Ever since Darren Aronofsky dealt a crippling blow to the production of The Wolverine by exiting the project, Hugh Jackman and Twentieth Century Fox have been forced to find another director who, by Jackman’s own description, is “as good” as Aronofsky. In their search to pick the right person to helm the quasi-sequel, names such as David Slade (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and Duncan Jones (Source Code) popped up, with no news on the project in a month and a half since.

Reports now claim that Fox is looking at a shortlist of directors which includes 8 names, none of which include the previously rumored candidates.

Both X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men 3, directed by Gavin Hood and Brett Ratner respectively, were torn apart by critics, splitting the fanbases in two. After two well-recieved X-Men films by Bryan Singer, these two following films were considered the “bad” ones and the studio desperately needed to right the ship of the X-Men franchise if they wanted to continue expanding it with more spin-offs, prequels and sequels.

By all indications, they’ve successfully done so with the help of director Matthew Vaughn and producer Bryan Singer with X-Men: First Class which has received nothing short of positive reviews from media screenings thus far. This trend was expected to continue with the high-in-demand Darren Aronofsky re-teaming with Jackman for a new take on the adamantium-laced mutant which would follow the character’s adventures in Japan.

So, without further ado, the current 8 candidates to direct Wolverine 2 (titled “The Wolverine”) include:

  • Antoine Fuqua (Training Day)
  • Doug Liman (Jumper)
  • Gary Shore (commercials director)
  • Gavin O’Connor (Pride and Glory)
  • James Mangold (Knight and Day)
  • Jose Padilha (Elite Squad)
  • Justin Lin (Fast Five)
  • Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go)

Many would argue that some of these names don’t exactly compare to the profile of Darren Aronofsky but there are some interesting choices to be had. The obvious commercial choice would be Justin Lin who recently hit a home run with Fast Five, a movie that confirmed a long-term future of the Fast and the Furious series. With Terminator 5 going nowhere at the moment due to Arnold Schwarzenegger handling personal issues and the Highlander remake sounding more and more like he won’t even direct it, Lin’s schedule is open and this could be a film he’d be very interested in doing. Better yet, if he could do for Wolverine what First Class is doing for the team-based X-Men series, he’d solidify himself as an A-List director.

David Slade (Left) and Duncan Jones (Right) not in the running.

Another interesting choice is Antoine Fuqua who holds a resume loaded with powerful action films including Tears of the Sun, Shooter and The Replacement Killers. The tone of Tears of the Sun meshes with what I believe fans want from a Wolverine flick so I’m a supporter of him helming its successor.

The third and fourth options most viable are Mark Romanek, who directed the television adaptation of Locke & Key which unfortunately was not picked up by Fox, and James Mangold who, while making the fluff pic Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, nailed it with 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line prior to that. Locke & Key is another beloved comic book adaptation and at the moment and its pilot’s director, Romanek, who made a splash last year with the impressive and dramatic Never Let Me Go, is free. Mangold on the other hand, is only working on the upcoming TV series, The 2-2, at the moment with other film projects in development for the future.

Lastly, Doug Liman is also a serious contender, having seen major success with the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie starrer (and relationship starter) Mr. & Mrs. Smith. While his Jumper didn’t meet expectations, he helped launch the Bourne franchise with The Bourne Identity.

In filling Aronofsky’s lightly treaded shoes, Fox likely won’t go with a relative unknown (i.e. Jose Padilha, Gary Shore), but then again they signed visual effects guru Tim Miller to direct X-Men Origins: Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds so all 8 do have a chance.

Who’d you like to see direct The Wolverine?

The Wolverine was aiming for a summer 2012 release, but without an official release date and post-tsunami conditions in Japan, it could be delayed another year.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes

Source: Variety