While many in Hollywood are having trouble finding work these days, Bryan Singer’s problem is there is only one of him to go around and everybody wants him. So Singer and 20th Century Fox have formalized his move from director to producer on X-Men: First Class. That is the bad news for X-Men die-hards who love the first two films Singer directed. Here’s the good part: he is leaving because Fox liked the script that Jamie Moss wrote from Singer’s treatment so much that the studio wants the film right away, envisioning it as the first leg of a trilogy. The hope is to have it ready for 2011 release.
Singer will join Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg as producers. He’s not available because Warner Bros and Legendary are locked into a summer production start on Jack the Giant Killer. They’ll begin casting shortly. It is a big CG project, and they are likely to either shoot 3D or convert it later.
Last December, Singer agreed to direct the First Class prequel after the studio sparked to his detailed treatment, with the studio knowing full well Singer would likely make the other movie first. The willingness to wait changed when execs flipped for Moss’s script. He’s now honing the origin story that focuses on Xavier and Magneto and offers similar opportunities that JJ Abrams took advantage of to resuscitate Star Trek.
Fox is short-listing directors and has talked to several. Perhaps sensing the momentum and worried Singer might get booked for First Class passage, Warner Bros and Legendary were quick to lock Singer into an iron-clad deal on Jack the Giant Killer. After all, it was they who got the director to do Superman Returns when Fox didn’t close him fast enough on X-Men 3. That move singed Singer’s relationship with Fox until they kissed and made up with First Class.
Fox hasn’t definitively set this as the next X-Men project, but why replace Singer for any other reason? Fox did get a strong draft of a Wolverine sequel from Christopher McQuarrie, and while there is no director, production could start in the fall when Hugh Jackman is free from the Shawn Levy-directed Real Steel. Fox also has new versions of Marvel Comics franchises Fantastic Four and Daredevil percolating. My bet is First Class starts production in summer or early fall, when Singer will be off slaying giants of his own.