Gore Verbinski has abruptly exited as the director of 20th Century Fox’s superhero movie Gambit just two months before production was slated to start in New Orleans, the Tracking Board has confirmed.
Channing Tatum remains attached to star as the comic book character — a New Orleans thief with the ability to turn anything he touches into a weapon — and Lizzy Caplan had been in talks for the female lead, though a new director may wish to recast the role if her deal isn’t closed yet.
Deadline broke the news, citing “scheduling issues with several other projects on the director’s plate,” though those projects weren’t specified, and as far as I can tell, Verbinski doesn’t have anything imminently heading into production. His last film, A Cure for Wellness, grossed just $26 million worldwide on a reported production budget of $40 million, not including P&A.
Now, last we heard, the Gambit script was being rewritten to make it “more New Orleans.” It’s possible that rewrite played a role in Verbinski’s exit, but that’s just one of several explanations. It’s possible that the issue really could’ve been “scheduling,” though if you’re directing a big-budget movie like Gambit, you’d think you’d block off a year-or-so of your schedule. It’s also possible that Disney’s looming acquisition of 20th Century Fox and thus, Gambit, could’ve played a part in the decision, especially given Disney’s strong relationship with Verbinski thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Of course, Verbinski is just the latest director to leave the project stranded, following Rupert Wyatt and Doug Liman in 2015 and 2016, respectively, so this doesn’t necessarily reflect that poorly on him.
At this point, Tatum should just direct Gambit himself in order to push his passion project through the studio system and keep everything on track for a March production start. After all, Tatum is producing this with his Free Association partner Reid Carolin, Lauren Shuler Donner, and Simon Kinberg, so he has a bit more say than he normally would, and I’m sure the storyboards are already finished. I’m hardly saying directing is easy, but we’ve underestimated Tatum his entire career. He just might be able to pull this off, and he’s also been looking to get behind the camera, developing potential directorial debuts such as Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and The Son. And finally, ask yourselves: Does it really matter who directs this movie? I’m not so sure it does.
As for Gambit, Josh Zetumer wrote the script, and Fox has already assigned the movie a release date of Feb. 14, 2019. At this point, that isn’t expected to change, but stay tuned.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief