Josh Holloway has revealed he was originally cast as Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The X-Men franchise experienced something of a lull following the release the X-Men: The Last Stand. That entry was seen as a disappointing end to the original trilogy, and one that packed too many characters and storylines into a short runtime. The movie famously also botched the famous Phoenix Saga from the comic, reducing it to a subplot.
The next movie was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which focused on the backstory of everybody's favorite angry X-Man Logan. Star Hugh Jackman had wanted to produce a darker, more character-driven movie, but during pre-production new players kept being added, including Taylor Kitsch's Gambit and Ryan Reynold's Deadpool. The hope was that audiences would like these characters enough to see spinoff movies with them, but the near-universal critical scorn Origins received found the studio reassessing the franchise; the Kitsch Gambit movie never happened, while it took another 7 years for the Deadpool movie to arrive.
Gambit's appearance in X-Men Origins was basically an extended cameo, and while the actor did a decent job, his take on Gambit wasn't especially memorable either. Around that time, X-Men fans felt Lost star Josh Holloway was near perfect casting for the character, and the actor has told Digital Spy that their dreams nearly came through, revealing "I actually screen-tested with Hugh Jackman. It was amazing - they said, 'You're it, you're the guy, you're Gambit!' and they shook my hand."
Unfortunately, an unnamed studio head decided the then 40-year-old Holloway was too old, and a younger star was needed: "[The studio head] said, 'I want someone really young, like that kid in High School Musical!', so there I went." Holloway even practised card tricks for the role but admitted his accent would have been a problem had he landed the role, stating "I'm terrible at the Cajun accent. I wish I could [do it]."
X-Men fans will no doubt be disappointed to hear of Holloway's near miss, especially considering the weak rationale that he was "too old" for the role; after all, Holloway is the same age as Jackman himself. X-Men Origins: Wolverine seemed like a messy production all round; rumors persist credited director Gavin Hood was replaced during filming with Superman helmer Richard Donner, the script was constantly being rewritten during filming, and the movie's treatment of the Deadpool character is infamous to this day.
Outside of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the character of Gambit hasn't had much luck on the big screen. Channing Tatum has been attached to the role for years, but for some reason, his solo film has had trouble finding a director, with Doug Liman, Gore Verbinski, and Rupert Wyatt all having dropped out already. The most recent update on Gambit suggested production would start in June of this year, but without a confirmed director attached it's unknown if this is still the plan.
Source: Digital Spy
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2019) release date: Aug 02, 2019
- Deadpool 2 (2018) release date: May 18, 2018
- Gambit (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020