Is the 20th Century Fox studio narrative changing back to what it was before it even has time fully come into it own? To loosely paraphrase “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” director Matt Reeves in all the interviews he did last years including ours and this good podcast chat, he was pretty wary of Fox when approached to make the ‘Apes’ film because they didn’t have a filmmmaker-friendly reputation (totally true, just look at tentpoles through the aughts). But much to his surprise, not only did they accept his new pitch for ‘Dawn,’ they supported him wholeheartedly throughout.
But are things reverting back to their old ways at the studio? First you had reports of massive studio interference this year with “Fantastic Four,” and now some more unfortunate news in the world of Fox’s super hero universe. Deadline reports that director Rupert Wyatt (who helmed “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” for Fox, ironically enough), has dropped out of the “X-Men” spin-off “Gambit” set to star Channing Tatum. The movie was supposed to start shooting soon in November and was moved to March 2016, so that apparently conflicts with an unnamed item in Wyatt’s schedule.
Wyatt issued this statement: “I was very much looking forward to working with my friend Channing and the team at Fox, but regrettably a push in the start date now conflicts with another project. I thank them for the opportunity, and I know that Gambit will make a terrific film.”
This however, smells like a lot of B.S. The first flag is that “Gambit” is scheduled for a October 2016 release date and there’s no indication that Fox was willing to move the date. A March shoot for a November release of a super hero tentpole is incredibly tight. Matthew Vaughn pulled it off on “X-Men: First Class,” but also kind of went crazy in the process hiring and firing around seven cinematographers in the process. With VFX and all the heavy lifting that it takes to make a film like that eight months to turn around a movie like that is just not a civilized way to make a movie; it’s an utter panic.
We would not be surprised to learn that Wyatt just looked at that scheduled and that, “f that,” and bailed. Moreover, “Gambit” had an incredibly tough time finding a director in the first place because no one really wanted to touch it. Directors like Bennett Miller, Darren Aronofsky, Gareth Evans of “The Raid” and J.C. Chandor, all turned the project down because Gambit is more of a B or C-list “X-Men” character (to be fair so was “Iron Man” and look how that turned out).
One also has to wonder about producer Simon Kinberg’s recent comments that confirmed that 20th Century Fox, he and the other producers on these film want to interconnect and crossover the worlds of the new “X-Men” universe, “Deadpool” and “Gambit,” which maybe means, you cannot play as freely as you’d like because you have a bigger picture connected universe that you have to answer to—at least to some degree. “They all have to exist within the same rules,” Kinberg recently told MTV.
Tatum is still attached as is Lea Seydoux, who plays Bella Donna Bourdreaux, but the studio now has to hire a director to get on board and be ready to shoot the film by March. It might sound like plenty of time, but only if that director is willing to make the version that Wyatt and Fox developed (and one has to wonder if there was some creative conflicts along the way given what happened on “Fantastic Four”).
As of right now “Gambit” is still scheduled for November 2016, but it might be a bit of a scramble to find a top-shelf director like Wyatt for March. We’ll see. Mark Steven Johnson shot Fox’s "Daredevil" and "Ghost Rider," maybe he’s free?