Talk about the Never-Weres that got away: Channing Tatum spent a decade trying to get a Gambit movie off the ground at 20th Century Fox, only to see the card-throwing Cajun mutant absorbed back into Marvel Studios when the Walt Disney Company purchased the former owner of the X-Men franchise. In a recent interview with Variety, Tatum described how that experience left him "traumatized," to the point where he can't bring himself to watch any of Marvel's record-breaking superhero blockbusters. But the actor isn't ruling out making his own appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe ... as Gambit, of course.
"We would absolutely revisit it," Tatum tells Yahoo Entertainment while chatting about his new movie, Dog, which opens in theaters on Feb. 18. "Hopefully we get to have a shot if they ever make it, or if they ever put Gambit in one of the other movies, I would love to have a shot at it — I would even audition. Fingers crossed, I hope someone hears this and it gets across."
Gambit was — and still is — a passion project for Tatum, one that grew out of his childhood love for the kinetic energy-manipulating Remy LeBeau, who made his Marvel Comics debut in 1986, when the Alabama-born actor was six years old. "I had his comics," he recalls. "I didn't have any other ones. He was just mine."
Tatum's big-screen history with Gambit dates back to 2006 when the breakout Step Up star was picked to play Remy in X-Men: The Last Stand, the last film in the original X-Men trilogy. The character was ultimately written out of that script, and his live-action debut was pushed to 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. By that time, though, Tatum was headlining the nascent G.I. Joe franchise, and the role passed to Taylor Kitsch instead. When that fan-derided movie crashed and burned at the box office, though, X-Men producers recruited a still-game Tatum to develop a solo Gambit vehicle.
Working with his frequent collaborator, Reid Carolin, Tatum developed various drafts of the film and flirted with such big-name directors as Rupert Wyatt, Doug Liman and Gore Verbinski to assume behind-the-camera duties. Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment at San Diego Comic-Con in 2017, the actor revealed that part of the delay was due to the creative team and the studio trying to decide on the right tone (and rating) for the film, especially in the wake of Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman striking box-office gold with the R-rated Deadpool and Logan respectively.
"We got really lucky. We had a first draft it was good," Tatum said then. "But we were coming to it at a time at that creative phase of [the X-Men], where these movies went through a bit of a paradigm shift, where the X-Men movies and the superhero movies with Logan and Deadpool really broke down a lot of doors for us. We were trying to do some things that we actually weren’t allowed to do, and they just smashed down the doors, so we’re giving it a bit of a rethink. ... I enjoyed Gambit as a kid so I don't want to rule out PG-13."
Gambit came close to escaping development hell in early 2018, when shooting was scheduled to begin in the character's hometown of New Orleans. But those plans were scuttled by Verbinski's departure from the film, not to mention the already-announced Disney/Fox merger. Tatum confirms that those behind-the-scenes issues ultimately wrested the movie out of his hands.
"It kind of got sucked up into Big Marvel," he explains now. "I do have to say, I don't think it fits into the Marvel [mold]. We were kind of tailoring it to kind of more fit into the Deadpool world, and I think they were like, 'We don't know where this goes.' I think they needed a minute."
While Marvel takes that minute to ponder Gambit's future, Tatum is already moving on to his next project. Next month, he's flying to London to start stripping for the third installment in the Magic Mike franchise for returning director, Steven Soderbergh. "It's gonna be crazy," he promises. "The gloves are coming off in this one, and it's going to be almost unrecognizable from the other two movies in a great way."
In a neat bit of timing, Magic Mike 3 is going into production exactly ten years after the first film became a breakout summer hit in 2012. That movie features its own version of a superhero origin story with the sequence where Tatum reveals his stripper prowess to the tune of "It's Raining Men." And he says that choice of song was once again inspired by his own past. "That song was used in the opening number of when I was actually stripping," he remembers. "In the movie, we were trying to make it cooler than what it was in real life. It was probably traumatizing more than it was cool!"
Dog premieres Feb. 18 in theaters