The original live-action X-Men movie came out two decades ago, but it's effects continue to be felt in modern comic book movies. In an interview with SYFY WIRE, one of the producers of the film, Ralph Winter, talked about his time spent on the project, revealing that fan-favorite X-Men member Gambit almost showed up in the very first movie itself of the long-running franchise.
"There was a long development process before I came on board. I came on board about six months into it. Everything was relatively in shape. We had to jettison some things... the Danger Room, other characters, Gambit... it was all favorite characters everyone had jammed in."
Since the film creators were mining from decades of X-Men comics, everyone had ideas for who the core team should consist of. With the character of Rogue in many ways being the center of the plot of the first X-Men movie, it seems like a no-brainer to also include her established love interest Gambit. But Winter believes the film needed to be extremely economical in sticking to introducing as few team members as possible to give time to the rest of the plot.
"In the beginning, it's hard to narrow the course so that you have enough characters to make it interesting, but not too many that you can't spend time introducing every character, every character's power, and every character's journey in the first installment... without making it boring. Even the large number we had was right on the edge of spending too much time setting them all up."
"They did a good job of introducing new characters as each movie came after that. We weren't thinking of multiple movies necessarily. We were just trying to get the first one out, make it successful and do it for the price point."
While Beast and Nightcrawler appeared in several subsequent X-Men movies, Gambit was not as lucky. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the only film in the franchise to feature a cameo by the mutant superhero, and the bad reputation the project garnered upon release put a huge damper on any new movies the character could have appeared in.
That is not to say there is no audience interest in seeing Gambit in a live-action movie. In fact, all the way back in 2014, a standalone Gambit film was in development with Channing Tatum set to play the lead role. Unfortunately, the project was stuck in development hell for many years, and Disney officially canceled the movie in 2019 after acquiring the rights to the X-Men.
For his part, although Winter feels like the first X-Men film had to navigate a difficult path in terms of appealing to general audiences while also catering to hardcore fans who wanted to see their favorite X-Men on the big screen in traditional uniforms, he is ultimately satisfied with what they were able to pull off.
"I think it holds up. It does age a little bit in terms of some of the stuff that's there. I look at some of the things we pulled off, like Magneto and the cops. Some of that worked out really well. Some sequences could be better. On a whole, it feels pretty good as a starting movie. I feel better about X-Men 2. We had a bigger budget. We had more flexibility. A second time with the same director, crew, and cast, you can speed along. You know what people's strengths are and you can play to those. But it plays OK. I'm proud of X-Men. Happy to have my name on it."
These latest revelations come from Syfy.com.