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Will Channing Tatum's Gambit Be the New Face of the X-Men?

Though there has been speculation about it for a while, Twenty First Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOX  ) recently announced that Channing Tatum had officially been signed to play the mutant hero Gambit in future "X-Men" films. While this may be a move to capitalize on Tatum's increasing popularity, there may be another reason behind it as well: Hugh Jackman's contract is getting close to expiring.

Is it possible that Fox is planning to move Gambit to the forefront of its films, letting him take the spotlight that Wolverine has largely enjoyed in the X-films so far? If the company did take that route, would it run the risk of alienating viewers and hurting a major franchise in the process?

Wolverine and the X-Men
By the time Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) bought Marvel Comics in 2009, Jackman had appeared onscreen as Wolverine in four films. His contract obligated him to play the character in a total of eight films, of which the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past is the seventh (as his cameo in X-Men: First Class didn't count toward the fulfillment of his contract). This means that the third "Wolverine" solo film that's currently in early development could end Jackman's contractual obligations.

This is significant as Jackman has stated multiple times that there's a good chance that he won't re-sign to play the character once the contract ends. (He at one point said that he was "99.9% sure" that he wouldn't, though in a more recent interview with IGN he admitted that he's "less sure as it goes along.") While Jackman supposedly still enjoys playing the character, he has had concerns that his own aging may cause problems with him playing a character who doesn't age.

While Jackman may end up signing on for additional X-films, it's unlikely that his new contract would be as extensive as his original one. When Fox originally signed Jackman to a multi-film contract, he was still an up-and-coming actor; X-Men was only his third film. After the success of the "X-Men" films and other hits such as Les Misérables, resigning Jackman to multiple films would likely be a much more costly endeavor. Instead, Fox could opt to try and repeat its success with another up-and-coming actor who could be signed at a lower premium. Enter Channing Tatum, who has been in a number of films but who has yet to reach "superstar" status.

A fresh new face
During the 1990s, Gambit competed with Wolverine as the most popular X-Man in the comics. Though the characters had significantly different powers, they seemed to compete for the same role on the team -- the "loner" who was part of the team without really being a team player. Because of this, Gambit might be a logical choice to take over the "starring" role that Wolverine has enjoyed in many of the "X-Men" films.

Though the character of Gambit appeared briefly in X-Men Origins: Wolverine as played by Taylor Kitsch, it's unlikely that Tatum's take on the character will resemble Kitsch's version. Given that Tatum will first appear in X-Men: Apocalypse, which takes place in the 1980s, it's possible that Tatum's Gambit will retcon the character somewhat since Origins took place in the early 1980s as well. Depending on how Gambit's origin is presented in the new film, it may even affect the canon of the Origins appearance.

One advantage of introducing Gambit in Apocalypse is that it uses the First Class cast and timeline, making the film an effective prequel to the original "X-Men" films. This allows Fox to proceed without Jackman or other members of the original cast, and potentially allowing Gambit to step in as the "star" of the ensemble cast (and potential solo films as well).

Will Gambit have star power?
While the "X-Men" films are focused on a team, most of the films have centered around one or two specific characters to anchor the plot. This has often been Wolverine, but with him stepping out of the spotlight it opens up new possibilities. James McAvoy, who plays Charles Xavier in First Class and Days of Future Past, recently suggested that Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique might become the new "face" of the series, though he seemed to merely be suggesting it as a possibility instead of hinting at something that was definitely in the works.

Part of the decision will be based on how well Tatum's Gambit is received by audiences. Fox's priority with the film franchise is to get moviegoers to buy tickets and buy the film once it's released on Blu-Ray and DVD. Gambit is a popular character, so if his appearance in Apocalypse is well received then Fox will be much more likely to put him front-and-center in the future because it will help to pack the theaters. If Tatum is poorly received in the role, however, the company may shift its future films away from Gambit and focus much more on other characters (possibly including Mystique).

The future of the X-Men
Days of Future Past is the most expensive film in the "X-Men" franchise (and is supposedly the second most expensive film that Fox has ever made), with its estimated $225 million budget coming in well over many of the previous X-films. It has been getting a number of positive early reviews, however, and some estimates have its opening box office potential in the U.S. coming in as high as $125 million over Memorial Day weekend. Fox is investing heavily in the future of the franchise, even as one of its stars seems set to bow out.

The company is likely already looking for a new lead for the franchise, and Channing Tatum seems like a good bet. It's likely no coincidence that the studio has chosen to bring Gambit in just as Wolverine steps out, and if he's well received there's a good chance that he'll be a major part of the franchise going forward.

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Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (11)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On May 19, 2014, at 4:09 PM, SueB wrote:

    I'm pretty sure you're incorrect about Jackman ever having had an 8-film contract. He's been going film to film for some time now. And I'm really not sure what any of this has to do with Disney, since the X-Men movies have always been owned by Fox and weren't included in the Disney purchase of Marvel Studios.

  • Report this Comment On May 19, 2014, at 9:18 PM, 1guidedog1 wrote:

    No, you've got it wrong. Hugh will play Wolverine as long as he wants. The filmmakers and Fox love him. Gambit is not as popular as Wolverine and never will be, although Tatum is a good choice for Gambit.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2014, at 11:48 AM, TMFLifeIsGood wrote:

    I would respectfully submit that signing a "high-functioning alcoholic" as the anchor as the anchor for a new franchise is indeed a Gambit:

    Just sayin...


  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2014, at 12:39 PM, Puma wrote:

    Tatum has the personality/acting skills of a wet towel, horrible choice for Gambit.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2014, at 1:06 PM, RobinFL777 wrote:

    Tatum is a terrible choice for Gambit. Very little acting skills and juvenile in prior attempts. Kitsch played the role to a "T". Up to this point, they've done a great job with casting. Wondering if there has been turnover in the casting dept to end up here.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2014, at 1:40 PM, paco850 wrote:

    Agreed, Tatum can't deliver a basic line, much less carry a character as nuanced as Gambit. Taylor Kitch's portrayal was weak primarily because that whole movie sucked, but I'd rather see him take this role on more than Channing Tatum. To plan to build a franchise around him is the first step toward killing that franchise. He should stick to movies that resemble twilight where the fanbase doesn't care if the actors can act as long as the people are pretty. Then the rest of us won't have to endure his dead emotionless acting. He's the female equivalent of Kristen Stuart. Put them in a movie together so that one of two things will happen. They'll either bad act each other to death or the concentration of their lack of talent will rip a hole in the matrix and put us all out of our misery.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2014, at 1:42 PM, howaboutno wrote:

    I made this account just to point out how stupid Channing Tatum being cast as Gambit is. First of all, he is way to bulky. Gambit is always slim and tall. Second is I doubt he would be able to pull off the hair.I don't know if he can pull off the accent, but if he can then that's the only good thing I see.They are just putting big name stars without even considering if actors closer to the actual characters would do better.I'm quite sure there are MUCH closer choices they could have made.Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was spot on, and some of the other x-men too, but this is pushing it.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2014, at 2:11 PM, constructingdave wrote:

    if Jackman has an 8-film contract, and X-Men: First Class did not count towards that, wouldn't he have 2 films left?

    X-Men 1 - 3, the 2 stand-alone Wolverine films, and Days of Future Past...that's 6 films. Am I missing another one?

    and by the way, I disagree with the idea of using the First Class cast in Apocalypse. the present-day cast is much better. I wonder if that means that a lot of present-day cast (Storm, Magneto, Prof. X, etc.) get killed off in Days of Future Past...

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2014, at 2:57 PM, HerbieJPilato wrote:

    The only true leader of the X-Men is Cyclops....but his character failed on screen because the actor playing him (James Marden) just didn't cut it. So, instead of replacing the actor they dumped the character.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2014, at 5:29 PM, GeekMonster2001 wrote:

    Like Howaboutno, I also created an account just to respond. That's how strongly I feel about this, and I'm never that critical about Comic Book Movies, though it is my favorite genre.

    Channing Tatum is a horrible choice for Gambit. I'm certain he could pull-off the look, but what made Gambit my favorite member of the X-Men was his charisma (sidenote: I was introduced to X-Men via the animated series).

    I just can't imagine Tatum with a Cajun accent, and that's the most important part of the character (aside from his mannerism). I feel it may seem forced. Did Taylor Kitch even have an accent? I don't recall, but I wasn't too impressed with his portrayal, though the entire movie wasn't too great to begin with.

    Furthermore, I'm not too crazy about Singer's handling of the franchise (the ones he directed). I just feel they lack a certain edge, but I still look forward to DOFP (maybe it'll change my mind).

    Anyway, I'd have to see Tatum's audition to convince me. Gambit is more than a look.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2014, at 10:22 PM, JCWilkerson wrote:

    Someone said that Taylor Kitsch nailed Gambit, but to nail the role wouldn't you have to speak in a Cajun accent? Kitsch was speaking with a Texan drawl, it didn't work. Meanwhile Tatum grew up in the bayou and is very familiar with the accent, his father having been raised in Louisiana. Tatum spent a lot of time there, he was raised more in Mississippi where the accent can still be heard quite often.

    In response to someone else, they didn't cut Cyclops because the portrayal didn't work, they cut Cyclops because Marsden wanted to follow Singer to Superman Returns and Halle Berry was demanding more screen time having just come off of an Oscar win.

    I think the purpose of Days of Future Past is to wipe out the original X-Men films. The characters won't be dead per se, but they will be able to introduce new versions of the other characters and their origins with X-Men, therefore requiring younger actors, especially since they're now being set in earlier time periods.

    Also, it seems that Jackman is set for The Wolverine 3 and X-Men: Apocalypse as word is now that they were shoot back to back.

  • Report this Comment On May 21, 2014, at 3:56 AM, Trashboy4p wrote:

    @RobinFL777: How did Taylor play Gambit to a T? I've only seen the film once, but I remember being very disappointed in his portrayal in the character. I also don't remember him doing the Cajun accent at all and that's a very big part of Gambit's charm. Gambit is by far my favorite comic book character ever, I was introduced to him by the early 90s animated series, and loved him ever since. I don't think Channing is that bad of a choice really. I've read that he's always wanted to play Gambit and has even been practicing the accent for the role. And if being too big is a problem, you know they do this thing called slimming down, right? Actors do it all the time for a role, plus Hugh Jackman is apparently too tall for Wolverine but still made it work. And I wouldn't count Tatum out just yet, remember Heath Ledger? Yeah, people hated the idea of the gay cowboy playing The Joker and now he's regarded as one of the best Jokers ever, but I'm not one of them, that honor goes to Jack Nicholson. The one thing I am upset over is that we may not get the Gambit / Rogue love story, since she appeared in the original trilogy and this Gambit takes place before her story. Basically they used Ice Man in the original films for that role. :(

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John Casteele

John Casteele is a freelance writer, editor, and occasional web cartoonist. He prefers long-term investments, largely in retail, medical, and tech.

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