Could Johnny Depp wreck U.N.C.L.E. movie?

“Have our little plans gone askew?”

–Thrush villain Victor Marton (Vincent Price) in The Foxes and Hounds Affair

If Steven Soderbergh’s planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. crashes without reaching production, it may be due to a chain reaction involving Johnny Depp. At least, that’s the impression you getting reading between the lines of a POST ON THE PLAYLIST WEB SITE.

Playlist first SAID IN SEPTEMBER that Soderbergh’s first choices to play U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the lead characters of the 1964-68 television series, were Michael Fassbender and Joel Kinnaman. In the new post on Nov. 9, the Playlist says Warner Bros. had been on board with those choices. The plot thickened, however.

The monkey wrench came however when “The Lone Ranger” had fell into budget problems at Disney. In the interim, Johnny Depp read the Scott Z. Burns-penned (U.N.C.L.E.) script and wanted to take the Ilya (sic) role. WB were over the moon and essentially let it be known that Soderbergh could essentially cast anyone in the lead with a huge star like Depp in co-starring role.

Of course, after a little budget cutting, The Lone Ranger was again given a green light and Depp was no longer interested in U.N.C.L.E. In the interim, according to the Playlist, Fassbender and Kinnaman moved onto other projects. In effect, Depp’s flirtation with taking on the role made famous by David McCallum cost pre-production time for the U.N.C.L.E. project.

More complications, according to the account: the studio now wanted Matt Damon to star, except he’s busy.

WB pushed to shoot the (U.N.C.L.E.) film the following year, in early 2013 with Damon in the lead, but Soderbergh – who definitely wants to make the Liberace biopic “Behind The Candelabra” his last film for at least the foreseeable future — held his ground.

Soderbergh is supposed to direct the Liberace project, which will be shown on HBO, around mid-2012. Based on the Playlist account, the clock *appears* to be ticking. If Soderbergh and Warners can’t get leads cast *relatively soon* it may be hard to get an U.N.C.L.E. movie in production in time for Soderbergh to do it. And, as of now, there’s no Kuryakin and no Solo, played by Robert Vaughn in the television series.

Thus, Depp’s involvement may prove to be the catalyst that eventually runs wrecks an U.N.C.L.E. movie before it starts. That’s certainly the case if — and we stress that word — Soderbergh departs. Development likely would start all over again from scratch. We’ll see.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse

Warner Bros, which wants to make a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has seen two possible leading men, George Cooney and Bradley Cooper drop out of the project, is finding it hard to pull off a remake of the 1964-68 televison series.

Welcome to the club.

What follows is a guide to *some* of the previous attempts. Maybe this possible movie really is cursed.

1976-77: Writer-producers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts hire Sam Rolfe, the original developer of the show, to do a script for a made-for-televison movie that could be the springboard for a new show. “The Malthusian Affair” has some interesting concepts (including having a dwarf occupy an armored exo-skeleton) but it doesn’t get past the script stage. Had it become reality, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum would have reprised their roles as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.

Early 1980s: Would-be producers Danny Biederman and Robert Short cobble together a theatrical movie project. Their script had Thrush, the villainous orgnaization of the original series, take over the world without anyone realizing it. Vaughn and McCallum had expressed interest, as had former 007 production designer Ken Adam. Alas, nothing happened.

1983:: The only post-series U.N.C.L.E. project, the made-for-television series movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. airs on CBS. No series, or even a sequel made-for-TV movie, develops.

Early 1990s: Sam Rolfe attempts to do a made-for-cable-television movie that would have been an U.N.C.L.E. “next generation” story. Rolfe drops dead of a heart attack in 1993, ending any such prospect.

Circa 2004-2005: Norman Felton, executive producer of the orignal show, cuts a deal with a small production company for some sort of cable-televison project. Nothing concrete occurs.

2010-2011:: Warner Bros. entices director Steven Soderbergh to direct an U.N.C.L.E. movie after a number of false starts. As of now, nothing concrete has occurred. Whether that remains the case remains to be seen. Still, the odds seem long that Ian Fleming’s other spy (created with Norman Felton) will make a comeback.

UPDATE: For crying out loud, according to THIS STORY ON THE PLAYLIST WEB SITE, Johnny Depp wanted to play the Illya Kuryakin role played by David McCallum in the original show. But when Depp backed out, that complicated matters.

Bradley Cooper drops out of U.N.C.L.E. movie

Bradley Cooper, whose talent agency had strongly pitched the actor’s services, won’t play Napoleon Solo in Steven Soderbergh’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the entertainment Web site The Wrap says.

You can read the story BY CLICKING HERE. It’s not very long, though. Here’s a key excerpt:

The “Hangover” actor who had been in talks to play the crime fighter Napoleon Solo in Warner Bros’. big-screen version of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” will not play the role, TheWrap has learned.

Steven Soderbergh is directing the movie, which is based on the 1960s television show. Cooper was in talks to play the role that Robert Vaughn made famous.

It’s hard to tell if this is a body blow to the U.N.C.L.E. movie project or if Warner Bros. and/or Soderbergh have a plan B (or C or D or E).

Joel Edgerton offered Kuryakin role, New York blog says

Actor Joel Edgerton has been offered the role of Russian agent Illya Kuryakin in Steven Soderbergh’s planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., according to A REPORT in Vulture, an entertainment blog of New York magazine.

The post also includes this passage:

This has post has been corrected to note that our sources just clarified that Bradley Cooper is still weighing the role of Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn’s old part), but is waiting to commit until seeing who WB gets to play the role of Illya. If Edgerton signs on and Cooper approves, the A-Team star may still play Solo.

David McCallum, who plays Ducky on NCIS, was Kuryakin in the original 1964-68 series. The character was created by Sam Rolfe (who got a “developed by” credit in the original), and expanded by writer Alan Caillou.

The Vulture blog earlier this year published a list of everything Soderbergh had watched at home over a year’s time. It included almost all first-season episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., an indication he was researching the original pretty thoroughly.

UPDATE: If you read the comment section of the Vulture post, it originally had some errors, calling the agents Nathaniel Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. A New York magazine staffer wrote, “@duckysgirl – Yep, we got the names wrong. Tongue lashing has been appropriately self-administered and spelling corrected.”

Soderbergh loses his Kuryakin, Whatculture! says

Steven Soderbergh, director of the upcoming movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., lost out on the chance to cast his preferred choice as Illya Kuryakin, according to the Web site Whatculture!

The key excerpt:

Steven Soderbergh met with Joel Kinnaman, the Swedish star of Snabba Cash and lead of The Killing, to discuss the role of Illya Kuryakin in his adaptation of the 60s spy show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that is being turned into a large scale blockbuster at Warner Bros. Upon the meeting, Soderbergh made it known he wanted to cast the rising star but in the end Warner Bros have slotted him into co-leading another of their big money potential franchise starters.

According to the Whatculture! story, which you can read by BY CLICKING HERE, is a movie called Arthur & Lancelot, that starts filming in March.

In The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Russian agent Kuryakin was the Number Two of Section Two (Operations and Enforcement) of U.N.C.L.E., second only to American agent Napoleon Solo, a character created by Norman Felton and Ian Fleming, the latter, of course, the creator of James Bond.

Kuryakin, along with almost everyting else about U.N.C.L.E., was created by Sam Rolfe, who got a “developed by” credit on the show. Kuryakin’s popularity rivaled Solo’s. Many of Kuryakin’s characteristics were established by Alan Caillou, who wrote several episodes that helped develop the Kuryakin character. Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played Solo and Kuryakin in the original series.

The Whatculture! story mostly concerns itself with Kinnaman’s background and details about the Arthur & Lancelot movie project. In any case, no news yet on who McCallum’s successor as Kuryakin may be.

Bradley Cooper offered lead in U.N.C.L.E. movie, Variety says

Bradley Cooper, star of The Hangover, is director Steven Soderbergh’s choice to play Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Variety reported.

Here’s an excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: After a whirlwind casting search that has seen Matt Damon and Johnny Depp pass on the lead role vacated by George Clooney, Bradley Cooper has emerged as Steven Soderbergh’s choice to star in Warner Bros.’ spy pic “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

Cooper currently has an offer to play Napoleon Solo, and the opportunity to work with Soderbergh is one that Cooper is likely to accept, considering how hard his team at CAA worked to position him for the coveted part.

CAA stands for Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles. You can read the whole story BY CLICKING HERE. It has been previously reported that Soderbergh will start filming the U.N.C.L.E. movie in February. The movie will be set in the 1960s.

Robert Vaughn played Solo, a character originally created (without credit) by Norman Felton and Ian Fleming in the 1964-68 series. Cooper is 36 and will turn 37 by the time the movie goes into production. Vaughn turned 31 during the filming of the U.N.C.L.E. pilot, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

No word on who will play Illya Kuryakin, the Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent portrayed by David McCallum in the show, which was developed by the late Sam Rolfe.

UPDATE: To read different takes on this development, you can look at HOLLYWOOD.COM’S POST (which approves of the potential casting); THE HUFFINGTON POST; and COMINGSOON.NET.

UPDATE II: Another Web site, WE GOT THIS COVERED, says Michael Fassbender considered the role but took a pass.

Michael Fassbender among actors considered for U.N.C.L.E., The Playlist says

With George Clooney out, there are lots of actors being considered (or at least mentioned) for the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to be directed by Steven Soderbergh.

The Playlist Web site has a long list IN A LONG POST YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE. A sampling:

Bear in mind (Warner Bros.) would like a franchise here, so younger actors have been more appealing than Clooney almost from day one. Soderbergh also has a Napoleon Solo in mind in “Haywire” co-star Michael Fassbender. While the quickly-rising star only shot a few days on “Haywire,” both director and actor shared a good experience working together on the set.

The post mentions a number of actors who might play either Solo or Illya Kuryakin. Among them: Joel Kinnaman, Ewan McGregor, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Pine, Christian Bale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jon Hamm, Russell Crowe and Robert Pattinson. Some of these are supposed to be Soderbergh’s preferences, the other being pushed by Warner Bros.

There’s more intriguing possibilities that have nothing to do with actors:

(If) Soderbergh isn’t fully satisfied with the way casting goes down, he can easily walk and prep “Liberace” instead, which will shoot sometime in the second half of 2012 with (Matt) Damon and Michael Douglas.

(snip)

While Soderergh won’t direct it, another interesting piece of the puzzle is that Soderbergh and (screenwriter Scott Z.) Burns have already mapped out an ‘U.N.C.L.E’ sequel plus have a tantalizing idea for a third film that we won’t yet reveal here.

The post says the U.N.C.L.E. movie is supposed to start filming on Feb. 14, 2012.

Fassbender has been the subject of speculation that he might succeed Daniel Craig as James Bond. Here’s the trailer for X-Men: First Class, where Fassbender played the future Magneto:

U.N.C.L.E. movie still a go, Soderbergh says

The film version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is still proceeding even after potential star George Clooney exited the project, director Steven Soderbergh said in an interview with the Moviefone Web site.

An excerpt of a Soderbergh answer (the interview was presented in a Q&A format:

Scott Burns wrote a great script and everybody wants to continue. I’m sure that’s a classic example of, “Well, if Clooney’s not doing it, then it must mean blah, blah, blah. I mean, he and Steven are friends, so the script must be really bad! Has Steven done one of these things where he’s gone off on a tangent and it’s too crazy?” All that sh*t. As often the case in these situations, the truth is a little more prosaic. It’s just a movie and it wasn’t a risk worth taking.

Regarding Clooney’s possible participation, Soderbergh also said the following:

To be honest, this was all predicated on him looking at the script and determining whether, physically, it was going to be a problem for him. He was very seriously injured on ‘Syriana.’ The guy had fluid leaking out of his spinal column. And from the beginning when we started talking about it, that was part of the discussion. Having been one of the producers on that movie and him being a friend, in addition to a colleague, I don’t want to be the guy responsible for him reinjuring himself.

And we got the script to him and he said, “Look, I’ve got real concerns about this.” From scene one, it’s the kind of stuff that he really needs to be careful about. And, believe me, it’s not… We want to make another movie together and that was frustrating – for both of us. But it just became clear that it’s just too risky.

To read, the entire interview, much of wish deals with his new movie, Contagion, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, the Digital Spy Web site has a post where U.N.C.L.E. screenwriter Burns says Clooney apologized for having to pull out of the movie.

Finally, one other note. We did a little snooping on our own. via the Register.com Web site. Warner Bros. registered themanfromuncle.com as a domain name back on Dec. 9, 2004 and it expires on Dec. 9, 2012. The record was last updated on July 26, 2011. Is that significant? Hard to tell.

Clooney confirms his U.N.C.L.E. exit, Deadline says

George Clooney confirmed his exit from the planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in an interview with the Deadline Hollywood Web site. In the report, the actor says his age playeed a factor. Here’s an excerpt from a post by Pete Hammond:

I asked him about Deadline’s Mike Fleming’s exclusive report that he was dropping out of the planned Warner Bros. “Man From U.N.C.L.E. ” film directed by his frequent helmer and former partner Steven Soderbergh. Clooney indicated he would love to do it but physically just isn’t up to it. “I realize I’m 50 now and am going for neck and shoulder surgery soon and just can’t do it physically, ” he told me with a sigh.

To read the entire post, which is mostly about the 38th Annual Telluride Film Festival, just CLICK HERE. In the post, Clooney also says he’s skeptical that Steven Soderbergh, scheduled to direct the U.N.C.L.E. movie and an old friend of the actor, is really going to retire within a few years.

The Deadline also appears to partially confirm AN E ONLINE POST about why Clooney pulled out of the U.N.C.L.E. project. E Online, however, said Clooney’s decision was forced by back trouble.

Screenwriter says U.N.C.L.E. movie can be `cool stuff’

The ComingSoon.net Web site published a portion of an interview with screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, the scribe for the planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He described why he thought a film based on the 1964-1968 television seriies can be “cool stuff.” An excerpt:

“When you think about the world in the 1960′s just in terms of cars and fashion and the aesthetic, to be able to go and shoot that world with today’s cameras and today’s technology, I think we could do some really cool stuff. Then also, the thing that was so cool about ‘U.N.C.L.E.’ that people don’t realize–and this is why I like it more than ‘Mission: Impossible’–the initial conceit of ‘U.N.C.L.E.’ was amazing. It was really about an organization that didn’t have an affiliation with a country and Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin were guys who should’ve been sworn enemies. One was Russian and one was American and they worked together. In that way, it was a really incredibly progressive, hopeful kind of show.”

Actually, that’s something fans of the show have long realized. It was a post-Cold War show set in the midst of the Cold War. However, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. never had the syndication success of shows such as Star Trek or other programs. It dropped out of sight not long after going off the air on Jan. 15, 1968.

Occasionally, a few of the eight movies re-edited from episodes would show up (The Spy With My Face once was run on The CBS Late Movie, after the network unsuccessfully ran Merv Griffin up against Johnny Carson on NBC). It wasn’t until Labor Day 1985 when CBN (now ABC Family) ran the show that a decent number of people could view the show.

Anyway, to read the entire ComingSoon story, JUST CLICK HERE. The U.N.C.L.E. movie, if it materializes, would be directed by Steven Soderbergh. Napoleon Solo was created by Norman Felton and Ian Fleming (we keep mentioning this to keep the attention of 007 fans) and was developed by Sam Rolfe.

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