Guy Ritchie may direct U.N.C.L.E. movie, Deadline says

Guy Ritchie, the one-time Mr. Madonna, may end up directing a movie based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E, according to Nikki Finke’s Deadline entertainment news Web site.

Very brief excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros is making a deal with Guy Ritchie and his new partner Lionel Wigram to come aboard The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the film that Steven Soderbergh left just recently over budget and difficulty with casting after George Clooney dropped out….The intention is for Ritchie to direct the film.

The 43-year-old Ritchie is a hot property after directing two Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Given the curse
that seems to hang over attempts to revive U.N.C.L.E. (created by Norman Felton and Ian Fleming, with writer-producer Sam Rolfe, who got a “developed by” credit, doing most of the heavy lifting), we can’t get very excited just yet.

UPDATE: Even if Ritchie actually ends up directing, don’t expect Robert Downey Jr. to play Napoleon Solo. The actor is developing a Perry Mason movie and is committed to reprising the title role in Iron Man III.

U.N.C.L.E. epilogue: Soderbergh finds a new project

Steven Soderbergh, who bailed out of directing a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., has found a new project, according to THE WRAP entertainment news Web site.

Steven Soderbergh has signed on to direct a new thriller, “The Bitter Pill,” TheWrap has confirmed.

Scott Burns wrote the script and is also producing. Other producers include Soderbergh’s producing partner, Greg Jacobs, and Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

Soderbergh recently bailed out of an U.N.C.L.E. film project at Warner Bros., which also would have used a script by Burns. Soderbergh on the one hand says he wants to retire from filmmaking while jamming his schedule before that retirement begins. Anyway, presumably The Bitter Pill will take up the time he would have spent shooting U.N.C.L.E., (reportedly starting between mid-February and March), which would be before his final directing project, a made-for-HBO movie about Liberace.

UPDATE: It turns out THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER was first to report the news.

Warner Bros. still wants an U.N.C.L.E. film, The Wrap says

Warner Bros. hasn’t given up on making a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. despite director Steven Soderbergh’s departure from the project, THE WRAP ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE SAYS.

Quoting “an individual close to `U.N.C.L.E.’” (Napoleon Solo? Alexander Waverly? Maybe somebody less well know like George Dennell or Mandy Stevenson? It is a goofy attribution.), The Wrap’s Joshua L. Weinstein reports this:

The studio “doesn’t think there’s millions and millions of rabid ‘U.N.C.L.E’ fans out there, but they do recognize that the brand has some mythology to it,” the individual said. “It’s a major franchise they have wanted for over a decade now and a script they’re very happy with.”

The script is the one Scott Z. Burns did for Soderbergh. Color us skeptical because earlier in the story there’s this passage:

“This is a movie the studio was trying to make before Soderbergh was involved,” an individual close to “U.N.C.L.E.” told TheWrap. “If he is truly off, it’s hard to believe the studio won’t want to make it with someone else.”

*If* Soderbergh is truly off the project? Doesn’t the individual *close* to U.N.C.L.E. know? Or this is guesswork, educated or otherwise?

Wake us when the movie starts filming. Meanwhile, if you’re curious about our little joke in the second paragraph of this post, CLICK HERE and scroll down to episode 25, and CLICK HERE and scroll down to episode 48.

11 things that went wrong with the U.N.C.L.E. project

For one last time, in honor of Napoleon Solo’s No. 11 U.N.C.L.E. badge, we have an 11-themed post, this time the 11 things that went wrong with the now-crashed movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

1. An indecisive studio. Warner Bros. picked up the rights to U.N.C.L.E. when its parent company, Time Warner, acquired Ted Turner’s media empire. (It was part of the old Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film library that Turner bought in the mid 1980s.) The studio hasn’t been able to pull the trigger on a movie version for two decades. That tendency toward indecision will figure into other of the 11 reasons.

2. Steven Soderbergh’s farewell tour. In 2010, Soderbergh, who comes across as a thoughtful filmmaker, became involved with the project and this seemed to be good news. But he also wanted to either retire at a young age (he turns 50 in 2013) or at the very least take a long break. And he absolutely wanted to finish up before the end of 2012. That meant a lack of flexibility — which also influenced other of the 11 reasons.

3. Soderbergh’s friend, George Clooney. Because it was part of his farewell tour, it now appears it was Soderbergh’s idea that old pal George Clooney, 50, play Napoleon Solo.

4. Clooney’s bad back. But Clooney had a bad back due to a an injury in 2004. So even if he felt like coloring his hair, he wasn’t up to doing an action movie. So he bowed out.

5. The economy. It’s not very strong and that’s affecting movie studios, causing them to trim budgets and making them even more risk adverse.

6. Warner Bros.’s reaction to Soderbergh’s choices. According to THE PLAYLIST WEB SITE, Soderbergh’s next choices were Michael Fassbender as Solo and Joel Kinnaman as Russian agent Illya Kuryakin. Warners apparently had a mixed reaction. They weren’t sure about the actors for U.N.C.L.E. but were more than willing to cast them in prominent roles in other movies.

7. Enter: Johnny Depp. The actor’s Lone Ranger movie was temporarily canceled at Disney (partly because of, you guessed it, the economy). So he was looking for something to do. He thought it might be rather fun to play Kuryakin. Warner Bros. liked that idea.

8. Exit: Johnny Depp. Lone Ranger movie back, so sorry, Depp (figuratively) told Warner Bros. Now there was no Fassbender or Kinnaman, either.

9. Warner Bros and Soderbergh go back and forth. Bradley Cooper, Channing Tatum, who knows who else had their names bandied about. The Playlist said Warner Bros. only wanted a a $60 million budget, which would include $5 million the studio spent on other proposed versions. Soderbergh, who wants to finish up with a Liberace made-for-cable-television movie for HBO, evidently had enough.

10. There’s a curse on this project. Or hadn’t you heard that?

11. Fans, who should have known better, forgetting reasons 1 and 10. That would be us, or at least we would be at the head of that line.

U.N.C.L.E. curse strikes again: Soderbergh drops out

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse strikes again. Director Steven Soderbergh has dropped out of a movie version of the 1964-68 series, THE PLAYLIST WEB SITE REPORTED.

With the studio already hemming and hawing over casting options, this week they delivered a low $60 million dollar budget proposal for what is supposed to be the first in a tentpole franchise threequel. Soderbergh felt the figure wasn’t enough for a ‘60s set period spy film that’s set on four continents, and with a March date looming, he could no longer wait for the studio to refine numbers or set cast, officially pulling out of the project.

We’ll have more to say later. Suffice to say this joins a long line of unsuccessful attempts to revive U.N.C.L.E. Thanks to our friends at Mister 8 for pointing this out to us.

Yet another 11 questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Once again, in honor of Napoleon Solo’s U.N.C.L.E. badge number 11, here are 11 questions about the newest developments in trying to bring The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to movie screens.

1. Are they really considering Channing Tatum to play Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.? That’s what the Deadline entertainment new Web site REPORTED ON NOV. 14. Deadline generally has a good track record on scoops, including a few concerning Skyfall, the James Bond movie now in production. Deadline was very careful to say there was “no offer yet.”

2. How *might* he be right for the role? Well he fits the archetype of Solo being dark and according to his IMDB.COM biography, Tatum is 31, the same age Robert Vaughn was when he filmed the U.N.C.L.E. pilot in late 1963.

3. And why might he not be right for the role? Well, if you look at THE PHOTO, the guy looks like a football linebacker, especially with that thick neck.

4. What’s wrong with that? As originally conceived, Solo (and fellow agent Illya Kuryakin) were supposed to be somewhat average in appearance. Norman Felton, executive producer of the original 1964-68 show, said in a 1997 interview (portions of which appear on the DVD set for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series) that most TV series of the era featured “big, ballsy men” and he was looking to do something different. Women fans of the show will tell you there was nothing average about Solo or Kuryakin. But they were both under 6-foot-tall. And neither character remotely looked like a football player.

5. So what does Tatum have going for him? He has already worked twice for director Steven Soderbergh, slated to helm the U.N.C.L.E. movie: in Haywire, Soderbergh’s spy movie about a woman operative who vows revenge when she’s doubled crossed (coming to theaters in January) and in Magic Mike, a drama about male strippers, that’s due out next summer.

6. Why is that important? If Soderbergh likes an actor, he generally likes to work with him or her again. The first actor mentioned for Solo was George Clooney, who worked with Soderbergh several times, including the three “Ocean’s” movies (Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, etc.). Another actor in the U.N.C.L.E. mix was Michael Fassbender, who’s also in Haywire.

7. So what do you think? Our initial reaction was akin to how Bugs Bunny acts during the 3:00 to 3:08 mark of this cartoon:

8. Seriously? Well, we rarely get the opportunity to include a Bugs Bunny cartoon in a post, so you’ve got to go for it.

9. Oh, come on now. Is is it really that bad? Not necessarily but there’s a lot to think about.

10. Such as? On the one hand, we’re remembering when casting seemed to come out of left field but worked. Michael Keaton in the 1989 Batman movie. Robert Downey Jr. in 2008′s Iron Man. We weren’t familar at all with Tobey Maguire before he played Spider-Man in films that came out in 2002, 2004 and 2007, but thought he was terrific. Still, we also remember the 2002 version of I Spy, which was horrible. Or the 1996 version of Mission: Impossible that turned Jim Phelps into a villain as part of a Tom Cruise ego trip.

11. So what’s the bottom line, Sherlock? You can’t really critique something until there’s actually something to critique. Soderbergh is a good director and he has actually watched a lot of episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. preparing for this movie. Is that enough? That’s a question that can’t be answered yet.

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.

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