While talking about Legion during a panel at the Television Critics Association on Monday, executive producer Lauren Shuler Donner discussed the importance of varying the tone within the X-Men franchise. She recalled worrying things would be stale after X-Men: The Last Stand and encouraged the change of tone in spinoffs like The Wolverine, X-Men: First Class and Deadpool. Then she made an interesting comment. “Gambit was going to be a heist film.”
The project, officially still on the books with actor Channing Tatum set to star as mutant card player Remy LeBeau, was intended to begin production several years ago. Following a series of directors departing the film for various reasons, the project butted up against an unofficial, but apparently real termination date: the transfer of the X-Men property to Marvel Studios following the closer of 20th Century Fox’s merger with Disney. At this point, the merger is expected to close in June, right around the time Fox’s final X-Men movies, X-Men: Dark Phoenix and New Mutants are set for release. After that, the future of the X-Men is up to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.
At least, that is what Shuler Donner told Slashfilm after the Legion panel. “[Kevin’s] got a great ability to weave each world and weave those worlds together. I trust him and I trust that he will take care of the X-Men,” she said of the executive who worked for her on the first X-Men film. But in terms of an ambitious plan to spread the X-Men universe out across three film a year, she said that idea is “up to Disney.”
“The problem is you can’t have too many Marvel, X-Men superhero movies out there because we will cancel each other out,” she explained. At one point, Fox planned to produce films based on Gambit, X-Force, a “fourth” Deadpool, and a project based around a specific issue of Uncanny X-Men featuring fan-favorite character Kitty Pryde (played by Ellen Page in The Last Stand and X-Men: Days of Future Past). The tone of Shuler Donner’s comments suggest that this plan is extremely unlikely as X-Men films becomes Marvel Studios productions and must fit their production schedule. Nonetheless, she hopes films like Gambit will emerge someday.
At the same time, the Fox plan always seemed in danger of committing to the dilution problem Shuler Donner always feared. Which means Marvel taking control of the X-Men characters may be for the best. And in the case of Gambit, a project mired in creative difficulties, the only good outcome.