Twentieth Century Fox may or may not be able to hold on to the X-Men, but at least it will hold on to director Bryan Singer. Variety reports that the studio has signed the filmmaker behind the Marvel mutant franchise to a two-year deal and has also begun negotiating with him to make the third ''X-Men'' movie. ''I've been stockpiling a number of different projects in movies, TV and videogames, and it's great to have a base of operation and a place to put writers to work,'' Singer said.
Fox production president Hutch Parker said the studio would have wanted to keep Singer on the studio lot, mutants or no mutants. Parker told Variety, ''We are always wary of sequels because so often they are an invitation to mediocrity, because not enough attention is paid to the skills that allowed the first film to succeed.'' Clearly, that wasn't the case with this summer's ''X2: X-Men United,'' which earned critical acclaim and far outgrossed the original at the box office ($215 million to $157 million for 2000's ''X-Men''). ''We had such a fantastic experience with Bryan on 'X2' -- he was a great partner who navigated the process, which included the magnitude of the budget, the number of visual effects, and our desire to build on the first film and make a better and more satisfying movie.''
Parker said ''X-Men 3'' is still in the early stages of pre-production. One of the key issues will be money, since it will take a lot more cash than before to lure the cast back. Their initial deals gave the studio an option to bring the actors back for just one sequel, not two, so all the stars may now renegotiate for higher salaries. Bet Fox wishes it had put into Hugh Jackman's contract the claws for a third movie.