BEVERLY HILLS, California — All week long, we've been chatting up the stars of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and getting the scoop on the razor-clawed old friends and sword-wielding cinematic rookies that fuel the flick. But there's only one name that fans have been shouting ever since the original "X-Men" film began its development: Gambit.
"I remember as a kid seeing him [in the comics]," 28-year-old "Friday Night Lights" actor Taylor Kitsch recalled, explaining his memories of the beloved mutant he finally puts on the silver screen on Friday. "I remember thinking, 'Man, this guy is cool!' and 'He really just doesn't give a sh-- about what other people think!'. And those are two pretty incredible things to play and bring to life."
Ever since the enigmatic Remy Etienne LeBeau was introduced in the pages of "Uncanny X-Men" in 1990, he has ranked among the most popular members of the mutant universe. Born in Louisiana and flavored by some early experiences as a professional thief, he came to be known as Gambit — a term that refers to his ability to maneuver into a position of advantage, both in battle and at games of chance.
"He's been on his own from day one," Kitsch said of the character, who Wolverine seeks out in the film and discovers in a seedy bar. "You're in his element. ... It's a different energy. You've got to remember where he's from — and New Orleans and that upbringing is gonna be a lot different than [Wolverine's in] Canada."
Although "Origins" has to tweak Gambit's backstory for obvious reasons, the film finally gives us many of the Gambit trademarks that fans have begged to see in the three previous "X-Men" movies to no avail — most notably, Gambit's ability to manipulate kinetic energy, which allows him to put enough power into a deck of cards to fly out of his hands and kill a man.
"It was a fun thing to discover how Gambit would deal, how he would shuffle a deck of cards, how he would cut the deck of cards when he's just there playing with you," Kitsch remembered of his unusual training. "I wanted it to be an experience of, like, 'Man, I would murder to be at the same table as that cat!'
"And you see that in the flick — he's there and he's just sunk in his seat, in his element," the actor said of the introduction "X-Men" fans have waited nearly a decade to see — when Wolverine walks into the bar, asks the card player if he is indeed Remy and the man slyly responds, "Do I owe you money?"
"Oh man, yeah! Right there, isn't that just a huge piece of him?" an energetic Kitsch marveled. "With that first line, without even making eye contact, having that hat low, even though that he knows — and he f----in' knows, man — that the stakes are through the roof ... he's still that cool and collected.
"He'll take anything and anyone on," Kitsch said of Gambit. "And I love that part of him."
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