Fox’s X-Men franchise is unique amongst most of the other superhero movie franchises in that its current incarnation has been a pretty mixed bag, but it still keeps on going without experiencing a reboot. Other franchises like the Fantastic Four movies or Daredevil and its spinoff were terrible from the start, and were put to bed pretty quickly. Or, all of the movies tied into the current Avengers universe are pretty good, so they seem like they’re going to go on forever. Heck, all it took was one stinker in the Spider-Man franchise for it to go from being a huge money-maker to a new series that was rebooted with a completely new cast and a completely new filmmaking team.
The X-Men movies have been going ever since 2000 though, with legitimately good movies and real stinkers right next to each other in its catalogue. It seemed for a minute like 2011’s X-Men: First Class was going to finally be a clean restart for the Marvel-created mutants, after a decade of cinematic ups and downs, but by now it’s clear that director Bryan Singer’s upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past is going to be linking that movie into the first franchise, in order to create one big, weird family of movies that it’s always hard to anticipate the quality of.
Channing Tatum’s acting career, similar to the X-Men movie franchise, has also seen its share of ups and downs. When his name first started to become known, he was vilified as being awkward and terrible, kind of like X-Men: The Last Stand, but then he reached a period where everybody thought he was actually pretty good and showed even greater potential for the future, kind of like X2. How’s Tatum’s next performance going to be received? Is it going to be wooden and awkward, like when he played Duke in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, or is it going to be laid back and endearing, like when he played Duke in G.I. Joe: Retaliation? It’s hard to tell, and now that it looks like he’s going to be getting into bed with the X-Men movie franchise, things are bound to get even more confusing.
There have been some rumblings that Tatum might be being looked at to play the character of Gambit in one of Fox’s upcoming mutant movies before, but in the newest issue of Empire, X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner has confirmed that not only has the idea of Tatum as Gambit been tossed around, but it seems like something that all parties involved are super-enthusiastic about actually making happen. “I’m dying to do a Gambit movie with Channing Tatum,” Shuler Donner told the mag. “That doesn’t have to be a great big movie. It’s a thief in New Orleans, it’s a whole different story. He’s on board, and I have to get the studio on board. How can anyone resist Channing? He’s such a sweetheart.”
While it makes sense that Fox is looking to do as many different projects as it can with their X-Men franchise, seeing as how Marvel has been able to do so much with their ancillary Avengers characters, Shuler Donner might do well to remember that pretty much everyone was able to resist the charms of Tatum, for a lot of years, and it was only when filmmakers finally figured out how to start utilizing his strengths that he became a hit with audiences and critics alike. Keeping that in mind, is the X-Men’s resident Cajun thief, Remy LeBeau, really the right character to use to tap into Tatum’s bag of tricks?
Gambit, as he’s always been depicted in the comic books, is a mysterious and persecuted loner. He was raised in an inclusive Louisiana community of thieves, he’s considered a freak of nature by society at large, but he’s able to navigate this hostile world through a scruffy charm and a grifter’s outlook. Despite the fact that he’s most famous for being part of a team, Gambit is at his core an outsider. He’s a lone wolf who never fully trusts anyone and who never fully gives anyone any reason to trust him. Plus, he has long hair. Like, really long hair. And a constant beard scruff.
Does this sound like the sort of character who Tatum could believably play? At least one person thinks so, and that’s the man himself. As Empire points out, during a press conference for White House Down last year, he was quoted as saying, “I would like to play Gambit. Gambit’s my favourite. I’m from New Orleans, around that area. My dad’s from New Orleans, and I like to do a Cajun accent. I could do it for real.” He then clarified, “No knock on Taylor Kitsch, though, ’cause I actually like his Gambit, but I’ve always lived around Cajun people. Gambit was always like the woman-loving, cigarette-smoking, drinking guy. He was the punk rock of all the superheroes. He’s a thief. He kind of rode the line.”
Tatum is, of course, referring to the fact that Kitsch has already appeared on film as the Gambit character in the absolutely abysmal X-Men: Origins – Wolverine. One would have to think that if a Gambit solo movie were made, it would have little to nothing to do with what was established there. Still though, one can easily see why Kitsch was originally cast as the character. First off, he just looks incredibly dreamy with long hair and scruff. And secondly, he already had quite a bit of success charming audiences while playing a brooding bad boy in Friday Night Lights. If the material he was working with wasn’t so bad, then Kitsch could have possibly made for an exceptional mutant thief.
Tatum though, he seems on paper to be just about the opposite of the actor that Fox should be looking for to play this character. Gambit is always serious and sad, and Tatum didn’t start seeing any real success until he started being goofy and having fun on the screen. Gambit is a loner who’s always going off on his own, and Tatum is an actor who’s seen his biggest creative successes come from projects where he got to pal around and create comedic chemistry with actors like Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street), The Rock (GI Joe: Retaliation), and Jamie Foxx (White House Down). Plus, Gambit is a scruffy-looking thief who smokes, wears a trench coat, and is constantly shuffling cards. Tatum couldn’t even pull off playing a fedora-wearing music fan in The Vow. This is a guy who hits home runs when he’s playing the affable frat boy with a heart of gold, not the mysterious serious guy (let’s all try to forget Dear John). Just gander at that header image and take in what he looks like with long hair!
That’s not to say that a Tatum-starring Gambit movie is sure to be doomed though. The most nuance we’ve seen from the actor so far probably came from his role in Magic Mike, and though that character was certainly clean cut, he was something of a bad boy. Take some of that attitude and mix in Tatum’s apparently famous Cajun accent and maybe you have something? He’s surprised us before, so if he gets paired with the right script and the right director there’s no reason to think that he couldn’t do so again.
Still though, comic book fans are probably just about the most finicky group of people out there. If Tatum gets cast as Gambit and is anything less than great in the role, he’s likely to have an Internet revolt on his hands, and after he worked so hard to dig himself out of that early-career hole where everyone thought that he was just a talentless set of abs, it would be a shame to see him make a misstep that put him right back in the position of being the butt of everyone’s jokes. Yeah, comic book movies are really hot right now, but with the hit or miss track record of the X-Men franchise, and with what an acting challenge playing an acrobatic, Cajun-accented thief would be, maybe Tatum would be better off just staying away from this one? Perhaps he can wait to be the new Daredevil or something, when Marvel starts casting that character’s new series. The guy looks great in a suit, after all, and if McConaughey and Harrelson are good with doing series work over on HBO, then that door is probably now open to just about anybody, no matter how big of a movie star they happen to be.