work on the film Logan Lucky,[38] the next January, Donner confirmed that Tatum was still attached to the project,[39] and a month later Kinberg described the film as being in "active development". He stated his hope to be ready by the end of 2017, for filming to then begin at the start of 2018, he noted that there were already three X-Men franchise films set for release in 2018 at that point, so Gambit "can wait for a moment." Kinberg compared Tatum's commitment to the role of Gambit to the determination shown by Reynolds and Jackman to get their most recent X-Men films (Deadpool and Logan, respectively) "right", and reiterated Fox's intention to build a new Gambit film franchise.[40] At the end of May 2017, X-Men producer Hutch Parker was unable to provide an update on the film, but said "there’s still a desire and a passionate interest to see [Gambit] made."[41] Tatum reiterated that he was still actively working on the film in July, and discussed the long development period for the film and the many delays to the production, saying,

I think we got super, super lucky. 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.[42]

Tatum added the next month that work on the Gambit script had "started over", and that "we’re really getting to do some of the things we’ve always wanted to do with the script" which he described as "something that this genre of movie hasn’t seen before."[43] In October, Gore Verbinski was in talks to direct the film, which was described as a "high priority" for Fox.[44] A week later, the film was given a February 14, 2019 release date, and Verbinski was confirmed to direct.[45]

References[edit]

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