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The Untold Story Of Channing Tatum's Gambit Movie

In a parallel universe that wasn't wrecked by Spider-Man or Doctor Strange, Channing Tatum's Gambit would be a major figure in the "X-Men" films by now, with Tatum transforming Remy LeBeau into an A-list character in much the same way that Robert Downey Jr. did for Iron Man. Unfortunately, Disney's purchase of Fox all but destroyed the possibility of that happening. Instead, our only lasting image of the explosive card-throwing mutant on the big screen is Taylor Kitsch's muted performance in 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Sacré bleu!

But even though we didn't get to see Tatum's "Gambit" project come to fruition, there's still an intriguing story about how it started and was left unfinished in development hell. From the actor's unrelenting passion for the character to a studio that viewed the Ragin' Cajun as the next big thing, it's a tale that proves desire can only get us so far without action. So put on those gumboots and let's get knee-deep in the unbelievable details about Channing Tatum's unmade "Gambit" movie.

Gambit is Channing Tatum's favorite superhero

Many actors take superhero parts purely for the sizeable paycheck and potential franchise opportunities, but for Channing Tatum, he had a stronger, personal connection to Gambit than the average fan. In an interview with The Straits Times, he discussed how there wasn't a comic book store nearby when he lived in Mississippi, but he watched "X-Men: The Animated Series" and became attached to Gambit because of his Cajun accent.

"He is just cool, man," Tatum added. "He is one of the few superheroes that has an actual culture to him." Gambit being from New Orleans also connected with Tatum, since his father is also from the area, and he found him instantly relatable as a Southerner. While it might come across like a PR-approved sound bite, it was anything but for Tatum, who actually devoted a lot of his own personal time and energy into developing the "Gambit" movie and ensuring it would do the character justice. Sadly, it seems highly unlikely that his efforts will ever pay dividends in this regard.

Channing Tatum almost played Gambit earlier

Tatum wears his unabashed love for the character of Gambit on his sleeve, and he could have had a chance to portray the Ragin' Cajun much earlier in his career than anyone expected. In actual fact, it could have taken place on two separate occasions before he'd even boarded the doomed "Gambit" production.

In an interview with GQ, Tatum revealed that he was almost cast as the mutant in "X-Men: The Last Stand," before the character was written out of the story entirely. Lightning struck twice when he had the chance to audition for the same role in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," but he wasn't even able to consider it this time: he had already been cast as Duke in "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" and there would have been a clash in the shooting schedules. Then, when he was eventually signed, sealed, and delivered to Fox for a solo "Gambit" movie, the production descended into development hell. When it comes to this character, Tatum really has the worst luck in the world.

Channing Tatum's Gambit was meant to debut in X-Men: Apocalypse

As rumors swirled that a "Gambit" film was in the works, there was much speculation about where it would fit in the "X-Men" timeline. At that point in 2014, there'd been a soft reboot in the form of "X-Men: First Class," which was then retconned with the previous films in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." Yet the only Gambit whom the fans had been familiar with was the one played by Kitsch, who revealed to The Daily Beast that he'd never been approached after 'X-Men: Origins" to reprise the role. So, how exactly would a new version of the debonair mutant be introduced?

According to multiple sources (via THR), the initial plan was to have Gambit appear in "X-Men: Apocalypse," then have him lead his own solo film in the future. While it was never disclosed if Remy would have been a major part of the film or merely there to set up his standalone effort, the decision was eventually made to exclude Gambit from "X-Men: Apocalypse" entirely.

The Godfather-inspired story

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was a turning point for director Rupert Wyatt. It acted as the perfect calling card for the filmmaker to demonstrate to Hollywood that he could take a well-known property and reinvent it in a fresh, modern, and relevant way. Fox saw his potential instantly and decided to offer him the opportunity to direct "Gambit," which could have been a match made in heaven judging by Wyatt's ability to create fantastic character-driven stories.

Wyatt revealed in an interview that he eventually departed "Gambit" after the budget was cut due to the underperformance of 2015's "Fantastic Four" (it not only failed to make money at the box office but also received a critical mauling from both reviewers and fans). He also went into greater detail about the proposed script, which he praised for its originality and ambition. "It was terrific," Wyatt said. "It was a really exciting sort of 'Godfather' with mutants set in the world of New Orleans with different gangs." The question is, would Remy have been more like Vito or Michael Corleone? Oh, what could have been!

Fox wanted Gambit to be the next Wolverine

By the time "Gambit" was a glint in Fox's eye in 2014, Hugh Jackman had already portrayed Wolverine for 14 years. It was also no secret that Jackman was planning to move on from the grizzled mutant in due course. But here's the thing: Wolverine is the most popular "X-Men" character, so the studio would need a suitable replacement in both the films and fans' hearts. Recasting Jackman was never likely to be an option due to his popularity as Logan, so Fox needed another plan — and fast.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the plan was to have Channing Tatum's Gambit take over from Wolverine as the central pillar of Fox's mutant universe. He would be able to star in his own solo films as well as appear in the "X-Men" movies. However, this seemed to be a sticking point in the negotiations between Tatum and Fox, due to the significant time investment that the actor would have to make for the franchise. Considering they signed the deal eventually, both parties obviously came to a satisfactory agreement. Looking back now, it was a whole lot of back and forth for seemingly nothing.

Lea Seydoux was cast as Bella Donna

Throughout the entirety of the time that the "Gambit" film was in the pipeline, there was never any doubt that Tatum would be playing the titular hero. (In fact, it's almost weird to think of anyone else even being attached to the part now.) With one role nailed down, there were several others to go. While it was never clear who from the "X-Men" world would pop up in the movie, there was one confirmed actor for the role of Bella Donna.

In the comics, Bella Donna Bordeaux was a love interest and eventual wife of Remy, as well as an important part of the New Orleans Assassins' Guild. Considering her close ties to Gambit, it made sense that she'd feature in his solo film too. In 2015 French actress Léa Seydoux was cast as Bella Donna, beating out the likes of Rebecca Ferguson and Abbey Lee for the part (via Deadline). Unfortunately, with all the turbulence surrounding the production, Seydoux eventually departed and Lizzy Caplan was rumored to have been cast as her replacement, according to Variety.

Mister Sinister would have been featured

It's bizarre that Mister Sinister hasn't appeared in any live-action "X-Men" film to date. The gene-splicing mutant was one of the key antagonists of the animated show and has played a pivotal adversarial role in the comics, but in the film universe he possessed the power of invisibility and staying incognito. That said, he was first teased via the mention of the Essex Corporation in the post-credits scene for "X-Men: Apocalypse," while there were rumors that Jon Hamm had been cast as the sinister one for "The New Mutants" before reshoots changed those plans.

Producer Simon Kinberg disputed this bit of internet gossip, saying there were other plans for the mutant known as Nathaniel Essex. Chatting during IGN's X-Men: Days of Future Past watch-along party, Kinberg said, "Mister Sinister was going to be part of the 'Gambit' movie starring Channing Tatum." It makes sense, considering that Sinister and Gambit crossed paths many times in the comics. At one point, the villain even hired Remy to help assemble a team of Marauders.

Doug Liman wasn't feeling it

Pick a list featuring the names of the top directors in Hollywood and scroll through all the people mentioned. Chances are that they were all attached to the "Gambit" movie at one point or the other. "The Bourne Identity" and "Edge of Tomorrow" director Doug Liman wasn't only attached but officially hired to direct the film in 2015. Eventually, due to the endless delays and the project going nowhere slowly, Liman said au revoir to the Ragin' Cajun. In the years since, the filmmaker has opened up about the experience of working on this unmade film.

Speaking to Collider about "Gambit," Liman said, "I never formed a connection. Many of these movies, I don't have the connection on day one, but I find the connection. I just never found it." Fair enough, but considering the countless iterations that the script went through, maybe Liman would have found something to latch onto by the 25th version of the story.

Fox wouldn't let Channing Tatum direct Gambit

As mentioned before, there were many directors linked to "Gambit." From Wyatt to Liman and even Gore Verbinski, it was a revolving door of filmmakers associated with this project. Naturally, it can become frustrating to be stuck in a start-stop limbo, especially when everyone else just wants to get the production in motion. So imagine how Channing Tatum must have felt at this point, having been involved for four years.

Taking matters into their own hands, Tatum and his producing partner Reid Carolin offered to direct the film themselves. "The studio really didn't want us to direct it," Tatum told Variety. "They wanted anybody but us, essentially, because we had never directed anything." Yet even this hard "no" from Fox didn't deter Tatum, who said he was so passionate about the script that he and Carolin had written that he wouldn't have minded relinquishing the reins to another filmmaker. It wasn't meant to be, though Tatum and Carolin would eventually co-direct the comedy "Dog."

Deadpool and Logan actually helped Gambit

The comic book movie genre changed with the releases of "Deadpool" and "Logan." Both films proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that it's possible for superhero films to be R-rated, connect with an audience, and still smash box office records. For creators, it was a welcome godsend as it freed them from the shackles of PG-13.

Chatting to HeyUGuys at the UK premiere for "Logan Lucky," Tatum discussed how these films helped sell his vision for "Gambit" and convince the decision-makers to step outside the confines of the genre. "'Deadpool' and 'Logan' came through and just literally kicked the doors down," he said, "and now we're really getting to do some of the things that we've always wanted to do with the script." But how R-rated would "Gambit" really have been in the grand scheme of things? Would Remy have celebrated International Women's Day in the same way that Wade Wilson did?

The film had been cast before it was canceled

Over a period of years, news about "Gambit" would pop out of the woodwork at random. Usually, it would be about a new draft of the script being submitted to the studio or a director departing and another one hopping on board. Much like "The New Mutants," the story around its delays became fodder for memes and the laughing stock of fandom. The difference here is that "The New Mutants" was sitting on a shelf and gathering dust but did get released eventually.

"Gambit," however, wasn't that far off from entering production at one point. Reid Carolin revealed to Variety that it was actually much closer than fans might have realized. "We were right on the one-yard line," he said. "We had cast the film. We'd opened up a production office. We were on our way to shoot in New Orleans." Surprisingly, this wasn't big news at the time, as hardly any leaks of who was playing who had made the rounds on the trades. Either the filmmakers kept all the secrets closely guarded to their chests or no one believed the production would actually happen.

Not making Gambit traumatized Channing Tatum

Hollywood can be an unforgiving place. One moment a film's ready to rumble, then boom! The rug is pulled out from under the crew and everything collapses. For Channing Tatum, it's understandable why the disappointment of the failed "Gambit" movie lingers on in the memory. As we've found out, it wasn't just years of blood, sweat, and tears that he poured into this, but Remy LeBeau was also his favorite superhero.

Unfortunately, the experience has also had an unexpected side effect on Tatum: He can't watch MCU movies anymore. "Once 'Gambit' went away, I was so traumatized," he told Variety. "I shut off my Marvel machine. I haven't been able to see any of the movies." Tatum added that the whole ordeal made him feel as if he had lost a friend. That said, he hasn't shut down the possibility of portraying the character in a future "X-Men" movie, either, leaving the ball firmly in Kevin Feige's billion-dollar court.