X-Men movie fans know the long story of Deadpool's development. It was only given an official greenlight (with a relatively low budget) and release date after Comic-Con 2014 when test footage for the feature leaked online earning high praise. A few short months later, Twentieth Century Fox doubled down on their Marvel movie licenses announcing a set of projects and release dates which, alongside another Wolverine movie, confirmed that Remy LeBeau a.k.a. Gambit would be getting his own feature solo debut as well.
The Gambit news wasn't a surprise since for nearly a year Channing Tatum has been openly talking about playing the character for the X-Men franchise after having met with and agreed to it (without signing at the time) with X-Men franchise producer Lauren Shuler Donner. From mastering the character's iconic Cajun accent, honoring the character's New Orleans origins, costume, and powers, to developing the character the right way before teaming him up with Professor X's hero team (a la Deadpool), everything seemed on track for a production start in late 2015 for an October 2016 release date. Except it wasn't on track.
A series of high profile directors turned down the Gambit director's chair throughout 2015, including Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt who had actually reportedly signed on last summer. This news was followed by troubling reports that Tatum himself, who was spearheading the project, may drop out as well. He later officially signed on to play the titular antihero, LeBeau, and shortly thereafter Léa Seydoux joined the project to play Belladonna Boudreaux.
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Months went by and Gambit didn't begin shooting in the fall as was originally intended. By the time director Doug Liman joined, it was already near the end of the year and a new production start date for March 2016 was set meaning the release date would need to be pushed back to early 2017 (which worked well for Deadpool). A few months went by and then Fox took Gambit off its release schedule entirely, sparking some speculation that perhaps the studio's plans had changed.
And then a few weeks ago Fox claimed new release dates for additional unannounced X-Men films and it became easy to see the plan:
- Untitled Marvel film – October 6, 2017
- Untitled Marvel film – January 12, 2018
- Untitled X-Men film – July 13, 2018
The October date seemed obvious for Gambit with January used for Deadpool 2 and July 2018 for the X-Men: Apocalypse followup which seems poised to shoot in Montreal next year. That setup gives Fox and its Gambit creative team more time for script rewrites and to plan a solo movie that fits in a post-Deadpool universe (more on that later). And it also explains today's report from THR about Doug Liman who will reportedly use this time to direct another feature film before production begins on Gambit. Liman is reportedly in talks to direct the psychological thriller about a sniper called The Wall for Amazon Studios and it may shoot over the spring and summer. Gambit will shoot after that this fall.
Deadpool Dilemma: The Gambit Gambit
The record-breaking success of Deadpool, a film which will pass X-Men: Days of Future Past this week at the box office to become the most successful X-Men franchise film - after already becoming the top-grossing R-rated movie of all-time worldwide - puts the studio in an interesting position. Much of Deadpool's success, and certainly the praise from fans and critics, comes from Fox allowing director Tim Miller and his team to have the creative freedom to respect the source material.
A lower budget allowed them to take risks and it paid off in a way no one expected. But now, that raises expectations and sets a precedent for future movies, namely Gambit. From the outset, before the project even got a greenlight, star Channing Tatum has teased his personal affinity for the Remy LeBeau character. He's been working on mastering the Cajun accent and even playing with cards, learning to toss them like the character does in Marvel Comics.
For this reason, Fox couldn't cancel Gambit after Deadpool's success without major fan backlash, and similarly, the studio now has a very high critical and financial benchmark to strive for while honoring the character as fans know him from the comic books. If the Gambit solo movie deviates from the character's costume and accent for instance, like X-Men Origins: Wolverine did with its version of Gambit (played by Taylor Kitsch), then they could be in trouble.
X-Men: Apocalypse opens in theaters May 27th, 2016, followed by Wolverine 3 on March 3rd, 2017, and unannounced X-Men films on October 6th, 2017 (possibly Gambit), January 12th, 2018 (possibly Deadpool 2), and July 13th, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.