Channing Tatum is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. A glance at his acting resume will quickly bring up Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street (and its sequel), various G.I. Joe films, and his critically acclaimed turn in Foxcatcher. He has jumped across genres, from action to period pieces like Public Enemies to children’s films like The Lego Movie. All in all, he has had a lot of success for someone who started out as a background dancer in a Ricky Martin music video. But he has never gotten the one role he always wanted: the Marvel comic book character Gambit.
In a recent interview in Variety Magazine, Channing Tatum reflected on what went wrong with his unrealized dream project. For years, Tatum and Magic Mike screenwriter Reid Carolin worked on developing a solo Gambit movie. For years, 20th Century Fox (which owned the film rights to X-Men related projects and was purchased by Disney, allowing Marvel Studios to regain those rights) shot them down. Apparently, their vision of a standalone film about the mutant character was adult-oriented and similar in tone to Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool films. But while Reynolds eventually overcame years of studio interference on his dream comic book project to become a massive commercial success, Tatum was stymied. To hear him put it, there was a pretty fundamental reason: 20th Century Fox didn’t want him and Carolin to direct, as they had planned. Tatum told Variety:
“Uh, yeah, I would love to play Gambit. I don’t think we should direct it. I think that was hubris on our part.”
“The studio really didn’t want us to direct it,” Tatum said. “They wanted anybody but us, essentially, because we had never directed anything.”
Channing Tatum’s potential Gambit project eventually was completely shut down by 20th Century Fox becoming a subsidiary to Disney. One can imagine the box office dominance of the Disney-owned MCU made the studio leery of any Marvel-related project that didn’t quite fit into the mold. As Tatum puts it, the entire experience was traumatizing and caused him to avoid watching any MCU films from then on.
As a character, Gambit (aka Remy LeBeau) has been portrayed once on live action screen, but not by Channing Tatum. In the critically reviled 2009 film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Taylor Kitsch played the New Orleans-born mutant, whose superpower is the ability to mutilate a Cajun accent. While it is all but certain that Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios will eventually introduce the X-Men to the MCU proper, it is unknown when a relatively second-tier character like Gambit might show up.
Of course, Channing Tatum has stayed busy. After keeping a relatively low profile the last several years, he is returning for several upcoming projects. Tatum did finally get around to directing a film, a road movie comedy starring himself called Dog. He will also star with Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt and Daniel Radcliffe in the upcoming adventure movie The Lost City. He has also kept his penchant for comedic cameos by recently appearing in the Apple TV series The Afterparty in a fictional biopic of musical duo Hall & Oates. So, cheer up, Channing: even if you don’t ever get to be Gambit, you got to be John Oates.