Development hell is littered with comic book adaptations that never get made, but Fox’s Gambit is easily one of the most famous. The X-Men spinoff had Channing Tatum locked in to star and produce for years, after he first signed on to play Remy LeBeau in May 2014, before the project was ultimately canceled altogether once Disney’s takeover was completed.
During that time, Tatum remained the only constant, with various writers and directors agreeing to tackle Gambit before dropping out. Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ Rupert Wyatt was the first name attached, but he departed after just three months. Doug Liman then took over in November 2015, with shooting even scheduled to begin the following March, before the superhero blockbuster was hit with several delays, causing him to abruptly exit in August 2016.
Pirates of the Caribbean‘s Gore Verbinski was next to try and drag Gambit to the big screen, but he too only lasted three months before moving on, and after floating around in purgatory as the Disney deal moved forward, the Cajun mutant’s maiden solo outing eventually vanished into the ether.
In a new interview, Verbinski explained why Gambit never happened, and it sounds as though Fox were rushing him to try and get started on production as soon as possible without giving him much time to put his own stamp on it.
“The script we never got to a place where everybody was in agreement. I mean, I got a call from the studio saying, ‘We have this project, Gambit, do you want to do it?’. And they had said, ‘It shoots right away’. And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. Let me, think about it’. And I forget what was happening. There was something schedule-wise where it was actually going to be maybe a good thing if it happened quickly. Then it was like, the script just didn’t get there. Then I had other stuff that was more important to me, and I think other people had other things. So it was like a short window where if it happened, it was going to happen immediately with a lot of urgency.”
Verbinski then went on to admit that the disastrous performance of Fantastic Four was also a major issue, with Fox instantly deciding to slash Gambit‘s budget as a cost-cutting measure.
“Fantastic Four came out, did not do very well for Fox, and they decided to lower our budget. We were twelve weeks out, we couldn’t recover. The script needed a huge amount of rewriting in order to fit that budget, and ultimately the powers that be chose not to go down that road, so the film didn’t happen. And then of course whatever happened after me with other directors, I have no idea. What I do know is that Channing Tatum and his producing partner Reid Carolin had an amazing idea of what that movie was going to be, and Josh Zeutemer, the writer, as well. It was terrific, it was a really exciting sort of Godfather with mutants set in the world of New Orleans with different gangs.”
The fates appeared to be conspiring against Gambit from the very beginning, then, but perhaps the longtime fan favorite will finally get his opportunity to shine when the X-Men are rebooted as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.