If you’re like me, when you think of the comic book character Gambit the first phrase to pop into your head is, “My cherie,” since that was practically his catchphrase on X-Men: The Animated Series, snuck into just about any conversation he had with Rogue. Well, that same guy probably just got his own solo movie, X-Men film producer Lauren Shuler-Donner letting it slip on the Days of Future Past red carpet that Channing Tatum has been cast as Gambit.
Tatum has long since coveted the role, originally auditioning to play Gambit in X-Men: The Last Stand before the role was cut from the film, and re-iterating last month that he “would die to play” the role. Shuler-Donner told Total Film why she thought Tatum was the perfect casting choice:
“He’s a rogue, Channing, he’s a rascal just like Remy Lebeau. And he can handle the action, we all know that. And he’s got a really good heart, ‘cause I know him personally, I did a movie with him. So I think he’ll be great, he’ll be great for Gambit. And he’s a Southerner, too. He’s not from New Orleans, but he is a Southerner, he understands that world, and you know Gambit loves New Orleans.”
To this point, Gambit has been pitched as anchoring his own solo film, and it appears as if that’s what Tatum has been cast to do, although it could also mean some kind of appearance in Days of Future Past sequel X-Men: Apocalypse. Based upon Fox’ previously announced release dates for their Marvel films, the only one which was not specific to an individual film is in 2018, which most had predicted would be reserved for an X-Men/Fantastic Four cross-over film. However, with recent comments from Days of Future Past producer/writer Simon Kinberg indicating the X-Men/Fantastic Four films will not share a cinematic universe, and now this news about Tatum as Gambit it would seem 2018 is being reserved for a Gambit movie. That seems pretty far down the road, though, doesn’t it?
However, to many this might simply propose one obvious question: who the heck is Gambit?
Real name Remy Lebeau, Gambit is a mutant who has the ability to control and manipulate potential and kinetic energy, which usually manifests in the form of throwing playing cards which his mutant ability supercharges into deadly weapons. He’s actually only been around since 1990 meaning that for us non-comic book readers who first saw him in X-Men: The Animated Series in 1992 he was practically a brand new character in the comics at that point. Personally, since X-Men: The Animated Series was my first point of exposure to Gambit I always think of him with that thick Cajun accent, bright, bright costume, and always hitting on sometimes receptive, other times annoyed Rogue.
Ranked the 65th Best Comic Book Hero of All Time by IGN, Gambit’s background in the comics is as an orphan growing up in New Orleans, being first raised by an ancient clan of thieves and then a more Oliver-like mob of street thieves named Fagan’s Army, teaching Gambit how to be a pick-pocket. He was passed around like that for a while until eventually the warring factions of thieves turned on him, banishing him from New Orleans. He fell into mercenary work for the villain Mr. Sinister before wandering the world and encountering Storm, whose life he saved repeatedly and thus served as his ticket into the X-Men.
As a member of the X-Men team, Gambit was initially most notable for the surprise return of his estranged wife Bella Donna, whom he had previously married in a failed effort to appease his enemies in New Orleans, and his relentless romantic pursuit of Rogue. In fact, although the various animated series to feature Gambit have carried over his romantic connection to Rogue the live action films have yet to do so even though the two are arguably the most popular or at least consistent romantic pairing in X-Men comic book history, second to only Cyclops and Jean Grey. Even after Gambit was exiled from the X-Men after the treachery of his prior mercenary work for Mr. Sinister came to light, both his love for Rogue and her’s for him persisted.
From that point forward, Gambit’s history gets around as convoluted as you’d expect from a moderately long-running comic book character. He re-joins the X-Men, even takes charge of his own splinter squad, loses his powers and eyesight, gets falsely accused of being a traitor, and has a generally topsy-turvy relationship with Rogue, the two existing like comic book version of Ned the Piemaker and Chuck on Pushing Daisies in that they cannot really express physical intimacy due to her powers. He even tries to pawn her off on Wolverine at one point, ala Rogue’s crush on him in the films.
The fun to be had with Gambit is that his devil-may-care attitude provides for plenty of comedy while also masking a deeper soul. He’s been one of the characters fans were clamoring to see on film, and unfortunately when it finally happened it ended up looking like this from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with Taylor Kitsch (John Carter) brandishing the cards, fancy stick, and Cajun drawl:
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a truly atrocious film, but that moment in the clip where Wolverine knocks Gambit out while he’s in the middle of a big speech? Genuinely funny, though not exactly setting Gambit up as a character we’re supposed to take seriously. Similar to what Sony is doing with their forthcoming Venom film, Fox is just going to pretend the whole Kitsch as Gambit thing never happened, and the Channing Tatum project will be a re-do.
Now that we know a bit more about Gambit, does this sound like it could be an interesting film? Or is there really a way to make Gambit substantially more interesting than the Taylor Kitsch version? Strike that – they can make the character better, sure, but can he carry his own movie, especially one which will potentially not feature Rogue at all unless a) Anna Paquin is inolved or b) they’re re-casting that role, too? The Wolverine proved that a comic book movie can really be just a quiet character study building to a big finish, and a Gambit film could be similar. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.