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Aronofsky no longer directing Wolverine sequel

It is a sad day for comic book fans. Of all the upcoming superhero-inspired films coming soon—and there are many—few piqued the interest of fans more than the possibility of Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) directing The Wolverine, the sequel to 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The story was said to be based on Frank Miller’s Wolverine mini-series, which was a fairly dark look at the mutant superhero that redefined the character and propelled him to the front of the Marvel universe.

It was an odd pairing at first glance, but a good one. The film reteamed Aronofsky with Hugh Jackman for the second time, and the film was going to take a hardcore look at the mutant, as he battled samurai in Japan. But in a surprise move, according to a new press release from 20th Century Fox released earlier today, Aronofsky has officially stepped down from the film.

“As I talked more about the film with my collaborators at Fox, it became clear that the production of ‘The Wolverine’ would keep me out of the country for almost a year.” Aronofsky said in the press release. “I was not comfortable being away from my family for that length of time. I am sad that I won’t be able to see the project through, as it is a terrific script and I was very much looking forward to working with my friend, Hugh Jackman, again.”

The timing is extremely odd. Aronofsky originally began negotiating to direct the film back in October of last year, and filming was set to begin this month in New York, before moving over to Japan for the majority of the filming.

“While we are of course disappointed that Darren can’t do ‘The Wolverine’, we also understand and respect his reasons.” The Studio said. “Having done both ‘The Wrestler’ and ‘Black Swan’ with Darren, we know he is an extraordinary talent and we look forward to working with him on other projects in the future. Hugh Jackman and Fox both remain fully committed to making ‘The Wolverine’. We will regroup and move forward aggressively.”

It is hard not to wonder if there are more factors at work. The old “spending more time with the family” excuse is a classic, used by everyone from retiring athletes to disgraced politicians. Aronofsky knew the schedule of the film for nearly four months, but walked away from the film just days before shooting began.

To be fair, Aronofsky and his long-time girlfriend Rachel Weisz recently split, and they are sharing custody of their son in New York City, which can’t be an easy situation, but it is hard to not read more into this. Aronofsky is not exactly a mainstream director, which could have caused problems with the studio, who will no doubt want to avoid an R rating on the film to increase its potential box office yield. But there is also the timing with what is going on in Japan. More and more people are growing increasingly nervous regarding the potential of nuclear fallout, and Americans in Japan are being encouraged by the State Department to leave the country, while others are being urged to stay away to begin with. Again, it is just odd timing and all supposition.

Whatever the reason, Aronofsky is no longer attached to The Wolverine. The pre-production has begun, and the actors have been mostly contracted, so it seems likely that the studio will need to quickly make a decision to hire a new director or postpone the shooting. Whatever happens, and no matter how good the movie may be, it is a sad day for comic book fans everywhere.