Guy Ritchie’s U.N.C.L.E. philosophy

Photo of Armie Hammer and Guy Ritchie that appeared in the Daily Mail

Photo of Armie Hammer and Guy Ritchie that appeared in the Daily Mail last year.

The Empire magazine story about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie still isn’t online, but fans have posted images of the print version. It contains a few quotes from director Guy Ritchie.

Ritchie said he only dipped so far into the original 1964-68 series that starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

“We’re tipping our hat to the original series, but we’re really taking the positives of the existing brand and reworking them for a contemporary audience,” Ritchie told Empire.

“There were only a few things I needed to keep from the TV series. It needed global stakes, a Russian and an American. The Russian had to be blond and the American dark. Other than that, it brings no baggage for being an ‘inherited project.'”

The last comment is an apparent reference to how an U.N.C.L.E. movie project has been bouncing around for years. Ritchie took it over after director Steven Soderbergh exited in late 2011.

Ritchie’s movie is an “origin of U.N.C.L.E.” story, with Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) a CIA agent and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) a KGB operative who join forces in the early 1960s. In the television series, U.N.C.L.E. had been around for some time, with Solo and Kuryakin trained as U.N.C.L.E. agents in the 1950s.

The movie is schedule for release in August 2015.

UPDATE: Henry Cavill News has a post with an image of the article. You can CLICK HERE to view it. You can CLICK HERE for a larger image of the article on that website that’s easier to read.

 

Still new questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in 2013

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in 2013

As Michael Corleone once said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” In that spirit, here’s a look at some new questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie that have arisen in the past few weeks.

The release date has been pushed back to August 2015 from January. Good or bad? Honest answer: I don’t know.

Skeptics will say it’s another sign of trouble. Then again, the January date was seen as a sign of trouble, an indication that Warner Bros. didn’t think it could take the holiday season competition.

The more optimistic interpretation is that Warners has more faith in the project, concluding it could fare well in the late summer slot. On the studio calendar, “summer” starts on May 1, and in 2015 that means the sequel to Marvel’s The Avengers, which is already getting buzz. Marvel will also have Ant Man in July. While Ant Man isn’t that well known to the general public, the same was true of Guardians of the Galaxy, which has become a big hit.

So it’s probably a good idea to keep U.N.C.L.E. away from the early- to mid-summer months. But some summer movies released in August can become hits. We’ll see.

What’s up with all the reshoots? Again, hard to tell from the outside. At the very least, it indicates the studio isn’t just shoving the movie out the door. The first rounds of reshoots didn’t involve the principal actors. But Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer were eventually summoned back. That appears to be done because Cavill is back working on the Batman-Superman movie due out in March 2016.

The star hasn’t even watched the show. Good or bad? Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo, told Empire magazine he hadn’t watched any episodes of the 1964-68 series.

That’s part of the actor’s M.O. He didn’t watch previous Superman movies or television stories, according to 2013 stories from REUTERS and THE DAILY BEAST He said he studied original comic books for insights into the character.

But one thing different about U.N.C.L.E. is that the television series is the source material. We’ll have to see how this turns out.

Illya Kuryakin is a hothead? What is up with that? This week, there’s another test screening of the movie. The invitations refer to “cool, & collected CIA agent Solo, and hot-headed rival KGB agent Kuryakin.”

For original fans, that’s a little concerning. Kuryakin very much kept his cool in tense situations and was a big part of the character’s appeal.

Then again, this is an “origin” story and the Kuryakin portrayed by Armie Hammer (who says watched original U.N.C.L.E. episodes) may not be fully formed yet. It sounds like a broken record, but we’ll see.

U.N.C.L.E. movie: 1 star has seen TV show, 1 hasn’t

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo in the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t seen the original 1964-68 series while Armie Hammer, the film’s Illya Kuryakin, has.

The source of this is Empire magazine, which has published a feature about the movie, scheduled to be released in August 2015. The Empire story isn’t at the publication’s website but THE COMIC BOOK MOVIE WEBSITE has a summary.

According to that summary, Cavill told Empire, “I don’t see that it was necessarily important. I just wanted to meet with Guy (Ritchie, the director) to know how he saw it.”

Hammer told the magazine, “It is completely different. If you watch the pilot episode, it just starts. It doesn’t say what U.N.C.L.E. is, who these characters are. It just goes and you have to catch up. So, this is a genesis story of U.N.C.L.E.”

The Comic Book Movie post by Josh Wilding also has what are described as the first official images from the movie. You can CLICK HERE to see it.

The series, with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, marks its 50th anniversary next month. In the U.S., the MeTV channel will begin showing the series at 10 p.m. eastern time on Sunday, Sept. 7, as part of a weekly bloc of spy shows.

Happy birthday, Sean Connery

Sean Connery, circa 1963

Sean Connery, circa 1963

Aug. 25 is Sean Connery’s 84th birthday.

A recent CBS NEWS POLL of Americans indicates he is still, far and away, the most popular screen James Bond.

In that poll, Connery was the No. 1 choice among 51 percent of those surveyed. The poll was performed July 16 to 20 among 1,024 adults across the Unites States. People were surveyed using both cell phones and land lines. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

In the second position was Pierce Brosnan at 12 percent, with Roger Moore at No. 3 at 11 percent and Daniel Craig No. 4 at 8 percent.

Some Bond fans, expressing their opinion on social media, question the results, saying it sounds like a poll done before 2006. 

We suspect the results more reflect how Connery blazed the trail that others followed. No matter how well his successors have performed, he remains the original screen 007.

Happy birthday, Sir Sean.

Dr. No’s script Part IV: Killing Professor Dent in triplicate

Anthony Dawson as Professor Dent

Anthony Dawson as Professor Dent

Continuing our look at a January 1962 Dr. No script supplied by collector Gary Firuta.

When Dr. No, the first James Bond movie is discussed, a lot of attention is paid to how Bond (Sean Connery) ruthlessly kills Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson), one of the villain’s lackeys.

Based on the January draft, completed shortly before principal photography began, the crew was still considering exactly how to portray that killing. The script provides three versions.

On page 71, Bond gets the drop on Dent. The dialogue isn’t exactly what would be in the finished movie.

Dent asks if Miss Taro (by now already in police custody) talked. “No,” Bond replies. “You gave yourself away. I was suspicious at the Queen’s Club – but when you told me that Strangways’ radioactive samples were worthless…well…” Bond asks Dent who he is working for

Meanwhile, Dent is “edging impercectable nearer to his gun on the floor. BOND goes on taiing (sic), seemingly oblivious of DENT’s manoeuvering.”

He makes a sudden swift movement toward his gun, picks it up and levels it at BOND. As his finger tightens on the trigger.

DENT (contd.)
(triumphantly)
…Dr. No!

But as in the finished film, Dent’s gun is empty.

“Only six bullets in a Smith and Wesson, Professor…and I counted them…” Bond then shoots Dent, killing him.

The first alternative version starts on page 72, with Dent, proclaiming triumphantly, he’s working for Dr. No.

“But BOND’s inattention has only been assumed,” the stage directions read. “He fires also, but that much faster and just that much more accurately. DENT’S BULLET SMACKS INTO THE WALL BEHIND HIM, AND BOND’S bullet hits DENT in the center of the chest.”

With the second alternative version. Professor Dent never says he’s working for Dr. No.

Instead, “He makes a sudden swift movement toward his gun, but BONDS (sic) inattention has only been assumed. Before DENT can reach his gun, BOND has fired.” There is no mention of the gun being empty as in the first version, but if it is loaded, Dent can’t get off a shot.

The final film uses the first version but tweaks were still made. For example, Bond lies, implying Miss Taro has already talked (“But of course.”) Instead of saying he counted Dent’s shots, Bond says, “It’s a Smith and Wesson and you’ve had your six,” before killing Dent.

Meanwhile, the professor doesn’t actually say he’s working for Dr. No, which was probably an improvement.

By this time in the movie, the audience is well aware of Dent’s allegiance. It’s clear Bond has figured it out. Having Dent yell, “Dr. No!” is unnecessary.

NEXT: Meeting the villain

Dr. No’s script Part III: A friendship is forged

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery during Dr. No's production.

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery.

Continuing our look at a January 1962 Dr. No script supplied by collector Gary Firuta.

Dr. No’s screenwriting team of Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood opted to bring in Ian Fleming’s Felix Leiter character into the film version of Dr. No even though he wasn’t in that novel.

Their challenge: establish the James Bond-Leiter friendship within a few minutes of screen time.

By the time Dr. No was nearing production, Leiter had appeared in the novels Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever, Goldfinger and Thunderball. Bond and Leiter had shared a number of adventures in the novels, including Leiter providing a major financial assistance in Casino and nearly getting killed in Live And Let Die.

But that back story wasn’t of use for the screenwriters. They would have to invent their own storyline of the forging of the Bond-Leiter friendship.

In the film, it gets off to a rocky start. The audience doesn’t realize it’s Leiter observing Bond at the Kingston airport. Bond gets the best of the encounter, losing Leiter and Quarrel, who are following him. Bond catches up to Quarrel and gets into a fight. Here’s how the script describes what happens next.

Behind him, and unknown to him, LEITER has appeared in the door. He gently takes BOND’S wrist and equally gently shoves a Walther into his kidneys.

LEITER
(softly)
Gently, bud, gently. Let’s not get execited, eh?

BOND stiffens. His position is now untenable and he’s not a bloody fool. LEITER stretches round in front of him and takes his gun. He tooks at two identical weapons with slightly raised eyebrows.

The exchange that takes place is similar to the finished film but there are some interesting stage directions.

Quarrel we’re told is “looking murderous, steps forward and expertly frisks BOND. (Expertly means to start at sock level and run and tap lightly upwards. A favourite place for keeping a second gun or a knife is taped to the inside of the thigh. QUARREL evidently knows this.)”

Leiter is “moving around so he can see BOND CLEARLY.” After Leiter tells Bond his got his gun from “a guy in Washington,” he then “suddenly breaks into a grin, puts his own gun into his shoulder holster, reverses one in his left hand and holds it butt first to BOND, simultaneously holding out now free right hand in greeting.”

The next scene is at the restaurant/night club as in the film. “In the background, FOUR ATTRACTIVE GIRLS, wearing just what they are forced to by law, are going through a particularly Jamaican type of Twist.”

As they discuss how Cape Canaveral rockets are being sabotaged, Bond “chooses his words with irony” when he asks if Leiter had “cased the joint.”

LEITER
I checked…unofficially. You…
(mimics BOND)
“Limeys” can be pretty touch about trespassing.

The TWO MEN grin at each other.

From here on out, the two men are friends, although there’s an occasional edge. Later, Leiter “thoughtfully” asks whether Professor Dent is a bad professor or a bad liar. Bond “grimly” says he intends to find out which.

When Bond finally shows up to head out to Crab Key, Leiter is “growling” when he asks where Bond has been.

When Bond and Quarrel get ready to make their approach to Dr. No’s island, Leiter “softly” says “Let me go with him” to Bond. The British agent replies, “We’ve argued all the way out. Strangways happened to be a friend of mine.”

Bond and Leiter “grin understandingly” after Bond says, “We’ll be back in twelve. If not, it’s your show, and you’d better bring in the Marines.”

NEXT: Killing Professor Dent in triplicate

U.N.C.L.E. movie gets another test screening

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is getting another test screening on Aug. 26 in Pasadena, California. Here are the details, via @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter, who re-Tweeted a posting by an entertainment industry professional. As it turns out, the person who received the invitation isn’t eligible to go.

The movie, which now won’t be released until August 2015, had a test screening in June. Since then, stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer have participated in some reshoots. Those have been completed. Cavill is back in the Detroit area, where a Batman-Superman film is in production, with a March 2016 release date. You can CLICK HERE to view a Henry Cavill News post with photos of Cavill in his Superman costume.

Whether the new U.N.C.L.E. test screening will incorporate the latest reshoots isn’t known. There have been other reshoots not involving the main actors.

The film, directed by Guy Ritchie and based on the 1964-68 television series, originally had a January 2015 release date. Fan speculation has run the gamut from “it must be a disaster” to “maybe Warner Bros. has more confidence to release it in the summer.” Meanwhile, the test screening, by limiting attendees to no older than 54, will prevent a lot of first-generation U.N.C.L.E. fans from going, even if invited.

UPDATE: U.N.C.L.E. scholar Cynthia. W. Walker posted a link to one of the invitations. It has a description of the movie that expands on a plot summary in a September 2013 press release by Warner Bros. The expanded version reads as follows:

HENRY CAVILL (“Man of Steel”) stars as Napoleon Solo, opposite ARMIE HAMMER (“The Social Network”) as Illya Kuryakin. Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” centers on calm, cool, & collected CIA agent Solo, and hot-headed rival KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the charismatic duo team on a mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization. Together, they must race against time — provided they stop flirting long enough to get the job done! — to prevent a worldwide catastrophe. “The Man from U.N.C.L.E” is based on the popular 1960’s TV show of the same name, and also stars Alicia Vikander (“Anna Karenina”), Elizabeth Debicki (“The Great Gatsby”), with Jared Harris (“Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows”), and Hugh Grant (“Cloud Atlas”). The film is expected to be rated PG-13.

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