There was some pretty interesting/eye-opening spin yesterday regarding 20th Century Fox‘s “Gambit” and its director Doug Liman. THR reported in the afternoon, no doubt going through the “Edge Of Tomorrow” filmmaker’s camp and agents, that Liman had found a new directing gig in sniper thriller “The Wall.” The word is that Liman is going to make “The Wall” first instead of “Gambit,” once again delaying the Channing Tatum led picture about the Louisiana-based Cajun-bred mutant with card-trick skills and kinetic energy control. According to the trade report, “Liman plans on knocking out [‘The Wall’] with a late spring/early summer shoot before returning to pre-production on ‘Gambit.’ ”
To our ears, that sounds not only naively optimistic, but like 100% pure spin. THR added to their report that because of the delay, “Gambit” has possibly lost its female love interest in “Spectre” and “Blue Is The Warmest Color” star Lea Seydoux, and the role would need to be recast. And this lends further credence that “Gambit” has been more than just delayed, and has actually been sent back to the drawing board. The project has already gone through tremendous obstacles. The film took a long time to find a director, with multiple notable names like Bennett Miller passing. The movie then landed “Rise Of The Planet Of the Apes” helmer Rupert Wyatt, only to see him walk away from the project just a few short months before it was scheduled to shoot last fall. Fox and the “Gambit” producers scrambled to find a replacement director and hold onto their 2016 release date, and they secured Liman, but soon the plan shifted, and production was pushed back to this spring. Cameras still haven’t rolled, and 20th Century Fox have already been making more changes to their comic book movie plans.
First, the studio pulled “Gambit” from the 2016 schedule and then immediately announced two new mystery dates for Marvel films; one on October 6, 2017 and another on January 12, 2018. Some presumed the 2017 date would be the new debut for “Gambit” and that might have been a loose plan, but with Liman directing another film (which he also has to edit and oversee for several months), it’s looking less and less likely that superhero movie will make that date.
It’s also worth noting that the reveal of Fox’s two new Marvel-film mystery dates, and the “Gambit” release date pull, happened just two weeks after the studio’s “Deadpool” became a huge, surprise smash hit (and one that has proved so immensely popular it will become the highest grossing X-Men film both domestically and globally in a few days).
It’s very conceivable in the wake of the success of “Deadpool,” that a ripple effect has torn through the X-Men Connected Universe, and if the “Gambit” script wasn’t up to snuff, or possibly not connected enough (or not cheeky, irreverent or R-rated enough), Fox decided to retool their plans. And it seems logical that the studio would put more focus on “Deadpool 2” (which is already greenlit) and possibly “X-Force” while rethinking how (and when) they’ll approach “Gambit.”
Schedule wise, Liman will be busy with “The Wall” likely for the rest of the year, and its extremely doubtful and naive to think he can shoot and edit that picture and then jump immediately into “Gambit.” Again, the studio might be looking at “Gambit” in the wake of “Deadpool” and theoretically thinking of how to connect it to the larger “X-Men” universe of movies. Or maybe there’s just some more practical reasons for the delay. “Deadpool” was made for a song, $58 million, and it would be very easy to believe that 20th Century Fox wants to adjust, or at least reexamine the budget of all their superhero films going forward. After all, “Deadpool” is essentially a proof of concept about not how to make not only a successful and enjoyable superhero film, but an extremely profitable one (it’s easily going to be the most financially successful super hero film of the year based on its extremely modest budget).
And as for Liman, we’ll see if he actually sticks around. Schedules are always changing, and development could see his interest in the project change as well, so we’ll see where things are at the next time 20th Century Fox has any word about the movie. And keep in mind, this opinion about “Gambit” seems fairly obvious to a lot of people. As I’m writing this piece, Collider podcast host Jon Schnepp has just predicted that he thinks “Gambit” has essentially been canceled (see below). And if you’ve been taking the temperature on the ailing film closely, it’s a sentiment that feels difficult to argue with.