Jared Harris talks briefly about his U.N.C.L.E. role

Jared Harris

Jared Harris

Thanks to @LaneyBoggs2001 on Twitter for the heads up.

Actor Jared Harris gave an an interview to the Latino Review website where, at the very end, he provided a tiny bit of information about his role in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Latino-Review: And just real quick, who are you playing in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.?”

Jared Harris: I play a CIA agent who is initially involved in training and running Napoleon Solo. So it’s running him as a spy as you would like. It’s set in the 60s and it’s a Guy Ritchie film. It has a great mixture of action and comedy. And there’s fantastic plotting.

That’s all there is. Harris did his filming in September with both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, who play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in the film, which will be released in January 2015.

Warner Bros. has previously specified that in the movie Solo is a CIA agent who becomes involved in a joint operation with KGB operative Kuryakin. The original 1964-68 series played down such Cold War references. A first-season episode, The Neptune Affair, included a brief scene where David McCallum’s Kuryakin is seen in a military uniform in the Soviet Union.

Such scenes were more the exception than the rule. Other references were more subtle. Another first-season episode, The Love Affair, depicted Kuryakin telling Robert Vaughn’s Solo, “Suddenly, I feel very Russian” as the two approach a mansion on Long Island.

U.N.C.L.E.’s director of photography talks up Cavill’s Solo

Henry Cavill's Napoleon Solo reports for duty in January 2015

Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo

Thanks to C.W. Walker for the heads up.

The man who photographed next year’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has made public comments about Henry Cavill’s version of Napoleon Solo, according to THE INDEPENDENT IN IRELAND.

John Mathieson, the movie’s director of photography, commented about Cavill’s performance and Guy Ritchie’s work as director.

Here’s an excerpt:

Speaking at the launch of the new Samsung Curved UHD screen TV in London he said: “I thought Henry was terrific.

“He plays it quite humorously, everything’s slightly quirky, slightly sharp. It was very comic strip in some ways, I mean that in a good way.

“He plays it very differently [to Superman], this is much more earthbound. He’s a peacock, and he’s very funny. I thought he was great.”

(snip)

(I)t’s got a very British feel….We filmed in London on a digital camera but we were trying to give it more of a sixties feel.

“It’s a very good looking film, it’s set in the sixties, it’s very chic.”

Mathieson also said that Ritchie is “still cutting, he’s very close to finishing….We’ve got to do some post production to get that sixties look really right.”

None of this is startling. Crew members rarely talk down on a movie before it’s released. But there hasn’t been much U.N.C.L.E. publicity since the film completed shooting in early December.

The movie has been given a January 2015 release date by Warner Bros. Ritchie’s version, which he co-wrote with Lionel Wigram, is set in the early 1960s and depicts the origin of U.N.C.L.E. The original Warners’ press release said that Solo was a CIA agent and Illya Kuryakin a KGB operative involved in a joint operation. Armie Hammer has the Kuryakin role in the movie.

The original 1964-68 series, starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, downplayed Cold War references.

Earlier this week, some reshoots were filmed of a car chase, something that @laneyboggs2001 at Twitter had sniffed out. The main actors weren’t involved. Cavill is currently in Michigan for production of a Superman-Batman movie scheduled for release in May 2016.

Spring 1964: U.N.C.L.E. gets a new chief

Leo G. Carroll's title card for first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes

Leo G. Carroll’s title card for first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes

With less than a month before regular series production began, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had some tweaks, both major and minor.

Superficially, star Robert Vaughn changed his hairstyle, switching his part and going for more of a “dry look” compared to the pilot that would air as the first episode.

More substantively, U.N.C.L.E. would have a new chief: Leo G. Carroll, a mainstay of several Alfred Hitchcock films, was cast as Alexander Waverly, replacing Will Kuluva’s Mr. Allison.

Carroll was three decades older than Kuluva. He had two basic on-screen personas: kind and bumbling (the 1955 comedy We’re No Angels or the Topper television series) or cold and calculating (“The Professor” in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest).

Occasionally, he got to a character where he displayed *both* personas (such as THIS EPISODE of the Boris Karloff Thriller anthology series where his character’s seeming bumbling masked his true persona).

Here’s an entry from Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE:

Monday, May 18, 1964

(Executive Producer Norman) Felton officially informs NBC that (Rober) Vaughn and (David) McCallum will remain to play running characters but Will Kuluva has been dropped. The new chief at U.N.C.L.E. will be played by Leo G. Carroll, and the character’s name has changed from Allison to Alexander Waverly.

Arguably, Carroll’s Waverly is an extension of his “Professor” character. Waverly is calculating and, as the series went on, showed he was more than willing to sacrifice his operatives if necessary. In one second-season episode (The Foxes and Hounds Affair), Waverly drops Solo (just returning from a vacation) into the middle of a complicated assignment where the ace agent’s life is in danger.

The official casting of the new U.N.C.L.E. chief came less than two weeks before series production began on June 1. The first draft for The Double Affair, which would be the eighth episode broadcast, still refers to Allison as the U.N.C.L.E. chief.

As the first season unfolded, the production team would seek to expand Carroll’s role. Waverly would be given a cousin who bore an uncanny resemblance (The Bow-Wow Affair) and would occasionally demonstrate he had once been a pretty mean operative himself (knocking out a lackey in The Deadly Decoy Affair).

The on-camera team was now complete. The question now was whether the show would work — or even survive.

U.N.C.L.E. movie gets January 2015 release date

U.N.C.L.E. logo on a second unit crew T-shirt

U.N.C.L.E. logo on a second unit crew T-shirt

The movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. won’t be out in time for the 50th anniversary of the original series.

Warner Bros. assigned the U.N.C.L.E. movie a Jan. 16, 2015 release date in the U.S., ACCORDING TO VARIETY.COM.

It apparently got squeezed out of the 2014 Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season (which for studios begins at the start of November). Already scheduled during that period were films such as Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s first movie since his Batman trilogy, and the final of three Hobbit films.

An excerpt from Variety about the competition U.N.C.L.E. will face:

“Man From U.N.C.L.E” is the fourth title set to open on next year’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend after Fox’s “Frankenstein,” Sony/Screen Gems’ “The Wedding Ringer” and Universal’s untitled Michael Mann project.

The original series, which starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, will mark its golden anniversary in September. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer will play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in the 2015 film. The Guy Ritchie-directed movie portrays the origin of U.N.C.L.E.

Are cameos in movies worth it?

Alfred Hitchcock's cameo right after his "directed by" credit in North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo in North by Northwest

This fall, fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series wondered if the show’s original stars would have a cameo in a new film version underway. Some fans were vocal, arguing that of course they should.

It’s not known if such a cameo took place for the U.N.C.L.E. movie. (Robert Vaughn said more than once he’d welcome the opportunity; David McCallum made comments suggesting he wouldn’t participate.) The subject though got this blog to thinking: are such cameos worth it, or are they more of a distraction for a finished film?

The king of such cameos was director Alfred Hitchcock, who made a cameo in his more than 50 films. They can be something of a mixed bag. In North by Northwest, he appears right after his “directed by” credit as a man missing his bus in New York City. The appearance, in effect, is an extension of the main titles designed by Saul Bass. At this point, the viewer hasn’t been watching the actual story of the film.

In other cases, Hitchcock’s appearance almost draw attention to themselves. In 1969′s Topaz, there’s an airport scene. The viewer is drawn to Hitchock, in a wheelchair, guided by a nurse. Hitchcock meets a man, abruptly stands up and shakes the man hand before walking off. By this point, more than 20 minutes of the story have been told. You could argue it’s a distraction, although it’s over pretty quickly.

In the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, co-boss Michael G. Wilson has been performing cameos for decades. Again, they’re a bit of a mixed bag. In some cases (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough), they’re fleeting, something for the hard-core fans while more casual 007 cinema goers aren’t likely to notice. In others (Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale), they draw attention to themselves. Here are some:

The interest among U.N.C.L.E. fans whether the movie has cameos is different. Vaughn and McCallum established the original show’s popularity. There’d be no movie if there hadn’t been a television show in the first place. If one was filmed, would it distract from the Guy Ritchie-directed story? The counter question: do you owe it to the original actors if they’re interested? (Especially since Ritchie appears to have squeezed former soccer star David Beckham into the movie.)

None of these questions have right or wrong answers. Fan tastes vary. Hitchcock fans, for example, take pleasure in trying to spot the director’s cameos. In any case, it’s likely such cameos will continue in movies.

Actor says U.N.C.L.E. movie may come out in December 2014

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

Thanks to @Laneyboggs2001 who told the blog about this on Twitter.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie may have a December 2014 release date, according to a member of the cast.

Misha Kuznetsov, who is listed on the movie’s IMDB.COM ENTRY as playing “Oleg (KGB),” posted a picture of himself and co-star Armie Hammer on the VK social network site. The caption read, “Armie Harmer … Лондон на съемках Man from Uncle!! Comming next December 2014 !!!!”

Warner Bros. hasn’t disclosed a release date for the film, in which Hammer’s Illya Kuryakin will be oppose Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo. The official Warners site lists Horrible Bosses 2 for Nov. 26, 2014, and The Hobbit: There And Back Again for Dec. 17.

December would seem like a tight fit. Presumably Warners wouldn’t want to put U.N.C.L.E. too close to one of its own releases, particularly the finale of The Hobbit trilogy. According to A CHART on The Numbers website, other December 2014 releases include an Annie remake from Sony and Night at The Museum 3 from 20th Century Fox.

The Guy Ritchie-directed U.N.C.L.E. movie completed principal photography last week. If the December 2014 date does materialize, that would be three months after the 50th anniversary of the original television series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. We’ll see.

Eleanor Parker, U.N.C.L.E.’s last villainess, dies

Eleanor Parker in the final episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  That's Leslie Nielsen in the background. She's not going to like what his character does moments later.

Eleanor Parker in the final episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. That’s Leslie Nielsen in the background. She’s not going to like what his character does moments later.

Eleanor Parker, who played the final villainess in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, has died at 91, according to AN ASSOCIATED PRESS OBITUARY ON THE MIAMI HERALD WEBSITE.

Parker played a wide variety of parts according to her HER ENTRY ON IMDB.COM. For spy fans, though, one significant role was filmed in 1967 and aired in January 1968. She was in the final two-part episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Seven Wonders of the World Affair. It was released outside the U.S. as a movie called How to Steal the World.

In that story, an U.N.C.L.E. official named Robert Kinsley (Barry Sullivan), decides to tip the fight between good and evil in favor of good via a “will docility gas” that will force the world’s population to be compliant. What Kingsley doesn’t know is that his wife (Parker) has been manipulating him in partnership with a Thrush operative named Webb (Peter Mark Richman).

Originally, the story, written by Norman Hudis, was intended as a one-hour episode. But, with NBC opting to cancel U.N.C.L.E. in the middle of its fourth season, executive producer Norman Felton had the script expanded to be a two-parter. It would be the eighth, and final, U.N.C.L.E. movie for international audiences.

Parker’s character meets her demise when Robert Kingsley, finally aware of his wife’s plans, orders a General accidently exposed to the docility gas (Leslie Nielsen) to kill her. Overall, the story’s quality varies greatly, in part because of the last-minute expansion. But it’s still a major part of U.N.C.L.E. lore.

U.N.C.L.E. enters the standee era

U.N.C.L.E. standees are based on this publicity still.

Standees are taken from this publicity still.

There hasn’t exactly been a lot of new collectibles sold in recent decades related to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series, which originally ran 1964 to 1968. However, on eBay, there are now U.N.C.L.E. standees for sale.

There’s a new, licensed 5-foot-9 standee of ROBERT VAUGHN AS NAPOLEON SOLO and a matching standee the same size of DAVID MCCALLUM AS ILLYA KURYAKIN. They sell for $36.95 plus $14.95 shipping and handling.

Also available are 20-inch versions of each actor/character for $19.50 plus $4 shipping and handling. (Click HERE for information about Vaughn/Solo or HERE for McCallum/Kuryakin.)

The standees are taken from a 1960s publicity still used in the end titles of the third and fourth seasons of the original series. That still is also known for what some fans view as a questionable choice in footwear for Solo. Interestingly, the feet of the Solo standees appear to have been darkened a bit, making it harder to notice he’s wearing white socks and clogs with his business suit.

A modest proposal for the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Introduction used in episodes 2-7 of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Introduction used in early U.N.C.L.E. episodes.

Not that director Guy Ritchie would ask this blog’s opinion, but here’s a modest proposal for a way to end his movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

A caveat: this suggestion presupposes that Ritchie’s movie won’t be really, really dark and have Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) or Illya Kuraykin (Armie Hammer) killed off with the villains winning.

In many movies today, there isn’t a proper main titles. Instead, everything comes at the end. Also, Ritchie’s film, co-written by the director and writer-producer Lionel Wigram, has an “origin of U.N.C.L.E.” plot line. Therefore, why not adapt the introduction used in early episodes of the 1964-68 series to get viewers familiar with the characters and format?

Specifically, an announcer begins, “In New York City…on a street in the East Forties…there’s an ordinary tailor shop. Or is it ordinary?” Stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum go through the secret entrance to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Eventually, Solo and Kuryakin (and boss Alexander Waverly, played by Leo G. Carroll), break the fourth wall and explain what U.N.C.L.E. is.

In the movie, viewers will have seen the U.S. and Soviet Union join forces, in the person of Cavill’s Solo and Hammer’s Kurykin, to (presumably) defeat a larger menace. Your could have the screen go dark for a second, then come up again with the now permanent allies re-enacting the Vaughn-McCallum opening (along with Hugh Grant as the new Waverly), followed by Jerry Goldsmith’s theme and the credits. It would hint of adventures to come (particularly if the movie is a financial success).

Anyway, just something to thing about. Here’s how the original opening worked, the last time it was used in The Giuoco Piano Affair, the seventh episode broadcast on NBC.

What’s at stake for the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in Italy

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in Italy

As The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie approaches the end of principal photography, here are some thoughts about what’s at stake for the production.

A potential U.N.C.L.E. franchise or back to limbo? There have been various attempts to revive the 1964-68 series. But there was a 15-year gap between the series and a 1983 television movie with original stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum and another 30-year gap until the new movie started filming in September.

It’s a situation similar to The Lone Ranger. There were movies in 1956 and 1958. There wasn’t another live-action film until 1981, which flopped. It wasn’t until 2013 until another movie was released. It, too, flopped.

Best case scenario: the U.N.C.L.E. movie is enough of a hit it spawns sequels. Worst case: It flops and U.N.C.L.E. goes back to limbo for decades, if not forever.

A chance for Henry Cavill to become a star for something in addition to Man of Steel: Comic book movies sometimes revive careers, such as Robert Downey Jr. in three Iron Man movies and The Avengers. In some cases, an actor can be a star in a comic book-based film but not necessarily have that success spill over to other projects.

Playing Napoleon Solo is different than Superman in 2013′s Man of Steel. It remains to be seen if U.N.C.L.E. broadens Cavill’s star power before the Superman-Batman movie that’s slated to come out in 2015.

A chance for Armie Hammer to recover from a flop: Armie Hammer had the title role in 2013′s The Lone Range, although Johnny Depp’s Tonto was the star. Still, generating $260.5 million in worldwide ticket sales (splitting the take with theaters) isn’t the way to make money when you’re spending $215 million (or more) to produce the movie. Put another way: The Lone Ranger had total U.S.-Canada ticket sales of $89.3 million. Skyfall, the most recent James Bond movie, had $88.4 million in its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada alone.

A hit always helps an actor. With the U.N.C.L.E. movie having an estimated budget of $75 million, it should be easier for the U.N.C.L.E. movie to be financially successful. But whether that happens remains to be seen.

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