11 questions about a Soderbergh-Clooney U.N.C.L.E. movie

So now that Steven Soderbergh says he’s “obligated” to do a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (the word he used in a recording at the Studio 360 Web site), that generated more questions. So, in honor of Napoleon Solo’s No. 11 U.N.C.L.E. badge number, here are 11 of them:

1. What does “obligated” mean, anyway? Has Soderbergh actually signed a contract? Has he given only a verbal commitment? The Studio 360 recording is from a Soderbergh appearance in Omaha, Nebraska. He said at the time that he’s turned down other offers, intending to make a Liberace film and an U.N.C.L.E. movie his last two film projects. That implies something more than verbal, but there’s no way to tell and Soderbergh didn’t specify.

2. Soderbergh also indicated that George Clooney would play Solo. Is that a sure thing? Clooney has been quiet on the subject and he’s busy with other projects at the moment. Clooney once was supposed to play Artemus Gordon in the 1999 movie version of The Wild, Wild West. It didn’t happen. Some caution may be called for.

3. Does Soderbergh really plan to make his U.N.C.L.E. movie a 1960s period piece? According to THIS REPORT FROM LAST YEAR, that was the plan. Once again, Soderbergh didn’t get into that level of detail.

4. Hasn’t Clooney’s name been mentioned before? Indeed, it has. Quentin Tarantino, in the late 1990s, talked about directing an U.N.C.L.E. movie and casting Clooney as Solo. His idea of Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent? The director thought, well, Quentin Tarantino, would be an excellent choice. Obviously, it never happened.

5. Is Clooney too old to play Napoleon Solo? The actor turns 50 this year, the same age Robert Vaughn was when the 1983 television film The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came out, depicting an obviously older Solo. Clooney is in good shape as he demonstrated in 2010’s The American. A little hair coloring and he could pass for 40. Of course, that’s still older than the Solo of the original televsion series.

6. Would an older Solo change the Solo-Kuryakin dynamic of the original show? Vaughn and David McCallum, the show’s Kuryakin, were less than a year apart in age. If you had a 50-passing-for-40 Solo, would that lead to casting a younger Kuryakin, to create contrast?

7. Have any potential Kuryakins showed up? If they have, Soderbergh hasn’t talked about it publicly.

8. Would a Clooney Solo help guarantee good box office for an U.N.C.L.E. movie? Hardly. According to the By the Numbers Web site, hasn’t had a big hit since the Soderbergh-directed, 2007 Ocean’s Thirteen, which grossed $117 million the U.S. and almost $312 million worldwide. The American grossed $35.6 million in the U.S. and $46.6 million worldwide.

9. So why does it appear Clooney has the inside track to play Solo? Because Soderbergh, a friend, would be the director. They’ve worked together several times and apparently want to do so one more time.

10. When would filming begin? There have been multiple accounts that the Liberace movie, with Michael Douglas playing the late entertainer, would start later this year. U.N.C.L.E. would appear to be some time after that. More is known about the Liberace project than the U.N.C.L.E. one.

11. Will this become reality? There have been numerous efforts since the early 1990s to get an U.N.C.L.E. movie going. It’s probably closer to reality than at any time in the past 20 years. But, until more of these questions get answered, it’s still not a sure thing.

5 Responses

  1. The 12th Question: Aside from the nostalgia factor, is there any real reason to make a movie version of a TV series that has definitely not stood the test of time?

  2. I disagree vehemently. Having watched MFU recently, the show (with the exception of most of its thrid season during the ‘BATMAN’ TV series-inspired campiness craze), the series holds up very well, storywise, plotwise, actingwise and visually.

    Yes, it’s firmly set in the 1960s, but the movie will be as well (not to mention, ‘MADMEN’ is an incredibly popular series and doesn’t seem to be harmed by this fact whatsoever, and in fact, would probably not do as well set else-when).

  3. I totally agree with you J.A. I watched a few episodes awhile back and was surprised just how good they was if a little tongue in cheek but thats the pleasure of the series it never took itself too serious. I welcome a new movie of the show and really looking forward to learning more about it. I might even buy the new boxed set though I would only be able to watch it on my Laptop as I am in the UK and its only been released on region 1 😦

  4. george clooney is much too old to play napolean solo,the actor has to be at least 28 years olc

  5. Clooney is not a good pick for Solo. Regardless, the essence of the TV show was in the Vaughn / McCallum chemistry.

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