Rupert Wyatt

Fox’s ‘Gambit’ isn’t having the best of luck getting made.  The studio pounced when ‘Magic Mike’ star Channing Tatum expressed interest in playing the character– who falls under the ‘X-Men’ umbrella of characters, which Fox has on license from Marvel Comics.  With a big name star attached, things looked smooth enough for the studio to lock in an October 7, 2016 release date, but for some reason, Fox can’t find a director willing to take on what, on the surface, looks like a guaranteed hit.

1GambitThe one director who was set to helm the project was ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’Rupert Wyatt, who had previously impressed with the low-budget ‘The Escapist’.  But even after making an appearance at SDCC to drum up awareness of ‘Gambit’, Wyatt dropped out siting scheduling conflicts.  However after a bit of time has passed, Wyatt doesn’t seem to actually have a new film in the works that would conflict with ‘Gambit’.  So is there another reason why he cut ties?

It would appear so, at least if one looks at his history.

An unnamed top executive said about Wyatt:

“I think he’s a very principled guy. He wants to make the best version of something, and he’s so desperately afraid of making something not good that it’s easier to walk away than be pushed by committee.”

Supposedly, it was this committee thinking that sank ‘Fantastic Four’ another Fox comic book movie headed by a director with a unique vision, Josh Trank, but who was unaccustomed to dealing with the studio system.

Photo credit: Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com
Photo credit: Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com

It was lack of commonality that led to Wyatt walking away from ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’… twice.  This was after his ‘Rise of…’ grossed $481.8M worldwide.  Still, for whatever reason, Fox rejected Wyatt’s script causing him to reject the sequel altogether.  He similarly exited an untitled bio pic based on the life of Soviet defector Alexander Litvinenko, which had Michael Fassbender attached to star, ‘Agent 13’ with Charlize Theron and ‘The Equalizer’ with Denzel Washington; the last of which, which ended up being directed by Antoine Fuqua, grossed $192.3M.

Instead, Wyatt made ‘The Gambler’ with Mark Wahlberg for Paramount, which only managed $39.2M.  Despite this, Paramount has partnered with him again to make the movie ‘Goliath’ based on a script he wrote.

Wyatt’s agent, Brian Swardstrom seemed to back up the idea that the split from ‘Gambit’ was over artistic clashes with Fox, stating:

 “It’s not necessarily acrimonious.  The studios, with these big movies, have very specific visions of what they want. They don’t necessarily want an auteur who’s going to try to reinvent the franchise. Of course the studios would love it if a director did what they want, when they want, but it doesn’t always work out.”

Fantastic Four‘Fantastic Four’ can’t really be used as an example, as it’s nearly impossible at this point to say what aspects of that film were the fault of opinionated director Trank, whose behavior on the set has been reported as being withdrawn and volatile, and which were due to Fox’s heavy-handed demands– although it seems unanimous that the incongruous, tacked-on ending was the result of Fox’s tampering.

But perhaps Fox should use that flop as a cautionary tale.  Either pick a director with a clear vision and trust them to make the movie they want or a stooge that will follow studio edicts.  You can’t choose someone with bright ideas only to squash them and exert committee rules and expect a coherent end product, no matter how much money the studio is putting up.

At any rate, perhaps it’s best for both parties that Wyatt bowed out.

What do you think?  Should a director of a big-budget super hero movie be prepared to work under extreme studio restraints, because that’s just the nature of these products?  Or should studios trust their chosen directors with their artistic vision?  Is ‘Gambit’ even going to happen at this point?  Or should this project be shelved?

At any rate, ‘Gambit’ starring Channing Tatum with Lea Seydoux (as Belladonna Boudreaux) is still set to open on October 7, 2016, provided the film finds a director and starts filming soon.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter