EXCLUSIVE: Jon Watts has withdrawn as the director of Fantastic Four, the reinvention of the venerable Marvel Comics series at Marvel Studios and Disney. Watts just directed Spider-Man: No Way Home, the Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios film that grossed $1.89 billion to become the sixth highest-grossing film of all time.
Nothing sinister here; Watts just needs a break from the superhero realm after completing the Spidey trilogy with Tom Holland and Zendaya. He had expected to make Fantastic Four his next film, the third feature iteration of that franchise and first since Disney acquired Fox, which controlled the franchise. Watts has spent the better part of the last decade directing and promoting the Spider-Man films, after being hired off Cop Car, a small-budget indie thriller that premiered at 2015 Sundance. He needs a breather.
Both Watts and Marvel confirmed his exit, and said that it is amicable.
Said Kevin Feige, president, Marvel Studios and Louis D’Esposito, co-president, Marvel Studios: “Collaborating with Jon on the Spider-Man films has been a true pleasure. We were looking forward to continuing our work with him to bring the Fantastic Four into the MCU but understand and are supportive of his reasons for stepping away. We are optimistic that we will have the opportunity to work together again at some point down the road.”
Watts said that “Making three Spider-Man films was an incredible and life-changing experience for me. I’m eternally grateful to have been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for seven years. I’m hopeful we’ll work together again and I can’t wait to see the amazing vision for Fantastic Four brought to life.”
Sony and its Spider-Man producers have made it clear they expect to reunite Watts with Holland and Zendaya to continue the series. Watts hasn’t officially dropped out of that franchise, but if it were to happen, it does sound like it would be down the road.
Watts has another strong project that might become his next outing as a director. Last September, Apple Studios won a brisk auction for an untitled film Watts will write and direct, with George Clooney and Brad Pitt playing rival “fixers” who find themselves simultaneously hired for the same job. That film’s deal calls for Apple to give the film a robust theatrical release before it hits Apple TV+. Watts is producing that film with Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures and Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment.
Watts is repped by CAA and attorney Gregory Slewett.