U.N.C.L.E. movie shifts to Italy; 2nd unit gets busy

U.N.C.L.E. movie action

U.N.C.L.E. movie action in photo on Henry Cavill News site

Filming on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie has shifted to Italy. It appears the second, or action, unit is getting in some work.

Throughout the past few days, fan sites including Henry Cavill News and Henry Cavill.Org plus the Henry Cavill Fanpage and its U.N.C.L.E. movie Facebook page and @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter have provided various updates about the film. Henry Cavill News had THIS POST. Here’s an excerpt:

La Repubblica is reporting that filming has begun on The Man from UNCLE in Italy. So far it seems it’s the second unit doing all of the work. Apparently they are shooting at Castel dell ‘Ovo, which we told you more about in this post. The newspaper says the castle has been off limits throughout the day, but only in the areas occupied by the crew.

They are reportedly filming an action scene that we had heard about before, in which a group of special forces conducts a raid of the fortress, battling it out with gunmen there to protect the mysterious criminal who is hiding inside. Guy Ritchie was spotted earlier in the day, enjoying a day off with his family. And Armie Hammer’s wife shared this great picture of their family, including their cute dog as they explored Pompeii.

On Twitter there were photos such as THIS ONE and THIS ONE of the area where the movie is being filmed.

The $75 million Warner Bros. film so far hasn’t had a big public profile. That may come later. The movie will wrap up production by the end of the year so that Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo, can start work on a Superman-Batman film in early 2014. Cavill has the role originated by Robert Vaughn in the 1964-68 television series. Armie Hammer plays Illya Kuryakin, the role originally played by David McCallum.

UPDATE: The DAILYCAVILL.COM site has a post. Here’s an excerpt:

THE LOCATION – In the film, the Castel dell ‘Ovo become the Castle of Baia, part of Bacoli where they will hold most of the filming. The set, in fact, will move to the beach of Villa Ferretti in Bacoli, building sites Fiart Bay, moored at Pier Caligula and the fishmongers of Pozzuoli where you will run tomorrow. Other locations will be Rome and England. [ Campaniasuweb ]

UPDATE (Sept. 25): Here’s a video of the area it Italy where filming is occurring this week:

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.

U.N.C.L.E. movie cast member sends out some Tweets

"Illya, I'm not sure what to make of all these Tweets about the U.N.C.L.E. movie."

“Illya, what do you make of all this?”

UPDATE (6:10 p.m.): The Instagram photo referred to below has been removed.

ORIGINAL POST: A member of the cast of The Man From U.N.C.L.E movie. scheduled to start filming this month, has sent out a few Tweets about the project. There’s nothing startling and certainly no spoilers. But the posts have been re-Tweeted by fans of Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, the leads in the film.

Peter Stark, whose TWITTER PROFILE lists him as an “Actor, Model & Voice Over Artist” SAID AUG. 23 ON TWITTER:

Costume Fitting for my part on The Man from UNCLE (@ Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden)

On Sept. 3, he again AGAIN TWEETED ABOUT GOING TO AN U.N.C.L.E. COSTUME FITTING at Warner Bros.’s Leavesden studio in the U.K.

In ANOTHER SEPT. 3 TWEET he included a link to an Instagram photo of his copy of the script. Here’s the text:

My script! #UNCLE @ Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden http://instagram.com/p/dytpaMBb1v/

The photo merely consists of part of a cover with the word U.N.C.L.E. and his name on it. U.N.C.L.E. is in the original font used in the titles of the 1964-68 television series. That would be significant if (and this is a very big if) the original U.N.C.L.E. logo would be incorporated in the movie. It’s obviously way too early to tell.

There is a Peter Stark with an IMDB.COM entry. His acting credits include parts such as “German Officer” in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, one of two Holmes films directed by Guy Ritchie. Ritchie is also directing the U.N.C.L.E. movie. Stark is also listed as doing voice work for video games, including 2012′s 007 Legends. The IMDB.com entry, however, doesn’t have a photograph that would confirm it’s the same Peter Stark.

More questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

Gradually, details are emerging about the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that’s scheduled to start filming next month. But there are still plenty of unanswered questions about director Guy Ritchie’s project. Here are a few.

Who will be playing some key roles? The leads have been cast, with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer playing Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the U.N.C.L.E. operatives played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in the 1964-68 television series. Three other actors, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki and Hugh Grant, are slated for other roles.

There’s still no word on who will play Alexander Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. leader played by Leo G. Carroll in the series. If a primary villain has been cast, it hasn’t been announced. Perhaps there will be some answers as filming begins.

Who will be the composer? Key crew members have emerged, according to the movie’s IMDB.COM ENTRY. John Mathieson, who has photographed films such as Gladiator, The Phantom of the Opera and X-Men: First Class, is listed as director of photography. James Herbert, who edited both of Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes movies, will perform the same task here.

Still no word on a composer. Hans Zimmer worked on Ritchie’s Holmes films and has composed music for various action movies. Thus, Zimmer would seem to be a candidates. But he’s already scheduled to do other 2014 films, according to his IMDB.com entry. Michael Giacchino and David Arnold, the five-time 007 composer, would seem to be among suitable choices. Giacchino also has a busy plate with films scheduled to be released next year.

The U.N.C.L.E. Special

The U.N.C.L.E. Special

Will there be new versions of key U.N.C.L.E. props? The U.N.C.L.E. Special, a handgun with attachments, was one of the distinctive props on the original show. The Special is even the subject of a Web site, THEUNCLEGUN.COM. Also, the U.N.C.L.E. agents used communicators initially disguised as a pack of cigarettes, later as a pen.

Presumably, Ritchie & Co. will want their own versions of such key props. The movie is to be a period piece so it’ll be interesting to see if revamped U.N.C.L.E. Specials and communicators will be based on what was available in the 1960s.

Will there be a new U.N.C.L.E. logo? Again, assuming Ritchie & Co. want their own look, a revised U.N.C.L.E. insignia would be a possibility. The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had its own insignia when it came out in 1983.

Is it going to be any good? That’s the biggest question of all.

Warner Bros. and its priorities

Ben Affleck in 2003's Daredevile

Ben Affleck in 2003′s Daredevil

It doesn’t appear that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is at the top of priority list for Warner Bros’s publicity department.

The studio put out a press release that Ben Affleck will play Batman opposite Henry Cavill’s Superman in a movie with a July 17, 2015 release date. Affleck played Daredevil in a 2003 20th Century Fox movie based on a Marvel Comics character who made his debut in 1964, the same year The Man From U.N.C.L.E. premiered.

Cavill played Superman in this year’s Man of Steel movie. Cavill is also the studio’s choice to play Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that is scheduled to start filming next month. Warner Bros. has yet to make an official announcement about that movie, even though Cavill and Armie Hammer, slated to play Illya Kuryakin, have said that will be their nest project. Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played Solo and Kuryakin in the 1964-68 television series.

"Mr. Warner, when do I rate a press release?"

“Mr. Warner, when do I rate a press release?”

Batman and Superman are two of the most lucrative characters controlled by Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Bros. Author Bruce Scivally wrote a book called Billion Dollar Batman tracing the history of that character from the comics through movies directed by Christopher Nolan.

It would appear Warner Bros.’s U.N.C.L.E. project isn’t at the top of its list while the Batman-Superman project for 2015 is. Such is life. Variety has reported the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s budget was reduced to $75 million after Tom Cruise departed the project, paving the way for Cavill to get the Solo role.

EPILOGUE: The U.N.C.L.E. movie that wasn’t

A sample of The End of the World Affair

Solo and Kuryakin in peril in The End Of The World Affair

The other day, this blog published a POST about the storyline for a late 1970s-early 1980s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that was never produced. It turns out that wasn’t the entire story.

About 20 years ago, the Robert Short-Danny Biederman story was almost adapted into a comic book — except it wasn’t published. Deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra might say.

Background: In 1993, Millenium Publications, an independent publisher of comic books, came out with a two-part comic book based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. called The Birds of Prey Affair.

Millenium planned a second U.N.C.L.E. foray, to be based on the aborted Short-Biederman movie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Feature Film. The title would have been The End Of The World Affair.

The project ran into problems. There were management changes at Millenium while the project was underway. Eventually, the art was completed. However, the studio that controlled U.N.C.L.E., which would have been Turner Entertainment at the time, wanted an increase in the licensing fee. (Turner was acquired by Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Bros., in 1996). As a result, nothing was published.

Thus, the imaginative story line again was denied an audience. The tale involved an all-out assault on U.N.C.L.E. by Thrush, the villainous organization of the original 1964-68 series. Also, the story revealed that Thrush already exerted control over the world through economic means, including controlling ownership of multi-national conglomerates.

Two decades later, a new U.N.C.L.E. movie is scheduled to begin production in September. This one will be a 1960s period piece, with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. It remains to be seen what the new film, to be directed by Guy Ritchie, has in store or whether it can match the scope of the Short-Biederman story.

More questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

"Illya, we need to find out more about the U.N.C.L.E. movie."

“Illya, we need to find out more about the U.N.C.L.E. movie.”


One thing about the HMSS Weblog. It never runs out of questions. Certainly that’s the case with a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So here we go:

1. Who’s doing the script? Back in late June, it seemed as if the film would use a script penned by Scott Z. Burns for director Steven Soderbergh, who exited the project in late 2011. An INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR ARMIE HAMMER (slated to play Illya Kuryakin) quoted Hammer thusly:

‘It’s such a great script (by Scott Z. Burns), and it’s so funny! Guy Ritchie has such a great take on it.”

But, looking back, Hammer doesn’t say “Scott Z. Burns.” It’s inserted by writer Ruben V. Nepales. Meanwhile, in a NEW STORY IN VARIETY BY JON BURLINGAME, there’s this information:

With a script by Ritchie and his “Sherlock Holmes” writer and producer Lionel Wigram, the film is an origin story that tells of the first pairing of the two spies — one American, one Russian.

Ritchie refers to director Guy Ritchie, who previously helmed two Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. Later in the Variety story, it lists Burns as among a number of writers who’ve tried devising an U.N.C.L.E. tale over the years. Also, Burns HAS TALKED PUBLICLY ABOUT HIS SCRIPT. If it were actually being used for a film, you’d think studio executives wouldn’t be happy with the scribe disclosing details.

2. Why hasn’t Warner Bros. made an announcement yet? The studio has announced a Superman-Batman movie for 2015 (starring Henry Cavill, who played the title character in this year’s Man of Steel and is to play Napoleon Solo in the U.N.C.L.E. film); a 2014 science fiction movie directed by Christopher Nolan (which will be a co-production with Paramount); and The Judge, an October 2014 movie with Downey and Robert Duvall.

U.N.C.L.E. is supposed to start production in a little more than a month. Both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer have separately said they’ll be doing the movie. Why is Warner Bros. still silent?

3. When will the U.N.C.L.E. movie reach audiences? Assuming the film begins production in early September, it’s possible you could get it out in time for the television show’s 50th anniversary in September 2014. But Warner Bros. (as noted before) has already announced fall 2014 films.

4. What about the rest of the cast? Will there be a Mr. Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. chief played by Leo G. Carroll in the original 1964-68 series? Who will be the villain? Will there be an “INNOCENT” CHARACTER, one of the key elements that made U.N.C.L.E. different than James Bond?

5. What about the rest of the crew? As of early Aug. 1, the movie’s IMDB.COM entry listed mostly members of the art department. No director of photography. No composer. No editor. Those are all pretty major jobs on a movie and you’d think they’d be lined up by now.

6. Is a $75 million budget enough? Variety said the budget is $75 million. That’s less than half the budget for the 2012 James Bond movie Skyfall. Still $75 million ought to be sufficient. The movie is to be 1960s period piece, but computer effects make it easier to recreate past periods. Meanwhile, Hollywood has a hangover from a half-dozen or so very expensive movies that flopped, including The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. It makes sense that Warner Bros. would be more conservative with this project.

UPDATE: The BLEEDING COOL Web site says the film will have one villain part who “will be a Christoph Waltz-type with fondness for torture.”

U.N.C.L.E. movie will start filming in September, Variety says

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie will start filming Sept. 7, Variety said in a feature story in its print edition.

The article, by Jon Burlingame, says the movie “is an origin story that tells of the first pairing of the two spies — one American, one Russian,” a reference to the lead characters, Napeoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. “Unlike the friendly banter of the original series, the pair are initially hostile to each other, said someone familiar with the script.” Director Guy Ritchie declined to be interviewed, according to the story.

Burlingame also reported the reason after Tom Cruise left the project, that Warner Bros. wanted the budget reduced to $75 million. Cruise’s departure opened the door for Henry Cavill to take the Solo role. Armie Hammer had already been cast as Kuryakin. Solo and Kuryakin were played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in the original 1964-68 series.

Variety describes the movie as “a fairly serious action pic.” Recently, Variety had run ANOTHER STORY story saying the movie’s budget had been cut but provided no details.

The new story appeared in Variety’s print edition and doesn’t appear to be online. The quotes provided here are from a photograph of the first page of the story on Burlingame’s Facebook page. Jon Burlingame is an expert in film and television music and produced U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks in the last decade.

UPDATE: Story corrected in third paragraph to say the budget was cut after Cruise left the project.

UPDATE II (6:53 p.m.): Variety now HAS PUT THE STORY ONLINE.

Much of the rest of the story concerns efforts over 35 years for some kind of new version of U.N.C.L.E. One one, the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was made. There is this quote from producer John Davis, who has been involved in efforts to do an U.N.C.L.E. movie since the early ’90s:

“I loved this as a kid,” he says. “It was the coolest show in the world. I had all the guns and the communication devices; I was just a fanatic.”
(snip)
The one constant throughout, Davis says, has been the Cold War setting: “The idea was that the best of all the world’s intelligence services were working to keep the world safe, with the most up-to-date technology that existed.”

UPDATE III (8:42 p.m.), Variety, in A SEPARATE STORY says actress Elizabeth Debicki has been tapped for a role in the film. No further details are mentioned.

Two questions to pass the time

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

The dog days of summer have arrived, so here are a couple of questions to pass the time until actual news pops up later.

Will Ian Fleming get some kind of credit if the U.N.C.L.E. movie gets made?

Ian Fleming’s contributions to the final version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. aren’t that many, but he did co-create the character of Napoleon Solo with producer Norman Felton. Still, the movie is to be made at Warner Bros., which often doesn’t give out credits unless it’s contractually obligated.

For example, since 1989, Warners has made seven Batman movies. Each carries a credit that Batman was created by Bob Kane. But it’s pretty much established that writer Bill Finger contributed at least as much, if not more (changing Batman’s mask to a cowl, the Bruce Wayne secret identity and the Bruce Wayne back story, among other things) to the Batman mythos.

Nor does Warners credit artists and writers who created other characters or stories that figure into the films. One semi-exception was how artist Jerry Robinson, the creator of the Joker, got a consultant credit in 2008′s The Dark Knight (it doesn’t appear until about two hours and 31 minutes into the movie). The 2011 Green Lantern movie didn’t credit John Broome or Gil Kane, who in 1959 that version of the character. The ’59 version, in turn, was based on a different character with similar powers created in 1940 by Bill Finger (him again) and artist Martin Nodell.

On the other hand, citing Ian Fleming might be an interesting talking point for marketing, even though Fleming wasn’t mentioned in the original show. But Fleming’s heirs don’t have a financial incentive because Fleming, under pressure from Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, signed away all his U.N.C.L.E. rights in June 1963.

The odds would appear to be against a Fleming credit in an U.N.C.L.E. film. In 1983, The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie had credits for Norman Felton (“based on the series originally presented by”) and Sam Rolfe (“based upon the series developed by”), the latter who created most of the show’s format.

Will Disney/Marvel blink and move Ant-Man’s 2015 release date? Walt Disney Co. and its Marvel unit were the first to claim the Nov. 6, 2015 release date in the U.S. for Ant Man, the first Marvel film to come out after The Avengers sequel in May 2015. Earlier this month, however, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures said Bond 24 would make its U.S. debut on that date, two weeks after it comes out in the U.K.

Disney doesn’t normally back down but Ant Man isn’t the most famous Marvel character with the general public by a long shot. Does Marvel really want Ant Man to go head-to-head with James Bond? You have to wonder if Disney and Marvel will have second thoughts.

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