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.

REVIEW: Captain America in a 1970s spy movie

Captain America: The Winter Soldier's poster

Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s poster

Minor spoilers

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is Marvel Studio’s take on a 1970s-style spy movie: dark and more than a little paranoid.

For the most part, it works. Put another way: It’s probably not a coincidence that Robert Redford, star of Three Days of The Condor, plays a prominent role in the film.

In this case, Redford has traded in his role of the semi-naïve lead (held down here by Chris Evans’s Cap) for the Max Von Sydow part.

For the uninitiated, 1970s spy movies had a much darker take the bulk of their 1960s counterparts, which tended to be escapist, led by the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions.

The ’70s were a time of real-life scandals involving the CIA and FBI and a U.S. president (Richard Nixon) forced to resign from office. Lest anybody miss this connection, the new Captain America film includes a long shot of SHIELD’s Washington headquarters where the Watergate apartments can be seen in the background.

To get a flavor of 1970s spy/political thrillers, consider this: Another of the era’s movies of note was 1974′s The Parallax View. It featured Warren Beatty as a reporter who investigates a conspiracy to assassinate political candidates. As a review wrote at the time, Parallax is like having Cary Grant fall off Mount Rushmore at the end of 1959′s North By Northwest.

In translating ’70s style spy movies for the 21st century, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo offers a bit of something for everyone. For those who’ve watched the Marvel-produced films that began with 2008′s Iron Man, a lot of what you thought you knew has been turned on its head. But for newcomers, you don’t need to know all the background.

Suffice to say that Cap, the living legend of World War II (as he was billed during a 1960s comic book revival), has a lot of trouble figuring out who his friends and enemies are. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury keeps things from him as does Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Meanwhile, Redford’s Alexander Pierce hovers, much like Van Sydow did in 1975′s Condor movie.

Fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series particularly may appreciate the 2014 movie’s main plot. Without giving too much away (except for hard core U.N.C.L.E. fans), it’s as if the villain’s plot in the first episode of the dark fourth season had succeeded, except it occurred a long time ago.

Put yet another way: this Cap movie realizes the potential of the notion the Bond movies had with the villainous organization Quantum in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

The Russos clearly like shaky cam, but viewers can keep track of what’s going on. At 136 minutes, the movie is a trifle long, but generally satisfying, except for those who hate comic book-based movies under any circumstances.

Be warned: there are *two* epilogue scenes that take place during the end titles. The first is a teaser for 2015′s The Avengers 2. The other is a teaser for Cap 3, which currently is scheduled for May 2016, opposite Warner Bros.’s Superman-Batman movie.

If Cap 3 is as good as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Warner Bros. executives may want to reconsider that Superman-Batman release date. GRADE: B-Plus.

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.

A few questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

"Illya, I hope there are more people in the theater when the U.N.C.L.E. movie comes out next year."

“Illya, I hope there are more people in the theater when the U.N.C.L.E. movie comes out next year.”

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie has a release date, Jan. 16, 2015. But, naturally, that just means more questions to deal with.

Is this good news? Not for those who wanted the movie out around the time of its 50th anniversary in September 2015 2014. And it raises questions how much Warner Bros. believes in the project.

Typically, a studio puts its big guns either during the summer season (defined as the start of May through the Labor Day weekend) or Thanksgiving-Christmas (defined as early November through the end of the year).

January is often used for movies that didn’t make the cut for the Thanksgiving-Christmas period. Last month, for example, Paramount released Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which had been a contended for Thanksgiving-Christmas. The movie limped in at No. 4 in its opening weekend of Jan. 17-19, with U.S. ticket sales of not quite $15.5 million.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit ended up with worldwide box office of $123 million, with almost $75 million of that from international markets. The movie had an estimated budget of $60 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The U.N.C.L.E. movie had an estimated budget of $75 million, according to Variety.

Any news on a composer for the movie? Nope. But given the release date, one can’t help but wonder if this opens the door for Hans Zimmer.

Previously, Zimmer — who scored director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes movies — said scoring the Christopher Nolan Interstellar movie might prevent him taking the U.N.C.L.E. assignment. But U.N.C.L.E. won’t come out until more than two months after Interstellar. Perhaps Zimmer becomes an option again.

2015 will see both an U.N.C.L.E. movie and a James Bond movie (the as-yet untitled Bond 24). Has that ever happened?

Sort of. In the 1960s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released U.N.C.L.E. movies primarily for international audiences. They consisted of re-edited from television episodes ith additional footage for the movie versions.

The last year with a new Bond and U.N.C.L.E. *theatrically* movie was 1967, with You Only Live Twice and The Karate Killers, the sixth U.N.C.L.E. film. The former was a big hit (though not as big as 1965′s Thunderball) and the latter wasn’t as U.N.C.L.E. fervor was abating. The last two U.N.C.L.E. movies came out in 1968. (1983′s The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a TV movie that aired on CBS the same year Octopussy and Never Say Never Again hit theaters.)

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.

Anatomy of a television inside joke

Never let it be said television writers don’t have a sense of humor — especially when making inside jokes about their profession.

"Who's the funny guy?"

“Who’s the funny guy?”


We were watching an episode of Mannix from the 1973-74 season called Sing A Song of Murder. In it, intrepid P.I. Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) gets the drop on a guy who’s been tailing him. The interloper is a P.I. from Chicago named Anthony Spinner, who’s revealed later to be really a hitman.

That caught our attention since another Anthony Spinner was the producer for the fourth, and last, season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and would go on to be producer for a number of Quinn Martin series, including The FBI, Caribe and Cannon.

The Mannix episode was written by Stephen Kandel, who wrote for a number of spy-related series including I Spy, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O and A Man Called Sloane. He also has a bit of cult fame as the writer of the two Harry Mudd episodes on the original Star Trek series.

Anyway, Kandel also wrote for a Quinn Martin series that ran during the 1970-71 season called Dan August, whose producer happened to be….Anthony Spinner. He later wrote for Cannon when Spinner was producer of that QM show.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but given the background, an inside joke for viewers seems the more likely explanation.

2014: numerous big 007 anniversaries

"Order plenty of Bollinger -- '55, of course."

“Order plenty of Bollinger — ’55, of course.”

We were reminded that 2014 will mark a number of significant James Bond film anniversaries. Thus, there’s more reason than normal for 007 fans to dip into their home video copies.

50th anniversary of Goldfinger. The first mega-hit for Agent 007.

45th anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. An early attempt to bring 007 back down to earth, but one that wasn’t judged a success by United Artists.

40th anniversary of The Man With The Golden Gun. A box office misstep after Live And Let Die set a worldwide 007 box office record (though not in the U.S. market).

35th annivesary of Moonraker. Producer Albert R. Broccoli’s extragant follow-up to The Spy Wh Loved Me.

25th anniversary of Licence to Kill. A controversial Bond entry that preceded a six-year hiatus for the series.

15th anniversary of The World Is Not Enough. Pierce Brosnan’s third 007 entry and a preview of attempts to bring a more dramatic take to the world of 007.

UPDATE: As reader Stuart Basinger reminds us:

60th anniversary of the CBS television broadcast of Casino Royale. The first, and so far only, adaptation to feature an American (Barry Nelson in this case) playing Bond.

50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s death on Aug. 12. 007′s creator passed away the month before the film version of Goldfinger’s U.K. debut.

And one more that’s related:
50th anniversary of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Debut of the series featuring Ian Fleming’s other spy, Napoleon Solo, co-created with television producer Norman Felton.

Christopher Jones dies at 72

Christopher Jones, center, one of Thrush's "test tube" killers in a fourth-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode

Christopher Jones, one of Thrush’s “test tube” killers in a fourth-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode

Former actor Christopher Jones has died at 72 from complications of cancer, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY IN THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

The obituary focuses on credits such as Wild in The Streets and Ryan’s Daughter that were part of a “brief but dazzling career.” But given he mostly worked in the 1960s, Jones was drawn into the world of spy entertainment.

On television, he was the title character of The Test Tube Killer Affair, the second episode of the final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The story centers on efforts by Thrush, the villainous organization of the show, to develop so-called perfect killers, bred for the task from a young age. Such killers have been conditioned to turn their emotions on and off as necessary.

Jones’s character, Greg Martin, kills a number of people, including three U.N.C.L.E. agents and one of his fellow “test tube killers” who has been judged to be “defective.” Martin is to blow up a dam in Greece to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Thrush project. The episode is a prime example of a much darker tone U.N.C.L.E. had in its final season.

Jones also starred in The Looking Glass War, a 1969 film directed and scripted by Frank Pierson, based on a 1965 John Le Carre novel.

UPDATE: After re-watching The Test Tube Killer, Greg Martin’s death toll was five: U.N.C.L.E. agent Miguel (pre-credits sequence), fellow “test tube” student No. 7 (Act I), an employee of the Athens airport (Act II) and two U.N.C.L.E. agents in a helicopter (Act IV). He also unsuccessfully tries to kill U.N.C.L.E. agents Solo and Kuryakin in Act I and Act III.

Stan Lee to make appearance on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The SHIELD helicarrier in the first SHIELD story in Strange Tales No. 135.

The SHIELD helicarrier in the first SHIELD story in Strange Tales No. 135.

Stan Lee, the 91-year-old former editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, is going to make an appearance on the Feb. 4 installment of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.

Lee gave AN INTERVIEW TO IGN where he talked about the appearance and a bit about the original comic book. An excerpt:

IGN TV: My first question with you appearing on S.H.I.E.L.D. is, what took so long?! Were you saying, “Hey, why am I not in the first episode of this show?”

Stan Lee: Oh, I like the way you think! I felt the same way. Why was it not called Stan Lee and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? [Laughs] No, I’m glad that they gave that one little cameo, though. It’s a little bit longer than a cameo. It’s almost a supporting role. Instead of the usual three or four or five seconds, I think this took almost half a minute.

IGN: You were there for the beginning of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Lee: Well, I’m glad they invited me, because I did the first S.H.I.E.L.D. story in the comics with Jack Kirby. I love the whole concept of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I don’t know if you’d remember, but years ago, there was a television show called The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and U.N.C.L.E. was a secret organization and so forth. I got the idea for S.H.I.E.L.D. from U.N.C.L.E.. I thought it’d be great to have an organization like that, but because we were doing comic books, I’d make it bigger and more colorful and more far out. We had a book called Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, which we stopped publishing after awhile. The fans would wonder, “What happened to Sgt. Fury? Where is he now?” So it occurred to me that if I did this group S.H.I.E.L.D., why not put Sergeant Fury at the head of it, except he’d now be a Colonel. So he’d be Colonel Fury and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — and that’s how it all started. I loved the idea, and I’m so glad that it’s a TV series. As it moves along, I hope it just gets wilder and wilder.

Nick Fury's first post World War II appearance

Nick Fury’s first post World War II appearance


Lee’s memory is a little faulty in the interview.

Actually, the Sgt. Fury World War II title continued to be published after S.H.I.E.L.D. debuted in 1965. Thus, for a few years, Nick Fury appeared in two different titles (Sgt. Fury and Strange Tales, which S.H.I.E.L.D. shared with Dr. Strange) with stories set in two different time periods.

Also, Lee and Kirby, who created the Fury character to begin with, first established Nick Fury had survived World War II in Fantastic Four No. 21, published in 1963. At that point, Fury was with the CIA. He was still with that agency when he was recruited to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. in Strange Tales No. 135.

In the comics, S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t hit its stride until Jim Steranko took over as writer-artist in 1966-68.

Some U.N.C.L.E. movie visual effects to be done in Canada

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

Cinesite, a U.K. visual effects company, is opening a Montreal facility and its first project will be The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, according to A JAN. 20 HOLLYWOOD REPORTER STORY.

An excerpt:

London-based Cinesite will open a VFX facility in Montreal’s historic quarter, with a capacity for 250 artists, it was announced on Monday.

The international expansion for Cinesite, starting in Canada, follows the sale last year of the U.K. VFX house to private equity firm Endless LLP as part of a management buyout

Cinesite will split the U.N.C.L.E. work between London and Montreal, according to the story. The movie’s home base during production was Warner Bros.’s U.K. studio at Leavesden.

The Hollywood Reporter didn’t offer much in additional details about the movie, which was filmed from early September through early December.

The movie, directed by Guy Ritchie, has a reported $75 million budget. That’s considerably less than Skyfall, Man of Steel (which had Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo in U.N.C.L.E.) or The Lone Ranger (which had Armie Hammer, who plays Illya Kuryakin in U.N.C.L.E.), all of which had budgets of $200 million or more. So it remains to be seen how elaborate the U.N.C.L.E. visual effects will be.

UPDATE: @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter informs us that BLUE BOLT, ANOTHER U.K. VISUAL EFFECTS HOUSE is doing some U.N.C.L.E. (See right margin of link in this paragraph.)

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