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Fox’s ‘Wolverine’ helmer search down to 8

List includes helmers with indie chops, tentpole experience

Exclusive: More than two months after Darren Aronofsky dropped out of directing “The Wolverine,” 20th Century Fox is considering eight replacement candidates, a diverse group that includes helmers with indie pedigree and tentpole experience — and almost all with action credits.

Studio is considering Jose Padilha, Doug Liman, Antoine Fuqua, Mark Romanek, Justin Lin, Gavin O’Connor, James Mangold and Gary Shore (largely a commercials director) to helm the Hugh Jackman-toplined actioner, multiple sources tell Variety.

The earlier choices of Gavin Hood — who directed the first “Wolverine” pic — and Aronofsky, whose fare includes “Black Swan,” “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream,” showed the studio was open to turning the superhero pic over to helmers known more for prestige films than commercial fare. But the latest list demonstrates that while Fox is still receptive to directors best known for their indie chops, like Romanek (“Never Let Me Go”) or Padilha, they’re also looking closely at directors with popcorn-pic credits.

While some of the contenders have yet to direct a big summer tentpole, all — except for Romanek and Shore — have had success directing some sort of actioner.

Liman’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” grossed more than $470 million worldwide in 2005, while Lin’s “Fast Five” has been Universal’s most successful pic since “Despicable Me.” Mangold recently directed for Fox the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz starrer “Knight and Day,” which earned more than $260 million globally, and also helmed “3:10 to Yuma.”

Fuqua comes from more of an action background, having directed WB’s “Training Day,” “King Arthur” for Jerry Bruckheimer and “Tears of the Sun.” Lionsgate will release O’Connor’s “Warrior” later this year; helmer also directed 2008’s “Pride and Glory,” starring Colin Farrell and Edward Norton.

Padilha directed “Elite Squad 1” and “Elite Squad 2” and is also attached to helm MGM’s “Robocop” reboot.

Christopher McQuarrie penned “The Wolverine,” which largely takes part in Japan. Aronofsky’s departure from the film came shortly after a tsunami devastated the country, although his exit was not attributed to the disaster. Moving forward, however, most sources connected with the film say the floods and earthquakes at least complicated plans to shoot the pic, which currently has no release date.

CAA reps all the directors under consideration except for Mangold, who’s repped by WME.

CAA reps all directors except for Mangold, who’s repped by WME.

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