Channing Tatum Was So ‘Traumatized’ by Not Playing Gambit That He Can’t Watch Marvel Movies: ‘It Was Just Too Sad’

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In this week’s Variety cover story, Channing Tatum talks about the road to co-directing his first movie, “Dog,” with his longtime producer partner Reid Carolin.

But before he came up with the idea for the MGM indie (which opens on Feb. 18), Tatum and Carolin spent four years developing “Gambit,” a raunchy stand-alone movie based on the “X-Men” mutant.

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The superhero project was set up at Twentieth Century Fox in 2016, and Tatum and Carolin had lobbied to share the director’s chair. “The studio really didn’t want us to direct it,” Tatum says. “They wanted anybody but us, essentially, because we had never directed anything.”

Tatum was so in love with the script that he’d written with Carolin that he was open to letting go of directing. Speaking about it now, Tatum still defends the character as if he were a real person. “They would call him ‘flamboyant’ in his description,” Tatum says. “I wouldn’t — he was just the coolest person. He could pull anything off. Most superheroes, their outfits are utilitarian. Batman’s got his belt. Gambit’s like, ‘No, this shit’s just fly, bro! This shit walked down the Paris runway last year.’ He’s just wearing the stuff that’s so dope because he loves fashion.”

Their version of “Gambit” resembled the tone of “Deadpool” and would have been rated R. “We wanted to make a romantic comedy superhero movie,” Carolin says. “The thesis was the only thing harder than saving the world is making a relationship work.”

Carolin notes just how close they got. “We were right on the one-yard line,” he says. “We had cast the film. We’d opened up a production office. We were on our way to shoot in New Orleans.”

But after Disney merged with Fox, “Gambit” became a casualty of the corporate takeover in 2019. “Disney had just gotten the ‘X-Men’ from Fox,” Carolin explains. “I think they needed to redesign the ‘X-Men’ from the ground up.”

Tatum was devastated when the movie fell apart. “Once ‘Gambit’ went away, I was so traumatized,” Tatum says, adding that he swore off watching the Avengers. “I shut off my Marvel machine. I haven’t been able to see any of the movies. I loved that character. It was just too sad. It was like losing a friend because I was so ready to play him.”

“I wish they would reconsider, because it’s a pretty great project,” Carolin says. “Maybe someday.”

Tatum says he’d still portray the mutant if given the chance: “Uh, yeah, I would love to play Gambit. I don’t think we should direct it. I think that was hubris on our part.”

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