Channing Tatum's Gambit Movie Failed After The Studio Tried To Make It More Of A Comedy

Can you imagine an X-Men rom-com? That nearly happened once. 

Remy "Gambit" LaBeau, was one of the more notable characters in X-Men comics throughout a millennial kid's childhood, having first appeared un "Uncanny X-Men" #266 in August of 1990. Gambit, a charming, caddish card player raised on the bayou of Louisiana, had the power to "kinetically charge" any inanimate object he touched, more or less transforming any hand-sized object into a bomb. He traveled with a deck of cards, and could fling them at attackers like Ricky Jay. Gambit was one of the key members of the cast on the oft-celebrated 1992 "X-Men" animated series, and his romance with the character Rogue was central to the character. 

Gambit was to appear in Bryan Singer's 2003 film "X2: X-Men United," and was to be played by stunt performer (and "Arrow" poobah) James Bamford (already Hugh Jackman's stunt double on that film), but the character's scenes were cut from the film, and his appearance in future X-Men feature films became a question mark. According to James Egan's 2015 book "1000 Facts about Superhero Movies," Singer wanted to expand the role of Gambit in a third X-Men film, and wanted Keanu Reeves to play the part, but Singer left the film (to work on "Superman Returns") and the plan was scrapped. 

X-Men Origins: Gambit

Following the release of Brett Ratner's "X-Men: The Last Stand" in 2006, Fox shifted focus to a character-by-character approach to their franchise, releasing Gavin Hood's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" in 2009, with the intent of several other origin stories to follow ("X-Men Origins: Magneto" mutated into "X-Men: First Class," and "X-Men: Storm" was scrapped. Perhaps see "Fast Color" instead). Hood's film was the first and last of that planned angle, as "Origins" was received quite poorly by audiences.

Gambit had a brief appearance in that film, however, and the public's imagination had been whetted for additional cinematic adventures of the character. Taylor Kitsch played the role, replacing Channing Tatum who was then busy with "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," but who has often expressed a great deal of affection for the character; as early as 2013, however, Tatum had begun talking about returning to the role. Over the years of development, various directors signed on to make a "Gambit" feature film over the years, including Rupert Wyatt, Doug Liman, and Gore Verbinski. With each permutation, "Gambit" went through many sweeping changes, including dramatic shifts in genre.

In a 2015 article here on /Film some details about the planned "Gambit" film were released. 2015 was a time in pre-production when Wyatt had departed and Liman had stepped in. The producer of the 2015 version of "Gambit," Simon Kinberg, described the film as a sexy heist thriller, meant to stand apart from the other X-Men films, very much akin to the R-rated comedic stylings of the then-upcoming "Deadpool." A sexy heist thriller is certainly in keeping with the roguish dazzle of the character. Tatum was to star opposite Léa Seydoux. At this point, the announced release date was October 7, 2016.

The exotic romantic comedy

That release date would not manifest, and the "Gambit" project — still with Tatum attached — was to pass hands again. Kinberg, however remained still present and, in 2018, was singing a different tune: "Gambit" is now a romantic comedy.

This week, Seydoux is set to star in David Cronenberg's hotly anticipated "Crimes of the Future," and in an interview with IndieWire, the actress recalled her brief brush up against "Gambit," the comedic elements, and what a departure it was for her. She does indeed recall that the script was meant to be funny:

"The script was really good. It had some funny bits in it, but they wanted to make more of a comedy... I feel that in America, people have more imagination. I have been offered films very, very far from what I've done and I'm like, 'Oh. Interesting.' I love to feel that I can adapt myself. For me, that's very exotic."

The feisty rom-com vibe of "Gambit" was to, sadly, never see the light of day. After Liman departed, Verbinski was attached for a moment, as was Reid Carolin, Tatum's producing partner. After enough time, Tatum himself even started talking about co-directing with Carolin (Tatum and Carolin would eventually make their co-directing debut on the 2022 film "Dog," in which Tatum starred). It wasn't until May of 2019 that the "Gambit" movie was officially dropped from the Disney slate of upcoming projects, and the film was officially canceled.

Whither Gambit?

Tatum was reportedly distraught over the final nail in the coffin, and admitted in Variety that he wasn't able to watch Marvel movies anymore after his sour, years-long experience trying to get the film off the ground. Given the increase corporate synergy of wide-spanning media franchises, a quirky rom-com version of "X-Men" was simply not in line with the kinds of films being produced. It's also possible that "Gambit" had merely staled in the pantry, waiting to be made for so long that everyone lost their taste for it. It's possible "Gambit" may eventually be made, but it would have to be an all-new version of the project. Only time will tell, petit.