2015 has been a shaky year for Gambit. Although Channing Tatum signed on as the card-throwing protagonist last year, his involvement with the movie was briefly in jeopardy for a few weeks until he signed a new deal with 20th Century Fox. Unfortunately, now the film is dealing with the loss of director Rupert Wyatt. Although Wyatt’s departure was originally attributed to a scheduling conflict, it seems other issues may have actually been at fault.
According to THR, Wyatt’s exit was the result of the studio wondering if he really was committed to Gambit, with an insider telling them, “Ambivalence is not a good way to go into an expensive movie.” According to an unnamed executive that THR spoke with:
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.
Wyatt signed on to Gambit this past June, but it was noted in the article that he originally turned down the offer to direct. However, after he had joined the party, things started to dip. This wasn’t the same situation that Fox had with Josh Trank, who was said to be distant and isolated while directing Fantastic Four. By all accounts, Wyatt was communicative and had big ideas. Instead, the problem was that because the studio wasn’t receptive to his complete creative vision for Gambit, so he decided to leave.
This isn’t the first project that Wyatt has dropped out of in recent years. Following his directorial debut in 2008’s The Escapist and helming 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he was set to work on a film about Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, but jumpd ship. Other projects he’s left include the still-unreleased Agent 13, The Equalizer, and and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. His most recent film was The Gambler, starring Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman, and now he’s said to be developing Goliath.
If this account is true, it’s not surprising. Superhero films are based on source material that’s been around for decades, so there are always base guidelines that need to be followed. On top of that, studios already have a broad vision on what they want said superhero movie to look like, and with Fox building an X-Men cinematic universe, they’re keen on making sure everything aligns the way they seem fit. So it sounds like with Gambit, leaving may have been the right choice, as it allowed Wyatt to not compromise his own artistic ideas rather than go along with most (or all) of what the studio wanted.
Fox is still looking for someone to fill Rupert Wyatt’s now vacant chair, but if they don’t find someone soon, then production may have to be delayed, meaning that Gambit will likely move from its original October 7, 2016 release date to sometime in 2017 or later.