Poor Gambit. It seems like the X-Men film series spinoff starring the Ragin’ Cajun can’t catch a break. The viability of the production seems to have been consistently in question since it was announced. Star Channing Tatum had long mentioned his desire to play the mutant hero, but since X-series producer Lauren Shuler Donner actually willed the solo film into existence, nothing has seemed to go right. After a slew of high profile directors turned down the project, Director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) signed on, and then subsequently dropped out. This was followed by rumors that Tatum himself was on the verge of leaving the project. Director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) was signed to direct late in 2015, months after the film would have needed to start shooting in order to hit its original October 2016 release date. Gambit‘s scheduled debut was pulled from Fox’s calendar, and in its place came a number of 2017-18 dates for “Untitled Marvel Films”.
With the delay of Gambit due to re-writes, it was no surprise when it was revealed that Liman would be directing another project in the meantime – specifically, Amazon Studios’ first feature film, The Wall. Liman was expected to shoot this early in the year and return to Gambit at the end of 2016, but a recent update makes that sound unlikely.
THR is reporting that Liman is circling the production of Chaos Walking, the adaptation of Patrick Ness’ post-apocalyptic YA thriller at Lionsgate/Summit, the studios that also brought The Hunger Games and Divergent franchises to life. Additionally attached to the project is the Academy Award-winning Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation), who was tapped to handle the adaptation from novel format and Jamie Linden (Money Monster) also assisting with a draft.
Despite Lionsgate’s spotty success rate with YA adaptations (see Ender’s Game, Allegiant), Liman may consider working with the legendarily unique Kaufman a better bet than continuing to wait on a draft from the consistently-delayed Gambit production. While his departure has by no means been officially announced yet, nor has his attachment to the Chaos Walking film, his availability for other projects certainly doesn’t bode well for the solo X-film.
With the runaway success of apparent underdog Deadpool, and X-Men: Apocalypse not quite reaching the box office heights of X-Men: Days of Future Past, pressure on Gambit to deliver may be at an all time high. Coupled with the now legendary critical and box-office bomb of Fantastic Four (a.k.a. Fant4stic 2015), and contrasted with the consistent success of Marvel Studios’ (previously) B-lister catalog of heroes, one can’t help but wonder if 20th Century Fox is reconsidering their creative approach to superhero filmmaking in the 21st Century.
X-Men: Apocalypse is now playing in theaters. Wolverine 3 opens in U.S. theaters on March 3rd, 2017, followed by unannounced X-Men films on October 6th, 2017 (possibly Gambit), March 2nd, 2018 (possibly Deadpool 2), and June 29th, 2018 (possibly New Mutants). X-Force is also in development.