At this point, it's fair to say that the comic book version of the X-Men's resident card-throwing Cajun, Gambit, would have a thing or two to say about his upcoming solo film. The rumors of star Channing Tatum somewhat cooling on the leading role may have proven false, but the actor previously admitted that finding a director for his X-Men spinoff was proving a challenge. Now, he and Fox will have to go back to the drawing board.
The optimism surrounding Gambit had been boosted when director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) was attached, but now that an official start date for the movie has been set, it seems Wyatt has been forced to bow out - meaning the search for a new director begins all over again.
The report comes courtesy of Deadline, who claim that his departure shouldn't be taken as proof that Fox's demands, budget, or script plans are to blame. It would have been understandable for a $150-million blockbuster starring a fan-favorite (but lesser-known) X-Men character to scare off even the most ambitious of directors, but for now, the studio's decision to push production from November 2015 to March 2016 seems to be the explanation for Wyatt's decision.
Whatever the reasoning, Wyatt seems to have parted ways on good terms, releasing the following statement:
"I was very much looking forward to working with my friend Channing and the team at Fox, but regrettably a push in the start date now conflicts with another project. I thank them for the opportunity, and I know that Gambit will make a terrific film."
The announcement isn't likely to send shockwaves through the comic community, since Rupert Wyatt remains a lesser-known director - even if it's only among the X-Men movie fans. Still, the question now becomes who, if anyone, will be able to concoct a truly original take on the character and source material before production begins.
Fox is looking to expand its X-Men universe beginning with Deadpool, so it's less than shocking that the overall creative direction of their brands would come from the studio down. While Warner Bros. seems to be emphasizing standalone, director-driven projects for its shared universe, Marvel has crafted a larger roadmap, with directors being brought in and out as time or opportunity permits. Considering the recent fallout of Josh Trank's Fantastic Four, Fox seems less likely to hand the reins of a potential franchise over to a single writer/director. Or, if you believe Trank, F4 might change that way of thinking entirely.
It would be a shame if that meant Gambit was entrusted to a dependable, but less... interesting director, since the character is something of an oddity. At least, he could be, in today's landscape of superhero origin stories and adventures. Already, Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool is building buzz for its violence, language, and crude humor in a genre dominated by family-friendly spectacle. A Gambit story meant to show a darker, dirtier, or simply a different corner of the X-Men universe could prove just as exciting.
What do you make of the director's departure? Does this mean your own dream pick for Gambit could be back in the running? Be sure to offer your own thoughts and top picks to replace Rupert Wyatt in the comics, and stay tuned for updates as they arrive!
Deadpool opens in theaters on February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit on October 7, 2016; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; Fantastic Four 2 on June 9, 2017; and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.