Guy Ritchie’s U.N.C.L.E. philosophy

Photo of Armie Hammer and Guy Ritchie that appeared in the Daily Mail

Photo of Armie Hammer and Guy Ritchie that appeared in the Daily Mail last year.

The Empire magazine story about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie still isn’t online, but fans have posted images of the print version. It contains a few quotes from director Guy Ritchie.

Ritchie said he only dipped so far into the original 1964-68 series that starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

“We’re tipping our hat to the original series, but we’re really taking the positives of the existing brand and reworking them for a contemporary audience,” Ritchie told Empire.

“There were only a few things I needed to keep from the TV series. It needed global stakes, a Russian and an American. The Russian had to be blond and the American dark. Other than that, it brings no baggage for being an ‘inherited project.'”

The last comment is an apparent reference to how an U.N.C.L.E. movie project has been bouncing around for years. Ritchie took it over after director Steven Soderbergh exited in late 2011.

Ritchie’s movie is an “origin of U.N.C.L.E.” story, with Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) a CIA agent and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) a KGB operative who join forces in the early 1960s. In the television series, U.N.C.L.E. had been around for some time, with Solo and Kuryakin trained as U.N.C.L.E. agents in the 1950s.

The movie is schedule for release in August 2015.

UPDATE: Henry Cavill News has a post with an image of the article. You can CLICK HERE to view it. You can CLICK HERE for a larger image of the article on that website that’s easier to read.

 

Still new questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in 2013

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in 2013

As Michael Corleone once said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” In that spirit, here’s a look at some new questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie that have arisen in the past few weeks.

The release date has been pushed back to August 2015 from January. Good or bad? Honest answer: I don’t know.

Skeptics will say it’s another sign of trouble. Then again, the January date was seen as a sign of trouble, an indication that Warner Bros. didn’t think it could take the holiday season competition.

The more optimistic interpretation is that Warners has more faith in the project, concluding it could fare well in the late summer slot. On the studio calendar, “summer” starts on May 1, and in 2015 that means the sequel to Marvel’s The Avengers, which is already getting buzz. Marvel will also have Ant Man in July. While Ant Man isn’t that well known to the general public, the same was true of Guardians of the Galaxy, which has become a big hit.

So it’s probably a good idea to keep U.N.C.L.E. away from the early- to mid-summer months. But some summer movies released in August can become hits. We’ll see.

What’s up with all the reshoots? Again, hard to tell from the outside. At the very least, it indicates the studio isn’t just shoving the movie out the door. The first rounds of reshoots didn’t involve the principal actors. But Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer were eventually summoned back. That appears to be done because Cavill is back working on the Batman-Superman movie due out in March 2016.

The star hasn’t even watched the show. Good or bad? Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo, told Empire magazine he hadn’t watched any episodes of the 1964-68 series.

That’s part of the actor’s M.O. He didn’t watch previous Superman movies or television stories, according to 2013 stories from REUTERS and THE DAILY BEAST He said he studied original comic books for insights into the character.

But one thing different about U.N.C.L.E. is that the television series is the source material. We’ll have to see how this turns out.

Illya Kuryakin is a hothead? What is up with that? This week, there’s another test screening of the movie. The invitations refer to “cool, & collected CIA agent Solo, and hot-headed rival KGB agent Kuryakin.”

For original fans, that’s a little concerning. Kuryakin very much kept his cool in tense situations and was a big part of the character’s appeal.

Then again, this is an “origin” story and the Kuryakin portrayed by Armie Hammer (who says watched original U.N.C.L.E. episodes) may not be fully formed yet. It sounds like a broken record, but we’ll see.

U.N.C.L.E. movie: 1 star has seen TV show, 1 hasn’t

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo in the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t seen the original 1964-68 series while Armie Hammer, the film’s Illya Kuryakin, has.

The source of this is Empire magazine, which has published a feature about the movie, scheduled to be released in August 2015. The Empire story isn’t at the publication’s website but THE COMIC BOOK MOVIE WEBSITE has a summary.

According to that summary, Cavill told Empire, “I don’t see that it was necessarily important. I just wanted to meet with Guy (Ritchie, the director) to know how he saw it.”

Hammer told the magazine, “It is completely different. If you watch the pilot episode, it just starts. It doesn’t say what U.N.C.L.E. is, who these characters are. It just goes and you have to catch up. So, this is a genesis story of U.N.C.L.E.”

The Comic Book Movie post by Josh Wilding also has what are described as the first official images from the movie. You can CLICK HERE to see it.

The series, with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, marks its 50th anniversary next month. In the U.S., the MeTV channel will begin showing the series at 10 p.m. eastern time on Sunday, Sept. 7, as part of a weekly bloc of spy shows.

Character actress Arlene Martel dies at 78

Robert Vaughn and Arlene Martel in a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Robert Vaughn and Arlene Martel in a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Arlene Martel, a busy character actress, including 1960s spy shows, has died at 78.

Her death was disclosed on THE FACEBOOK PAGE for These Are The Voyages, a three-volume book about the original Star Trek series. The author, Marc Cushman, was a friend of Martel’s, according to TREKNEWS.NET, a Star Trek site.

Martel is primarily known for Star Trek as T’Pring, a Vulcan woman Spock is supposed to marry before complications arise in the episode “Amok Time.” That connection, along with her other television work, made her a regular at collectibles shows where fans meet and get autographs from fans.

But Martel also showed up on 1960s spy shows, including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as a Rome-based operative who assists Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in a first-season episode, “The King of Knaves Affair.” She also made appearances on It Takes a Thief, Mission: Impossible and The Wild Wild West.

The actress made guest appearances in series covering various genres, including police/detective dramas (Columbo, Mannix); comedies (including several episodes of Hogan’s Heroes); and science fiction (playing opposite Robert Culp in the Harlan Ellison-scripted “Demon With a Glass Hand” on the original Outer Limits series).

UPDATE (Aug. 14): To view a more detailed obituary in The Hollywood Reporter, CLICK HERE.

Secret Service delayed, Batman-Superman blinks

Henry Cavill in a new publicity image

Henry Cavill in a new publicity image

As was once said of Willard Whyte, it’s like playing Monopoly with real buildings.

Movie studios have shuffled their release schedules of major movies. For readers of this blog, two shifts are of note.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn, has been pushed back from October to Feb. 13, 2015, according to A STORY ON COLLIDER.COM. The film, based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, has been marketing itself as embodying elements of 1960s James Bond films, as well as ’60s spy shows such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The bigger news was that Warner Bros./DC Comics blinked, avoiding a potential confrontation with Marvel Studios/Disney. Superman V. Batman: The Dawn of Justice, is now slated to come out on on March 25, 2016.

Originally, Warner Bros. wanted the Batman-Superman film to come out in July 2015. Then, it was pushed back to the first weekend of May 2016. Marvel characters have owned the first May weekend since 2008, when the first Iron Man movie debuted. For 2016, Marvel, now part of Walt Disney Co., planned a third Capt. America movie for that weekend. Nobody thought both superhero epics would come out at the same time — and they were right.

U.N.C.L.E. figures, indirectly, into both moves. The Batman-Superman film includes Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo in Warner Bros. movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., as Superman. The Secret Service — which includes some U.N.C.L.E. memes — now will come out less than a month after the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s debut in mid-January 2015.

The changed release date for the Batman-Superman film is part of a broader schedule of films that Warners/DC releases, according to the Deadline entertainment website.

UPDATE: VARIETY OFFERS AN ALTERNATE EXPLANTION for the Batman v Superman change. “(B)y moving out of May and into March, the comicbook film signals that Hollywood is opening its eyes to the fact that moviegoing can be a 12-month-a-year proposition. Now, the superhero mash-up will be the first film starring the Dark Knight not to debut during the summer, something that would have been all but unthinkable a few years ago.”

It also quotes a Warner Bros. executive as saying, “If you have a great film, people will come no matter when it’s dated.” If that’s sincere, and not just spin, perhaps U.N.C.L.E. fans might feel better about that movie’s January 2015 release date. We’ll see.

U.N.C.L.E.’s odd post-series history

"It's hard to find our show some times, Illya."

“It’s hard to find our show sometimes, Illya.”

UPDATE: The 1980s section, corrects name of network to Christian Broadcasting Network. CBN changed its name to Family Channel name after it showed U.N.C.L.E.

Also, readers (one is a comment below, the other was on Facebook) have mentioned the following: The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair, a 1986 A-Team episode with U.N.C.L.E. memes (Robert Vaughn was a regular in that show’s final season and David McCallum was the episode’s guest star) as well as a Dec. 31, 1989-Jan. 1, 1990 U.N.C.L.E. marathon on TNT.

While we’re at it, Turner Classic Movies a few years ago had a daylong marathon of the eight U.N.C.L.E. movies, with the first beginning at 6 a.m. eastern time. TCM still occasionally shows them.

With the news that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is going to be shown by MeTV in the U.S. starting next month, here’s a review of the show’s odd history after it ended its 1964-68 run on NBC.

This is by no means a definitive history. But it gives you an idea how a series that once was very popular had trouble finding an audience after its first run. The show made stars of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, even to the point where the Beatles wanted to meet Vaughn in 1966. But later, it was as if the show disappeared.

Meanwhile, other series that were on at the time, such as Mission: Impossible and The Wild Wild West, were much easier to find on local television stations. And, of course, the original Star Trek (which shared many of the same guest stars as U.N.C.L.E.) became a broad pop culture event while in syndication.

Circa 1968-1969: For a period, U.N.C.L.E. could be seen in syndication. An Indianapolis independent station showed U.N.C.L.E. (Both Man and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.) Monday through Friday in an afternoon time slot.

However, this did not last that long. In general, there was a concern about violence on television and this perhaps affected U.N.C.L.E. For whatever reason, U.N.C.L.E. soon became virtually invisible.

1970s: The best chance to see U.N.C.L.E. was when one of the eight “movies” — re-edited from series episodes — popped up on local television. In the `1970s, I caught To Trap a Spy (an expanded version of the series pilot) on a local television station. CBS even showed The Spy With My Face, an expanded version of the first-season episode The Double Affair, on the CBS Late Movie. At the time, CBS didn’t have its own viable late-night show and was content to show movies starting at 11:30 p.m. eastern time.

1980s: In the early 1980s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which made the series in association with producer Norman Felton’s Arena Productions, dusted off U.N.C.L.E. The studio made a renewed syndication push. The original MGM logs at the end of episodes were removed and new ones added.

In 1985, the Christian Broadcasting Network — controlled by tele-evangelist Pat Robertson — showed The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at 11 p.m. eastern time in the U.S. But for the CBN debut,the channel skipped over the entire black-and-white first season. Its first telecast was The Arabian Affair from the second season.

By the spring or summer of 1986, CBN showed all but four episodes: the two-part Alexander the Greater Affair and The Very Important Zombie Affair from the second season and The Abominable Snowman Affair from the third. The latter two weren’t shown, reportedly because of their un-Christian content (voodoo with Very Important Zombie, depictions of Eastern religions in Snowman). As for Alexander the Greater, it turned out nobody could find it. More about that shortly.

Meanwhile, there were changes behind the scenes. Television mogul Ted Turner bought MGM, primarily to gain control of its film library, including classic films such as Gone With the Wind and Ben-Hur. But Turner borrowed heavily for the purchase. So he sold the studio, while keeping the film library — which also included U.N.C.L.E.

Thus, in 1988, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was part of TNT’s Saturday morning (and later Saturday afternoon) programming. TNT telecast Very Important Zombie and Abominable Snowman shortly thereafter.

1990s: By the mid-1990s, U.N.C.L.E. shows up in the early-morning hours of Tuesday (technically part of its Monday schedule). In 1999, a Turner employee finds Alexander the Greater. The two-part story was telecast July 4, 2000, the last U.N.C.L.E. telecast on the cable network. In the interim, Turner has sold out to Time Warner, whose Warner Bros. now controls the show.

NBC had never rerun Alexander the Greater. So the TNT telecast was the first time the television version had been seen since September 1965. Until then, only the movie version, One Spy Too Many, had been available.

In 1999, TV Land had a “spy week” promotion in connection with the second Austin Powers movie. Four episodes each of The Man and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. are shown on separate nights, along with series such as It Takes a Thief and The Avengers. For Man, four first-season episodes are telecast. (Girl only ran one season, making selection easier.) TNT, around the same time, showed some episodes of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. in connection with the birthday of star Stefanie Powers.

21st century: Both The Man and Girl From U.N.C.L.E. have shown up on other cable channels but don’t enjoy a lot of visibility.

In 2007, the series is released on DVD, initially by Time-Life. The original MGM logo at the end of episodes was restored. Within a few years, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and the eight U.N.C.L.E. movies are released by Warner Archive, the manufactured-on-demand arm of Warner Bros.

MeTV picking up The Man From U.N.C.L.E. comes just ahead of the show’s 50th anniversary as well as a movie version of the show coming in January.

U.N.C.L.E. debuts on MeTV on Sept. 7

Robert Vaughn in a first-season main title.

Robert Vaughn in a first-season main title.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will be telecast by MeTV on Sundays at 10 p.m. eastern time, starting Sept. 7, ACCORDING TO THE CHANNEL’S WEBSITE.

MeTV currently airs the 1960-62 Boris Karloff Thriller series in the time slot, part of a “noir” bloc of black-and-white television shows such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Fugitive, Naked City and others.

U.N.C.L.E., starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, has been shown irregularly since its first run on NBC ended in January 1968. Some fans re-discovered the show when what was known at the time as The Family Channel began running episodes in 1985. The channel didn’t show any episodes from the black-and-white first season until the spring of 1986. TNT ran the show from 1988 to 2000, although very infrequently during the final years of that run.

The series will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Sept. 22.

UPDATE: Starting Sept. 7, MeTV will follow up The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with THE ORIGINAL MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE SERIES, at 11 p.m. Eastern, 10 p.m. Central time, according to the MeTV website.

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