Who’s the (not so) new writer on the U.N.C.L.E. movie?

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 IMDB.COM ENTRY for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. lists a new name on the list of writers: Jeffrey Hatcher, a playwright with a list of a dozen television, video and movie credits.

It’s hard to consider him a “new” writer on the project given it completed production in December. Presumably, Hatcher performed his work before production commenced, but there’s simply no additional information. Also, given how entries in IMDB can change based on member input, it’s unclear the source of the information..

The official Sept. 3 Warner Bros. press release doesn’t mention Hatcher. It says the movie’s screenplay is by director Guy Ritchie and his producing partner Lionel Wigram.

It’s certainly possible the final writing credit will change before the final release because of Writer’s Guild rules. For example, it’s not known whether Sam Rolfe, who developed the original show, will get a credit the way, say, Bruce Geller, creator of Mission: Impossible, receives on M:I movies.

Hatcher’s list of IMDB credits begins with a 1998 Columbo made-for-television movie. His IMDB entry lists some of his plays.

Meanwhile, a (pretty breathless) video showed up on YouTube that provides a primer about the movie. Not a lot new, but given how the film won’t be out until January 2015, it’s presented here.

1964: Broccoli and Saltzman try to derail U.N.C.L.E.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

By early 1964, post production was underway on the pilot for Solo. On Jan. 7, composer Jerry Goldsmith recorded his score, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E.-007 Timeline. But things would shortly get bumpy for Norman Felton’s production.

Toward the end of January, The New York Times ran an article about spy-oriented pilots, including Solo. In early February, Albert R. Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, which made the 007 films, had had enough. Here’s how the Henderson website describes it:

Tuesday, Feb. 4, 1964
Cubby Broccoli telephones Sam Kaplan of Ashley-Steiner, telling Kaplan he intends to sue Arena, Felton and all others connected with Solo for violating Broccoli’s and Saltzman’s rights to the James Bond stories, referring specifically to the Jan. 26 New York Times story.

Ian Fleming hadn’t been involved with Solo since June of the previous year. The author signed away his rights under pressure from Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the other co-head of Eon. The name Napoleon Solo had been one of his few contributions to make it to the final product of the U.N.C.L.E. pilot..

Still, it appears Broccoli couldn’t stand U.N.C.L.E. In his later years, in ill health, Broccoli worked on an autobiography that wouldn’t be published until after his death. Here’s how he described U.N.C.L.E.:

MGM came in with The Man From UNCLE, which was a straight steal from Fleming’s use of acronyms like SMERSH and SPECTRE.

When The Snow Melts, the autobiography of Cubby Broccoli with Donald Zec, 1998, page 199

Of course, Smersh wasn’t an acronym and Fleming was involved with U.N.C.L.E. from October 1962 until June 1963. Nothing had been stolen from Fleming (though he signed away his rights for a mere one British pound). Also, it was pretty easy to tell Napoleon Solo, suave U.N.C.L.E. agent apart from Mafia boss Solo in Fleming’s Goldfinger novel and Eon movie.

None of that mattered. Again, an excerpt from the Henderson website:

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 1964
New York law firm for Saltzman and Broccoli sends cease-and-desist letter to Felton, MGM, NBC and Ashley-Steiner demanding immediate end to use of Fleming’s name in connection with planned Solo series — and end to all use of name and character “Solo,” “Napoleon Solo” and “Mr. Solo,” claiming theft of the “Mr. Solo” character in Goldfinger, which Eon is currently filming.

By April, the two sides agree Solo won’t be the title but the Napoleon Solo name is retained for the television series. NBC picks up the series to debut the following fall.

In May, the new series title ends up being The Man From U.N.C.L.E. By that time, first drafts of series scripts have been written. The first draft for an episode to be called The Double Affair refers to the villainous organization as MAGGOT. The name is later changed to Thrush, which had been the choice of Felton and Sam Rolfe, the writer of the pilot, all along.

U.N.C.L.E. is now on its way to becoming reality. But more changes await before the cameras roll on the early episodes of the show.

CRAIG HENDERSON’S U.N.C.L.E. BOND TIMELINE FOR 1964

Earlier posts:

JUNE 1963: IAN FLEMING SIGNS AWAY HIS U.N.C.L.E. RIGHTS

MAY 1963: IAN FLEMING CRIES U.N.C.L.E.

Fall 1963: Norman Felton casts his Solo

The Solo that William Boyd forgot

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo

Producer Norman Felton had to make a decision: Who would be cast as Napoleon Solo, the character he co-created with Ian Fleming?

The task may not have been difficult as finding a Solo for a 21st century movie version of the show (finally cast with Henry Cavill). But it wasn’t a slam dunk, either.

According to Jon Heitland’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. book, Felton for a time considered a friend, Harry Guardino, for the part.

Also in the running was actor Robert Brown, who five years later would briefly be cast as Hawaii Five-O’s Steve McGarrett until the part was re-cast with Jack Lord. Also, according to the Heitland book, Felton decided to offer the role to Robert Culp, but the actor wasn’t available.

Felton ended up going with an actor already in his employ: Robert Vaughn, 30, who was the second lead in The Lieutenant, a drama about U.S. Marine Corps officers. Felton was the show’s executive producer, with Gene Roddenberry as the creator-producer.

“I was looking for someone who would give the character a certain visual sense of sophistication,” Felton told Heitland in an interview for the 1986 book.

Vaughn, in 2007, recalled the deal being done quickly:

Other work on the project proceeded. Sam Rolfe turned in his second-draft script and Don Medford was hired to direct on Oct. 9, 1963, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E.-007 Timeline.

By November, the rest of the cast was in place. David McCallum would play the small part (in the pilot script) of Illya Kuryakin, a Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent, and Will Kuluva as Mr. Allison, the U.N.C.L.E. chief.

Production was scheduled to begin on Nov. 20. It would be shut down for four days because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy two days later.

In the coming months, two men named Broccoli and Saltzman would present another challenge.

Earlier posts:

July 1963: U.N.C.L.E. presses on without Fleming

June 1963: Ian Fleming signs away his U.N.C.L.E. rights

Two more questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in photo on Zimbo.com site

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming

Photos appeared on Oct. 2 on places such as Zimbio.com and Us magazine’s Web site of filming of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. Shots included stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer together and in costume. There were also PHOTOS of Hugh Grant as Waverly and actress Alicia Vikander. So this seems a good time to pose two more unanswered questions.

What’s the name of Alicia Vikander’s character? The Sept. 3 PRESS RELEASE doesn’t specify.

When Vikander was identified by THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER in May as being in the film, the trade publication said she “will play a British agent who has a thing for cars. The character did not appear in the TV series nor the short-lived spinoff, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., and is a new creation.”

What if, by chance, that’s not correct? Remember the filming of Skyfall? Naomie Harris’s Eve wasn’t supposed to be Moneypenny — except she was.

Thinking out loud, what if Vikander is playing April Dancer, the lead character in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.? There’s no evidence of that, of course. And given how complicated rights can be, the April Dancer character might even be unavailable for director Guy Ritchie & Co. to use. Time will tell.

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

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


Will the original U.N.C.L.E. insignia return? Over the past few days of filming in Italy, some shots of crew members have shown up on social media. In some cases, people are wearing security badges that appear to have the original U.N.C.L.E. insignia used in the main titles of the original 1964-68 series.

Even if it’s the original insignia (and in some cases it’s pretty small in the photos), that’s no guarantee it will show up in the movie. On the other hand, if it is used in the film, it would be another of the seeming homages to the original show.

UPDATE: The U.K. Daily Mail has A STORY WITH MORE PHOTOS of the filming in Rome.

The story has one noteable mistake. “Set at the height of the Cold War, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which stands for United Network Command for Law Enforcement), was originally a TV series created by Sam Rolfe, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.”

Robert Vaughn played Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill’s role) and David McCallum played Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer’s role). Neither actor created the show.

Norman Felton and Ian Fleming created the Solo character and Sam Rolfe devised the U.N.C.L.E. detail and created Kuryakin and other characters.

Of that trio, only Rolfe had an on-screen credit for the show’s concept: “Developed by” in the first season, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Developed by” for the rest of the series. Felton was the executive producer throughout the series, and was credited for that. Rolfe was also producer for the first season.

Also, the formal name is United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. The Daily Mail isn’t the first media outlet to drop the “and.”

Earlier posts:

RETURN OF THE ICONIC U.N.C.L.E. TURTLENECK?

HOW THE U.N.C.L.E. MOVIE WILL DIFFER FROM THE ORIGINAL SHOW

U.N.C.L.E. movie has young Solo character

UNCLE logo 02

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now being filmed in the U.K. has a “Young Napoleon Solo” character to be played by an actor who looks similar to star Henry Cavill who’s playing Solo in the film.

Jonathan Nadav, 23, has been cast as the young Solo, according to CASTINGCALLPRO.COM, a Web site that tracks casting.

That raises a couple of the possibility of either flashback scenes or some kind of prologue with the young Solo.

The original 1964-68 show didn’t reveal a lot about Solo’s background. One piece of information was he served during the Korean War under the command of a Colonel Morgan, who he encountered again in the first-season episode The Secret Sceptre Affair.

Whether director Guy Ritchie is going to explore that angle remains to be seen.

Shoutout to LaneyBoggs2001 (who Tweeted the Castingcallpro link) and others.

Luca Calvani is U.N.C.L.E. movie villain, Deadline says

Luca Calvani

Luca Calvani

Luca Calvani will play the lead villain in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, the Deadline entertainment news site said IN A SHORT ITEM. Here’s an even briefer excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: Luca Calvani, is set to play the lead villain role of Alexander in director Guy Ritchie‘s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at Warner Bros. (snip) The U.N.C.L.E. character is a wealthy Italian shipping heir who smuggled Nazi gold at end of WWII. Junior’s behind the sale of nuclear weapons.

What Deadline didn’t mention: Rip Torn played Alexander, a wealthy industrialist who idolized Alexander the Great in the two-part episode that led off the second season of the original 1964-68 series. In fact, the character’s real name was Baxter. He just decided to adopt the name of Alexander.

What’s more, the TV series villain wanted to take over the world and break each of the Ten Commandments in doing so. The Rip Torn version of Alexander perished at the end of Part II. The two-part story was penned by Dean Hargrove, one of the best writers on the original show.

Calvani wasn’t mentioned in THE WARNER BROS. RELEASE formally announcing the U.N.C.L.E. movie, which stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

The fact that director Ritchie and his producing partner/co-screenwriter Lionel Wigram is using the Alexander name suggests some degree of familiarity with the original source material. We’ll see.

For more information about the original Alexander, CLICK HERE and read the review for episodes 30 and 31. Also, the two-part episode was edited into the movie One Spy Too Many. Here’s the trailer:

UPDATE, You can CLICK HERE to see a story about Calvani’s casting from The Wrap entertainment news Web site.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie may have an echo of a TV episode

Solo doesn't realize it, but he's very close to Thrush's Dr. Egret

The opening scene of The Girls of Nazarone Affair.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now filming in the U.K. apparently has a sequence that has an echo of an episode of the 1964-68 television series.

The Extras Casting Web site has INFORMATION ABOUT THE MOVIE seeking extras who also have pre-1965 cars to appear as part of a sequence including “a memorable and iconic scene involving Grand Prix racing.”

The filming is to take place for four days starting Oct. 16 at the Goodwood Motor Circuit. Participating extras will receive 200 pounds a day but must be available for all four days.

As it turns out, the original show incorporated a Grand Prix race (a generic race, not the European-based Formula One series), for the next-to-last episode of the first season, The Girls of Nazarone Affair.

In the episode, which originally aired April 12, 1965, U.N.C.L.E. and the villainous organization Thrush are after a serum that greatly accelerates the healing process.

Thrush has gotten its hands on the serum and conducts a test, with women operatives firing automatic weapons into woman race car driver Nazarone. The latter survives and U.N.C.L.E. agents Solo and Kuryakin (Robert Vaughn and David McCallum) must plot a way to get the formula back. Meanwhile, the Thrush forces are led by Dr. Egret, a woman master of disguise in her second, and final, appearance in the series.

In the show, Southern California doubles for the South of France. Nazarone, whose behavior grows increasingly erratic, drives her race car onto the “Le Grand Prix” race circuit with the U.N.C.L.E. operatives in pursuit. The driving sequences take place on isolated roads.

It sounds Guy Ritchie, director of the new U.N.C.L.E. movie, starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, plans something more elaborate. The Nazarone episode of the television show included Sharon Tate in the cast.

Shoutouts to @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter and the Henry Cavill News and HenryCavill.org Web sites.

Henry Cavill’s Ian Fleming milestone

Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie began filming in London on Sept. 6, and a photo of Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo surfaced, including AT THE HENRY CAVILL NEWS SITE. Cavill, and what appears to be co-star Armie Hammer, have their backs to the cameras but the image spread on the Internet, nevertheless.

As a result, Cavill has now reached an Ian Fleming milestone — portraying two Ian Fleming-related characters, Solo and James Bond.

The latter occurred in 2005 when Cavill, then 22, DID A SCREEN TEST AS BOND for Casino Royale director Martin Campbell.

That’s a performance with an asterisk — screen tests aren’t intended for the public. But a lot was riding for Cavill with his test. If Cavill was going to show what he had as 007, the screen test was his last chance to demonstrate it. Producer Barbara Broccoli had favored Daniel Craig but Cavill was one of the finalists. Craig got the job, which he still holds eight years later.

Now, Cavill has filmed his first scenes as Solo, the character that Ian Fleming co-created with television producer Norman Felton. In a way, Solo is (figuratively) a distant relative of Bond’s.

This is mostly happenstance. Actors haven’t had the opportunity for both roles and there hasn’t been an U.N.C.L.E. production since 1983’s The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie. Still, it’s a milestone of a sort for Cavill.

Meanwhile, some Cavill fans haven’t given up on the actor succeeding Craig as 007. CLICK HERE for a Facebook page.

Jared Harris’s role in the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Jared Harris

Jared Harris

So what will Jared Harris be doing in the U.N.C.L.E. movie?

The Sept. 3 WARNER BROS. PRESS RELEASE doesn’t mention the name of the character Harris will play, much less whether he’ll be the film’s villain.

However, the DEADLINE entertainment news Web site, SLASHFILM.COM and WE GOT THIS COVERED all said the character’s name is Sanders.

In the original show, veteran actor George Sanders (1906-72) played G. Emory Partridge, one of the few villains to make a return engagement. Slashfilm.com even posed the question whether the character name is a nod to George Sanders, whose Partridge character appeared in first- and second-season episodes of the 1964-68 TV show.

Neither of the Web sites identifying the character’s name as Sanders say how they obtained the information.

Harris also played Professor Moriarty in 2011’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which was helmed by Guy Ritchie, who’s directing the U.N.C.L.E. film.

Some fans have already speculated whether the U.N.C.L.E. film, which features “a mysterious international criminal organization” might be tied into Moriarty.

As previously noted, ONE OF THE ACE U.N.C.L.E. NOVELS of the 1960s provided an origin for Thrush (the name of the villainous organization in the television show) just such a backstory. Warner Bros. also released the two Ritchie-directed Holmes movies, so such a move could be a possibility.

Or, of course, all of this could be a string of coincidences that will bear little resemblance to the eventual finished film.

Here’s a shoutout to @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter who pointed this blog to the Slashfilm.com post.

U.N.C.L.E. movie to start filming Sept. 9, Warner Bros. says

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer

Warner Bros. said today that a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will begin on Monday, Sept. 9. The primary bit of news: Hugh Grant will play U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly, the role originated by Leo G. Carroll in the 1964-68 series.

An excerpt of THE PRESS RELEASE:

BURBANK, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Principal photography will begin on September 9 on Warner Bros. Pictures’ “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” The film is the first to be made under filmmaker Guy Ritchie’s and producer Lionel Wigram’s new production shingle, Ritchie/Wigram Productions, which has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. Having successfully re-imagined the classic detective Sherlock Holmes in two hit films, the pair now bring their fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series by bringing super spies Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin to the big screen.

Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel”) stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) as Illya Kuryakin, alongside stars Alicia Vikander (“Anna Karenina”), Elizabeth Debicki (“The Great Gatsby”), Jared Harris (“Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows”), and Hugh Grant (“Cloud Atlas”) as Waverly.
(snip)
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 CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

The screenplay is written by Ritchie and Wigram, who also serve as producers. John Davis (“Chronicle”) and Steve Clark-Hall (“RocknRolla,” the “Sherlock Holmes” films) are also producing. David Dobkin is executive producer.

Grant, who turns 53 on Sept. 9, is more than 20 years younger than Carroll was when the series started production. The pilot episode originally had an U.N.C.L.E. chief named Mr. Allison played by Will Kuluva. Executive producer Norman Felton opted to recast and rename the role. For the broadcast version of the pilot, Carroll re-filmed a series originally done by Kuluva. The movie version of the pilot, To Trap a Spy, uses the Kuluva footage.

Besides specifying that Grant has the Waverly role is that Jared Harris, who played Professor Moriarty in one of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films is also in the cast.

A number of crew members were also listed, including director of photography John Mathieson and editor James Herbert. Not mentioned is who will be the movie’s composer.

Also, the press release confirms that this is will be an “origin” story. In the original series, a few hints of the background of Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Kuryakin (David McCallum) were provided but not many.

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