After more than a decade of “will they, won’t they” tension between 20th Century Fox and Channing Tatum, it’s time to finally accept that the long-teased live-action Gambit movie is probably dead.
Disney, which acquired 21st Century Fox earlier this year, issued a slate of its upcoming films, set to be released over the next eight years. The company has more than 60 movies lined up for theaters, and while films like Avatar 5 and the next Indiana Jones installment are listed, Gambit is nowhere to be seen. It’s a little heartbreaking for the world’s close-knit circle of Gambit fans, but it’s not too surprising.
Gambit’s development cycle has always been wonky. The decision to incorporate Gambit into the live-action X-Men film cycle started in 2003 with X2, when director Bryan Singer tried to get the character into the highly anticipated sequel. It didn’t go as planned — a common theme for Gambit, as it turned out. It wasn’t until 2009 that Gambit finally debuted in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Producers wanted Tatum to play the role, but it wound up going to Friday Night Lights actor Taylor Kitsch because of scheduling conflicts. While Wolverine wasn’t exactly hailed as a great superhero movie, Tatum never gave up on playing the role, telling press at a conference for White House Down in 2013, “Gambit was always like the woman-loving, cigarette-smoking, drinking [guy]. He was the punk rock of all the superheroes.”
This was Tatum at the height of his career. Magic Mike turned him into a universal sex symbol, and everyone wanted him in their movies. Fox decided to take a chance on him and give him a movie based on a character who had only made one appearance in an X-Men movie, the one even its writers are trying to forget ever happened. That was in 2014. The planned Gambit feature has since cycled through three different directors, numerous writers, scheduling concerns, and an entire studio acquisition. We true Gambit fans always knew our swashbuckling, eccentric superhero wasn’t going to get his day on the big screen.
Putting aside the intimately strong connection so many of us have with Gambit, it doesn’t make sense for Fox to make the movie, really. Gambit only appeared in one film, and it didn’t exactly do anything for the character, or Kitsch’s career. It would be so cool to have the version of Gambit we remember from the 1990s animated X-Men series, in which Gambit played a huge role. That was how so many of us first discovered him. An eventual Gambit movie isn’t impossible — he could appear in another Fox property, and for instance, the characters’ freewheeling tone would let him fit in well alongside Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool — but it’s highly unlikely that it will happen over the next decade. It’s even less likely that Tatum will play the role he’s desperately wanted to for years.