New U.N.C.L.E. book coming out in 2015

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

A new book about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series is due out next year.

“Solo and Illya: The Secret History of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” by Craig Henderson is to be published by Bear Manor Publishers, according to the Facebook page of THE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY AFFAIR, the two-day event held in the Los Angeles area last month in connection with the show’s 50th anniversary.

Henderson created the File Forty fanzine in 1970, according to a Jon Burlingame response to the post. Henderson also assisted Burlingame when the latter produced a series of U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks in the 2000s.

“He’s uncovered a lot of information about the show no one else has,” Burlingame wrote.

Finally, Henderson produced A CENTURY OF U.N.C.L.E., which details how the worlds of U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond intersected for more than a century, beginning with the birth of Ian Fleming in 1908 until the death of U.N.C.L.E. executive producer Norman Felton in 2012. It’s a resource this blog has cited numerous times.

Update of The Music of James Bond in the works

Image of the cover of The Music of James Bond from the book's Amazon.com page

Image of the cover of The Music of James Bond from the book’s Amazon.com page

Author Jon Burlingame is working on an updated paperback edition of The Music of James Bond to be published sometime next fall.

Burlingame said in an email he’s working on a new chapter about Skyfall, the 2012 film that broke the 007 film losing streak in Oscar Best Song nominations. The original hardback edition, published in the fall of 2012, covered the first 22 Bond films made by Eon Productions as well as 1967’s Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

Prior to Skyfall, Live And Let Die, Nobody Does It Better and For Your Eyes Only had been nominated for Best Song without winning. Thomas Newman’s score for the film was also nominated for an Oscar but didn’t win.

Previous posts:

September 2012: HMSS TALKS TO JON BURLINGAM ABOUT HIS 007 MUSIC BOOK

June 2013: REVIEW: THE MUSIC OF JAMES BOND (2012)

What we know and don’t know about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is days away from finishing principal photography. So here’s a quick look at some of what’s know and not known about the project.

It’s a (relatively) lean production: The movie has a production budget of about $75 million, according to a
JULY STORY IN VARIETY BY JON BURLINGAME.

That’s hardly pocket change and a bigger budget than independent dramas. But it’s also noticeably less than Skyfall, the most recent James Bond movie ($200 million); R.I.P.D. ($130 million); The Lone Ranger ($215 million); and Man of Steel ($225 million).

Then again, a big budget is hardly a guarantee of success. Skyfall was a hit and Man of Steel (with Henry Cavill, the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s Napoleon Solo, playing Superman) did well enough to proceed with a sequel. R.I.P.D. and The Lone Ranger (with Armie Hammer, the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s Illya Kuryakin, as the title character although the star was Johnny Depp’s Tonto) were bombs. That’s especially true of R.I.P.D. a comedy with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds that generated total worldwide ticket sales of $78.3 million, which was split with theaters.

It was a (relatively) tightly scheduled shoot: The U.N.C.L.E. movie began filming on Sept. 6. It will finish on Dec. 7, according to A TWEET by Luca Calvani, who play’s the film’s villain. That’s almost exactly three months. By comparison, Skyfall had a seven-month filming schedule from late 2011 through mid-2012.

There will be humor; the question is how much: Cavill signed on as a late replacement for Tom Cruise to play Solo. He said U.N.C.L.E. would have “DRY HUMOR.” The 30-year-old actor described himself as liking dry humor but not a fan of slapstick humor.

One fear of first-generation U.N.C.L.E. fans is there would be too much humor, which happened during THE THIRD SEASON of the original 1964-68 series. One sign that may not be the case: Entertainment Weekly DESCRIBED a scene where Calvani attacks Cavill “savagely,” kicking him in the “bollocks.” That never happened during U.N.C.L.E.’s sometimes goofy third season.

A broken record (by this blog), but who’s going to be the composer? One of the biggest unknowns still remains who will be the movie’s composer.

Hans Zimmer, who worked on director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes movies, has said he probably doesn’t have time given other commitments. Jerry Goldsmith, who composed the distinctive U.N.C.L.E. theme, died in 2004. Music is always an important consideration and there’s still no clue who will handle those chores for the new U.N.C.L.E. movie.

45th anniversary of the best TV theme

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Sept. 20 is the 45th anniversary of, arguably, the best television theme of all time: Hawaii Five-O by composer Morton Stevens.

The Five-O theme is one of the most famous pieces of music in the world. People who’ve never watched an episode recognize it when just a few notes are played. Over the decades, it’s been used in commercials and been played by marching bands. Yet, the vast majority of those who’ve heard it probably couldn’t name the man who wrote it.

In the 1960s, the likes of Stevens, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin were busy doing scores for television. Of that quartet, three became big-time film composers. Stevens didn’t.

In the spring of 1965, CBS hired Stevens to supervise its West Coast music operation. It was in that capacity that Stevens scored the Hawaii Five-O pilot. But Stevens couldn’t do every job himself. Thus, he hired Williams to score 1969’s The Reivers, which CBS released under the Cinema Center Films label. The Steve McQueen movie helped Williams transition from TV to films.

Stevens died in 1991, at the age of 62, of cancer. His lasting music achievement was the original 1968-80 Five-O series. Not only did he write the theme, he created the music template for the series. Stevens delivered episode scores for 11 of the 12 seasons. The Five-O theme was often used by Stevens and other composers in the background music. It showed up as an action riff. It would also be slowed way down for reflective moments in a story.

Only recently did Stevens get attention for his other work. The DVD set for the 1960-62 Thriller anthology series with Boris Karloff featured a number of episodes where viewers can isolate the scores of Stevens and Jerry Goldsmith. Jon Burlingame, who has written extensively about film and television music, did a commentary track about each composer. He discussed Stevens’ work in detail.

Sept. 1 post: HAWAII FIVE-O’S 45TH ANNIVERSARY: COP SHOW WITH A SPY TWIST

From Russia With Love’s 50th anniversary Part II: John Barry

John Barry

John Barry

John Barry wasn’t a happy man after Dr. No came out in 1962.

Barry had arranged and revamped Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. He thought the piece would only be in Dr. No’s main titles. Instead, it was inserted by editor Peter Hunt throughout much of the movie.

With the second 007 film, From Russia With Love, “John Barry’s irritation at seeing his work all over the film of Dr. No would soon turn to elation,” author Jon Burlingame wrote in his 2012 book, The Music of James Bond. Barry got the job of scoring the new 007 film and, in the process, established the Bond movie music template.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired Lionel Bart to write the title song. But Barry would score provided all the dramatic music.

Barry’s impact was evident immediately. Dr. No’s gunbarrel logo utilized electronic noises. Barry instead used an arrangement of Bond theme. The pre-credits sequence, where where assassin Red Grant (Robert Shaw) kills a Bond double during a training exercise, was heightened by Barry’s music. In 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, composer Marvin Hamlisch did an homage to Barry’s work where Bond (Roger Moore) and Soviet agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach) are searching for Jaws amid Egyptian ruins. (CLICK HERE to see a Stuart Basinger-produced video comparing the two scenes.)

Barry’s work on From Russia With Love was the beginning of the James Bond sound.

“The 007 films demanded music that could be variously romantic, suspenseful, drive the action, even punctuate the humor,” Burlingame said in a 2012 E-MAIL INTERVIEW WITH THE HMSS WEBLOG about his book. “It was a tall order, and John Barry, especially, delivered what was necessary and helped define James Bond in a way that wasn’t possible with the visuals alone.”

Barry also composed what amounted to a second Bond theme, simply titled 007. It was used during two action sequences: A big fight between Bulgarians and gypsies working for MI6 and when Bond snatches a Russian decoding machine out of the Soviet consulate in Istanbul. Barry would end up bringing the 007 theme back in four more movies, the last being 1979’s Moonraker.

For the composer, this was just the beginning. He scored 10 more Bond movies and become one of the most sought-after composers in the movies. Remarkably, his Bond work never got an Oscar nomination. But he won five Oscars for non-007 films starting with 1967’s Born Free and ending with 1990’s Dances With Wolves.

Meanwhile, Barry’s template was something other composers had to keep in mind when they worked on 007 films. In the 1990s, David Arnold, a Barry admirer, produced new takes on classic Barry 007 songs. That helped him to secure work on five Bond films, making him the only composer so far besides Barry to work on more than one 007 film.

NEXT: Desmond Llewelyn’s debut as Q

January 2011 post: JOHN BARRY, AN APPRECIATION

September 2012 post: HMSS TALKS TO JON BURLINGAME ABOUT HIS 007 MUSIC BOOK

More questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

"Illya, we need to find out more about the U.N.C.L.E. movie."

“Illya, we need to find out more about the U.N.C.L.E. movie.”


One thing about the HMSS Weblog. It never runs out of questions. Certainly that’s the case with a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So here we go:

1. Who’s doing the script? Back in late June, it seemed as if the film would use a script penned by Scott Z. Burns for director Steven Soderbergh, who exited the project in late 2011. An INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR ARMIE HAMMER (slated to play Illya Kuryakin) quoted Hammer thusly:

‘It’s such a great script (by Scott Z. Burns), and it’s so funny! Guy Ritchie has such a great take on it.”

But, looking back, Hammer doesn’t say “Scott Z. Burns.” It’s inserted by writer Ruben V. Nepales. Meanwhile, in a NEW STORY IN VARIETY BY JON BURLINGAME, there’s this information:

With a script by Ritchie and his “Sherlock Holmes” writer and producer Lionel Wigram, the film is an origin story that tells of the first pairing of the two spies — one American, one Russian.

Ritchie refers to director Guy Ritchie, who previously helmed two Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. Later in the Variety story, it lists Burns as among a number of writers who’ve tried devising an U.N.C.L.E. tale over the years. Also, Burns HAS TALKED PUBLICLY ABOUT HIS SCRIPT. If it were actually being used for a film, you’d think studio executives wouldn’t be happy with the scribe disclosing details.

2. Why hasn’t Warner Bros. made an announcement yet? The studio has announced a Superman-Batman movie for 2015 (starring Henry Cavill, who played the title character in this year’s Man of Steel and is to play Napoleon Solo in the U.N.C.L.E. film); a 2014 science fiction movie directed by Christopher Nolan (which will be a co-production with Paramount); and The Judge, an October 2014 movie with Downey and Robert Duvall.

U.N.C.L.E. is supposed to start production in a little more than a month. Both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer have separately said they’ll be doing the movie. Why is Warner Bros. still silent?

3. When will the U.N.C.L.E. movie reach audiences? Assuming the film begins production in early September, it’s possible you could get it out in time for the television show’s 50th anniversary in September 2014. But Warner Bros. (as noted before) has already announced fall 2014 films.

4. What about the rest of the cast? Will there be a Mr. Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. chief played by Leo G. Carroll in the original 1964-68 series? Who will be the villain? Will there be an “INNOCENT” CHARACTER, one of the key elements that made U.N.C.L.E. different than James Bond?

5. What about the rest of the crew? As of early Aug. 1, the movie’s IMDB.COM entry listed mostly members of the art department. No director of photography. No composer. No editor. Those are all pretty major jobs on a movie and you’d think they’d be lined up by now.

6. Is a $75 million budget enough? Variety said the budget is $75 million. That’s less than half the budget for the 2012 James Bond movie Skyfall. Still $75 million ought to be sufficient. The movie is to be 1960s period piece, but computer effects make it easier to recreate past periods. Meanwhile, Hollywood has a hangover from a half-dozen or so very expensive movies that flopped, including The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. It makes sense that Warner Bros. would be more conservative with this project.

UPDATE: The BLEEDING COOL Web site says the film will have one villain part who “will be a Christoph Waltz-type with fondness for torture.”

U.N.C.L.E. movie will start filming in September, Variety says

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie will start filming Sept. 7, Variety said in a feature story in its print edition.

The article, by Jon Burlingame, says the movie “is an origin story that tells of the first pairing of the two spies — one American, one Russian,” a reference to the lead characters, Napeoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. “Unlike the friendly banter of the original series, the pair are initially hostile to each other, said someone familiar with the script.” Director Guy Ritchie declined to be interviewed, according to the story.

Burlingame also reported the reason after Tom Cruise left the project, that Warner Bros. wanted the budget reduced to $75 million. Cruise’s departure opened the door for Henry Cavill to take the Solo role. Armie Hammer had already been cast as Kuryakin. Solo and Kuryakin were played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in the original 1964-68 series.

Variety describes the movie as “a fairly serious action pic.” Recently, Variety had run ANOTHER STORY story saying the movie’s budget had been cut but provided no details.

The new story appeared in Variety’s print edition and doesn’t appear to be online. The quotes provided here are from a photograph of the first page of the story on Burlingame’s Facebook page. Jon Burlingame is an expert in film and television music and produced U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks in the last decade.

UPDATE: Story corrected in third paragraph to say the budget was cut after Cruise left the project.

UPDATE II (6:53 p.m.): Variety now HAS PUT THE STORY ONLINE.

Much of the rest of the story concerns efforts over 35 years for some kind of new version of U.N.C.L.E. One one, the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was made. There is this quote from producer John Davis, who has been involved in efforts to do an U.N.C.L.E. movie since the early ’90s:

“I loved this as a kid,” he says. “It was the coolest show in the world. I had all the guns and the communication devices; I was just a fanatic.”
(snip)
The one constant throughout, Davis says, has been the Cold War setting: “The idea was that the best of all the world’s intelligence services were working to keep the world safe, with the most up-to-date technology that existed.”

UPDATE III (8:42 p.m.), Variety, in A SEPARATE STORY says actress Elizabeth Debicki has been tapped for a role in the film. No further details are mentioned.

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