Just three months after signing on to direct 20th Century Fox's highly-anticipated superhero spinoff Gambit, filmmaker Rupert Wyatt backed out of the project two weeks ago. The departure was attributed to a shift in the Gambit production schedule, which was supposed to begin in November, but was then changed to March 2016, which reportedly conflicted with an unspecified project. Today, The Hollywood Reporter claims that the split happened because 20th Century Fox started questioning whether or not the filmmaker was truly committed to the project.
Ironically, just weeks before Rupert Wyatt signed on this past June, a report surfaced that actor/producer Channing Tatum was having trouble finding a director for Gambit. He reportedly approached his Foxcatcher director Bennett Miller, along with Darren Aronofsky (Noah), Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption) and J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year). All of those filmmakers passed on the project. But even after Rupert Wyatt signed on, there were signs of trouble. A rumor from July claimed that Channing Tatum was getting ready to walk away from the movie altogether, because his deal was falling apart. Just a few days later, the actor finalized his deal, which includes appearances in future X-Men movies.
After Rupert Wyatt's directorial debut The Escapist, a little-seen indie that grossed just $388,000 worldwide, the filmmaker was entrusted with the massive film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which became an international hit to the tune of $481.8 million worldwide. The director's meteoric rise helped start a trend of Hollywood giving massive properties to filmmakers without experience working within the studio system. Unproven filmmakers such as Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) were plucked from obscurity to deliver massive blockbusters, but this practice can also backfire, as proven with Josh Trank (Fantastic Four).
In between that project and his eventual follow-up The Gambler, Rupert Wyatt passed on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, an untitled Warner Bros. project about Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian secret service agent who defected from the country, and The Equalizer. Some in the industry are questioning whether or not Rupert Wyatt has the skills (or the desire) necessary to navigate the studio system. The filmmaker reportedly wanted to re-conceive the entire world that Gambit inhabits, but those ideas weren't well-received by the studio and producers alike, which include Channing Tatum and Simon Kinberg. The Hollywood Reporter claims that on Gambit (and the other projects he's left), the filmmaker couldn't convince the studio to embrace his vision, causing anxiety to mount and, eventually, the director parting ways. Here's what the director's agent, UTA's Brian Swardstrom, had to say about his client's tendency to leave projects.
"It's not necessarily acrimonious. The studios, with these big movies, have very specific visions of what they want. They don't necessarily want an auteur who's going to try to reinvent the franchise. Of course the studios would love it if a director did what they want, when they want, but it doesn't always work out. Many have ended up in director's jail when they didn't walk away, and perhaps they should have."
Channing Tatum remains committed to Gambit, and is currently trying to find a new filmmaker in hopes of making the October 7, 2016 release date. Rupert Wyatt is currently developing a project entitled Goliath at Paramount Pictures, based on a script that he wrote himself. We'll keep you posted if Gambit manages to find a director soon, but until then, what do you think about Rupert Wyatt leaving Gambit?