If you can believe it, it’s been almost three years since a spinoff film starring the fan-favorite X-Man Gambit was first reported to be in development, exciting longtime fans of the character that have cherished the Ragin’ Cajun since his Uncanny X-Men debut in 1990 and starring role on the beloved X-Men: The Animated Series. Though 20th Century Fox has made it clear time and time again the movie is still indeed in the works, nothing has come to fruition, with nary a production start date in sight. Regardless, the film is still happening, and we even have a few hints as to how that movie may look. So, in anticipation for Gambit’s big-screen solo outing, we run down everything we know (so far) about the X-Man’s first-ever solo film, from the genesis of the project to the very latest news indicating that the entire project may be rebuilt from the ground up!
On October 31, 2014, a report surfaced that Fox was developing a Gambit film, which would star and be produced by Magic Mike’s Channing Tatum. The project would be co-produced by Reid Carolin and X-Men franchise veterans Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg. The writer of the RoboCop reboot, Josh Zetumer, was revealed to be penning a script for the film, based on a treatment from Gambit co-creator and X-Men comics legend Chris Claremont. Tatum’s role in the film, and the project as a whole, was confirmed in an additional report released in January 2015.
“We really do want to try our hardest to give something fresh,” Tatum said while promoting the animated film Book of Life. “We’re obviously going to go to the saving-the-world superhero movies eventually, but maybe not for the first one. We kinda want to introduce this character in a different way. When you try to do something different, you never know right off the bat what that is.”
With an October 2016 release date seemingly set in stone, Tatum would go on to tease the project in several interviews that followed the announcement. In May 2015, the leading man touted Zetumer’s script: “Josh Zetumer just turned in the first draft of the script, and it’s killer…None of us were sure how he was going to deal with the X-Men world. But we’re going to be changing some of the tropes of these movies. It’s always about saving the world [Laughs], but maybe we’re going to shift things a little but. There’s so many ways you can take [an origin story]. You could do it like Batman Begins, or a different take and go the Guardians of the Galaxy route. All I can say is, I’m super excited.”
Tatum went on to discuss what attracted him to the role and revealed that he’s been a fan of Gambit for a while.
“I love Gambit,” the star noted. “I grew up in the South; my father’s from Louisiana. We’d go to New Orleans and I heard all the dialects. It felt so different from the rest of America; it has its own ancient culture. So I identified with that. And he always felt the most real of the X-Men to me. He’s kind of a tortured soul and he’s not a good guy. But he’s not a bad guy, either. He walks his own path. And of course he plays cards and drinks and is a martial-arts bad ass!”
“We finally found someone that I really do believe wants to make Gambit,” Tatum said, referencing Wyatt. “And I just really think because Gambit is not the most popular or the biggest hero, I think there’s a really unique opportunity. Marvel’s done a lot of great movies that have made a ridiculous amount of money, and it’s always good to figure how to change the form.”
Speaking to CBR in June 2015, Tatum discussed the developing story for the film. “We’re so early in it,” Tatum said. “I really have some things in mind, but who knows — it’s pretty fluid at this point. I do believe that [director] Rupert [Wyatt] and I have the exact same vision of what we want to do. We want it to be different. I think Gambit is a really specific sort of character to not do some of these other things that some of the other superheroes kind of have to do. It’s who they are. I think his character lends itself to doing something maybe slightly different.”
Gearing Up for Production
Later that month, it was reported that Tatum had begun training for the film, learning how to “throw cards” and do “sleight of hand” from a real-life magician, in addition to working on the leading character’s Cajun accent. The film was supposed to shoot in October or November 2015, in New Orleans.
“It’s all being worked on at the moment,” Tatum said when asked about the film’s progress. “I’m from the south, so I know who to go to to find the accent. I haven’t found ‘the guy’ yet, because generally that’s how I do accents. I’ll find the person I want to sound like and not just do a generic Cajun accent. So I haven’t found the guy yet.”
“Gambit’s gonna be different like every character is different,” Tatum added, addressing the physicality of Gambit. “You can’t just be skinny. He’s gonna be way, way, way less muscle mass, I’ll say that.” Tatum also noted that his diet and training regimen for the role includes “a lot of running and a lot of broccoli…super sexy, right?”
By mid-2015 it seemed the pieces were in place for Gambit to shoot later that year. Tatum even appeared in a promotional photo for Fox’s mini Marvel Universe, alongside fellow X-Men stars and the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot cast, ahead of Comic-Con International in San Diego. And by the end of July 2015, a report surfaced that the budget for the film would be a hefty $155 million.
Following casting rumors that Rebecca Ferguson, Lea Seydoux and Abbey Lee were testing for the leading female role in Gambit, it was reported that Seydoux — star of Spectre — would play femme fatale Bella Donna in the film.
Bella Donna was created by Scott Lobdell and Jim Lee, and first appeared in 1992’s X-Men #8. She’s closely connected with Gambit, with the characters knowing each other since childhood and sharing a subsequently complicated relationship of being both lovers and (given her status as a member of the Assassins’ Guild) enemies. Like Gambit, Bella Donna is also a mutant, with powers of astral projection and plasma blasts.
With major casting in place, more details began to emerge surrounding the film’s role in the greater X-Men film universe. Kinberg confirmed Gambit’s existence in the shared universe, noting, “…the Gambit movie, the Deadpool movie, will exist in a world that acknowledges whatever happened in Days of Future Past and moving forward. Doesn’t mean they’ll always interact with those characters, obviously, it’s not like every movie has all the characters, but they all have to exist within the same rules.” He then added, “There will be interplay between different characters in different movies.”
Kinberg would later describe the film as a heist movie and a sexy thriller. “…Gambit will have its own different flavor and tone to it, will be more of like a heist movie and a sexy thriller in a way.”
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