Updated: 5:30 PM PST - Variety is reporting that Matthew Vaughn is now signed sealed and delivered to direct "X-Men: First Class."  The studio has also set a release date of June 3, 2011 for the latest mutant adventure.

Bryan Singer will stay on board as producer alongside Lauren Schuler Donner and Simon Kinberg. 

Singer told the trade, "I've been a fan of Matthew's since 'Layer Cake.' He has a deft hand with multiple characters and storylines, and a great love of the X-Men universe. I feel the combination of this story and his vision will make for an exciting and original X-Men film."

The trade also reports the film may not center on the young mutants Professor Charles Xavier recruited to become the X-Men, but instead, on the initial friendship between Xavier and Erik Lensheer who eventually became Magneto.  The story will find them working together to stop a "global threat alongside other mutants (some familiar, some new)" until a rift lead to their eternal war chronicled in the first three "X-Men" films.  What "familiar" mutants that could mean is unclear.

Production is expected to begin sometime this summer.  Look for continuing updates on this story in Motion Captured and on HitFix.

- Gregory Ellwood

Original post: 8:30 AM PST

After the release of "X-Men 2: X-Men United," it seemed like a sure bet that 20th Century Fox and Bryan Singer would make a third film in the series and wrap up the story threads that the hugely successful sequel had so carefully laid out. Then things famously went south between Singer and the studio, and at one point got so bad that Singer was escorted off the Fox lot at the end of the one week by security, then working the following week on the lot directing a pilot. 

As a result, Singer moved to Warner Bros. to make his poorly-received "Superman Returns" and Fox went looking for a director to step in and make an "X-Men" movie without Singer's involvement.  There was a sense that they were determined to make something to prove that they could.  At the time, writing about the process that was underway at Fox was an almost daily gig over at AICN.  And for the longest time, Matthew Vaughn was the guy who was going to direct the film.

Even at that time, even as Matthew was engaged in script rewrites and casting meetings, he was sweating the insane production schedule that Fox had the film set to follow.  Eventually, he dropped out and Brett Ratner dropped in, willing to just make the film Fox wanted on the schedule they wanted, whether it was ready or not.  It was an obvious blinking contest with Singer's Superman, and although Fox made a ton of money with the film and with last year's follow-up "X-Men Origins," neither film was given anywhere near the acclaim that "X-Men 2" was.  They both felt compromised by the process, and having heard stories about just how mad the entire process was, I would have expected that any director who's ever been involved would steer clear in the future.

As a result, I find myself mystified by all the talk in the last few days about Matthew Vaughn potentially directing "X-Men: First Class," a film that looks back at the formation of Professor Xavier's school and the secret team of the X-Men.  It's a chance for the studio to make a lot of new cheaper deals and bring back just a few key cast members.  It's a chance to reinvent the series with a new aesthetic if they want.  And whatever it is, it will be largely determined by the studio regardless of what director signs on to do it.  Nothing about the Fox management regime has changed between "X-Men 3" and now, and I can't imagine it's just suddenly become the best place in the world to make one of these films.

Much like Sony with "Spider-Man" and "Ghost Rider," Fox has got to keep developing and eventually makng "X-Men" movies or they're going to eventually lose the rights to the characters they own.  They'll revert back to Marvel, who has got to be eagerly watching each and every one of their characters that's under someone else's roof right now, hoping that things will go just wrong enough to revert the rights to Marvel's care.  That's not going to happen with "X-Men."  Fox has too much time and energy invested in the material, and they'll figure out a way to make this happen soon.  The fact that they're actively talking to other directors and not just Vaughn indicates to me that they're looking to get this in theaters sooner rather than later.

I'd like to be excited by the idea of Vaughn doing an "X-Men" movie.  After all, I think he's becoming a stronger director with each film, and I think "Kick-Ass" was exceedingly well-made.  I also know that he was genuinely excited by both "X-Men 3" and "Thor" when he was attached to make them, and that he wants nothing more than to get his hands on one of these icons.  I totally understand the itch he's looking to scratch.  I just don't believe he's going to be given free reign to make the movie he wants to make, and because of the studio's track record, I find myself more scared than supportive.

Hopefully we'll see this one resolve itself in the days ahead, and we'll bring you anything more we hear.

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