Screenwriter says U.N.C.L.E. movie can be `cool stuff’

The Web site published a portion of an interview with screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, the scribe for the planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He described why he thought a film based on the 1964-1968 television seriies can be “cool stuff.” An excerpt:

“When you think about the world in the 1960’s just in terms of cars and fashion and the aesthetic, to be able to go and shoot that world with today’s cameras and today’s technology, I think we could do some really cool stuff. Then also, the thing that was so cool about ‘U.N.C.L.E.’ that people don’t realize–and this is why I like it more than ‘Mission: Impossible’–the initial conceit of ‘U.N.C.L.E.’ was amazing. It was really about an organization that didn’t have an affiliation with a country and Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin were guys who should’ve been sworn enemies. One was Russian and one was American and they worked together. In that way, it was a really incredibly progressive, hopeful kind of show.”

Actually, that’s something fans of the show have long realized. It was a post-Cold War show set in the midst of the Cold War. However, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. never had the syndication success of shows such as Star Trek or other programs. It dropped out of sight not long after going off the air on Jan. 15, 1968.

Occasionally, a few of the eight movies re-edited from episodes would show up (The Spy With My Face once was run on The CBS Late Movie, after the network unsuccessfully ran Merv Griffin up against Johnny Carson on NBC). It wasn’t until Labor Day 1985 when CBN (now ABC Family) ran the show that a decent number of people could view the show.

Anyway, to read the entire ComingSoon story, JUST CLICK HERE. The U.N.C.L.E. movie, if it materializes, would be directed by Steven Soderbergh. Napoleon Solo was created by Norman Felton and Ian Fleming (we keep mentioning this to keep the attention of 007 fans) and was developed by Sam Rolfe.

Clooney’s back forced U.N.C.L.E. exit, E Online says

George Clooney was forced to exit a planned Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie because of an old back injury, E Online reported, citing a source it didn’t identify. Here’s an excerpt:

“He said he just can’t do the action and stunt scenes,” revealed an U.N.C.L.E. source who’s familiar with handsome actor’s health situation. “In fact, I think he’s planning on having another operation during the time he would have been filming.”

Clooney’s reps have not returned comment, as yet.

“But George knows this movie is all about action,” continued the U.N.C.L.E. insider, “and he knows he’s just not up to it.”

The back injury goes back to the movie Syriana, the Web site said.

A caveat: the person quoted thinks, which implies he or she isn’t 100 percent certain, that Clooney is planning to have an operation. It’s difficult to determine how much the source actually knows and there’s no description whether the source has direct knowledge of Clooney’s move. The story refers to “the death-defying stunts that have apparently been written into the U.N.C.L.E. script.” That’s an indication that E Online doesn’t actually *know* there are “death-defying stunts” just that they’ve “apparently” been written.

To read the entire post, just CLICK HERE. Clooney’s name had surfaced as playing Napoleon Solo because he’s an old friend of the planned film’s director, Steven Soderbergh.

UPDATE: As you can tell by THIS PHOTO ON PEOPLE.COM, Clooney is clearly in constant physical agony.

11 new questions about a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

In honor of the number 11 on Napoleon Solo’s U.N.C.L.E. badge, we present these 11 new questions about a planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

1. Is George Clooney’s reported exit from the project potentially fatal for the film’s prospects? Not necessarily. Clooney has flirted with spy movie projects without ultimately committing. He was supposedly going to play Artemus Gordon in 1999’s Wild, Wild West film but backed out. One story was he really wanted to play Jim West while agreeing to play Artemus, hoping the producers would change their mind about having Will Smith play Jim West. When Clooney didn’t get his way, this version of the story goes, he bolted and the film got made anyway (though fans of the original TV show perhaps wished otherwise).

2. Was Clooney ever mentioned in any other spy projects? Around 2000, Clooney and director Steven Soderbergh (who would direct this new U.N.C.L.E. film) were interested in doing a Matt Helm movie that would mimic the four 1966-1969 Dean Martin movies (i.e. it wouldn’t have faithfully adapted Donald Hamilton’s novels, either). That movie never happened.

3. What needs to happen to make an U.N.C.L.E. movie a reality without Clooney? Soderbergh needs to remain committed. He’s viewed in Hollywood as a talented director (his resume includes the Clooney-Brad Pitt Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12 and Ocean’s 13). Also, he works quickly and has a reputation for bringing in films on (or under budget). With a shaky economy, that’s a talent movie executives value more than ever. If Soderbergh wants out, all bets are off.

4. Has progress been made? Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns has told the Cinema Blend Web site that the U.N.C.L.E. script is finished. the Deadline entertainment news Web site, which first reported Clooney’s U.N.C.L.E. exit, says Warner Bros. still wants to start filming by February. That’s about all we *really* know.

5. Is the movie script based on any television episodes? Burns told Cinema Blend it is not.

6. Who might play Napoleon Solo now that Clooney is out of the picture? Well, Jon Hamm, star of Mad Men, would be seen by some fans as a good choice. The popularity of Mad Men, a show set in the 1960s about an advertising agency, is probably one reason why the Soderbergh U.N.C.L.E. project is being done as a period piece, rather than set in the present day.

7. Any problems with a Hamm casting? Depends on who you ask. Some fans complained that Clooney, at 50, was too old to play Solo. Hamm is 40, almost a decade older than Robert Vaughn was when he originated the Solo role. But it’s doubtful that would prevent him from playing Solo. A bigger problem is whether his Mad Men schedule would permit it.

8. Any talk of who would play Illya Kuryakin? In all the various reports about the movie, there has been no talk of a specific actor to take on the role first played by David McCallum. It might depend on who’s playing Solo.

9. Even if the project stays on track, when might it actually be seen in theaters? Optimistically — and this assumes filming actually starts in February — the end of 2012 would be the earliest. Some time in the first half of 2013 might be more realistic.

10. Is this really a movie worth making? A qualified yes. Soderbergh has talent and has actually watched most first-season episodes of the original series. The makers of the 1983 television film The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. didn’t view *any* first-season shows (generally viewed by fans as the best of the show’s run).

11. What are the odds it gets made? We’ll put it at 50-50 for now. That’s a lot more optimistic than we’ve been in the past. An U.N.C.L.E. movie is as close to reality as it has ever been over the past two decades. It’s safe to say the project is in a crucial phase now. It remains to be seen whether Napoleon Solo — Ian Fleming’s other spy (co-created with Norman Felton, the original show’s executive producer; the show was developed by Sam Rolfe) makes a 21st Century comeback.

Clooney exiting U.N.C.L.E. movie, Deadline reports

George Clooney is pulling out of director Steven Soderbergh’s planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Deadline entertaintment Web site reports.

Here’s part of a short post by Deadline’s Mike Fleming:

Still trying to get a clear sense of the reason for the exit of Clooney, who is Soderbergh’s former partner and did the Ocean’s Eleven films and Out of Sight with the director. I’m told that Warner Bros intends to stay on track for a February 2012 start for the movie.

To read the enire post, JUST CLICK HERE.

Clooney, 50, is the same age Robert Vaughn was when he reprised the role of Napoleon Solo in the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., where Solo comes back from retirement to take on a revitalized Thrush, the criminal organization that was U.N.C.L.E.’s primary adversary in the original 1964-1968 series.

Some U.N.C.L.E. fans, expressing themselves on the Internet absolutely hated the idea of casting Clooney, saying he was too old. There is also an element of U.N.C.L.E. fans who say no actors are worthy of the roles of Solo and Illya Kuryakin other than Vaughn and David McCallum. (We once provided our own whimsical proposal for an U.N.C.L.E. film aimed at that fan segment.)

At this point, it’s hard to determine if this is a body blow to Soderbergh (who, among, other things, has watched almost all first-season episodes of the show to prep for directing it). Soderbergh is viewed as a talented director, though he is planning to retire by around the time he turns 50. Thus, the project may indeed still be proceeding. Clooney had been the only casting even mentioned for the movie but there had never been a formal announcement by Warner Bros.

Then again, will Soderbergh still be interested in U.N.C.L.E. if his old pal Clooney is not?

So it remains to see if Ian Fleming’s other spy (co-created with Norman Felton), with the series developed by Sam Rolfe, will make a comeback or not.

U.N.C.L.E. movie to include 1960s real world events

The upcoming movie based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will be based on real-life events in the 1960s, screenwriter Scott Z. Burns told the Cinema Blend Web site.

Here’s an excerpt from the post by writer Eric Eisenberg:

then asked if the story will be based on any of the episodes from the show’s four season run or the movies that were previously made, to which Burns said that some elements will be familiar, but it will be set more in a real world context. “I think if people know the show they’ll recognize tiny little things,” Burns said. “All those shows are called, like, “The Terbuf Affair” or whatever. Our affair comes from something that was actually going on in the world at the time.”

The post doesn’t provide which real-life event will be referenced. The pilot for the original show was being filmed when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated (that was the same day as star Robert Vaughn’s 31st birthday) and it premiered 23 months after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The post also says the script is finished. To read the Cinema Blend post, JUST CLICK HERE.

The television series ran from Sept. 22, 1964 through Jan. 15, 1968, and was developed by Sam Rolfe. The lead character of Napoleon Solo was created by executive producer Norman Felton and James Bond author Ian Fleming.

Is Bond 23’s budget almost $100 million less than QoS?

News on the Bond 23 front heated up recent with reports out of India that the new 007 is trying to set up filming a train sequence in that country. It was reported that the movie was encountering delays getting permission to shoot but may be making progress again. But there was one other tidbit that caught our eye. The Times of India in reporting about the planned train sequence, said Bond 23’s budget is $135 million.

If so, Bond 23’s budget is much smaller — almost $100 million — than Quantum of Solace’s reported $230 million outlay and about the same as the budget for 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, according to the Web site. It wasn’t until 1995’s GoldenEye than a Bond film budget even exceeded $100 million.

A big caveat: The Times of India doesn’t say *how* it got the $135 million. It simply asserts it as a fact, with the same certainty that the sun will rise in the east. Still, there reasons why 007 may have to economize this time out. The world economy is shaky. Walt Disney Co. recently called off a planned $250 million Lone Ranger movie to star Johnny Depp as Tonto. Hollywood in general is looking closer at spending.

More specific to Bond 23, the third Daniel Craig 007 film: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which controls half the 007 franchise, had a quick trip into bankruptcy; it’s out of bankruptcy but hardly has the deepest pockets in Hollywood. That’s one reason why Columbia Pictures will actually release Bond 23. Meanwhile, Sony Corp., Columbia’s parent company, is having its own financial difficulties. That means Columbia has even more reason to limit the size of the checks it writes compared with 2008, when it evidently cut some big ones for Quantum of Solace.

It remains to be seen how accurate the $135 million figures is for Bond 23. It does, however, make sense its budget would be a lot less than Quantum’s. Who knows? Maybe Bond will have to fly coach.

Raymond Benson to be on Aug. 30 Dave White Presents

Raymond Benson, former 007 continuation novel author, is scheduled to be on the Aug. 30 edition of the Internet radio show Dave White Presents.

Benson, whose Bond novels were published from 1997 through 2002, will discuss his new project, The Black Stiletto, about a costumed woman vcrime fighter active in the late 1950s and early 1960s who hasn’t been seen since.

The show is scheduled to be available at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time at, which you can also find by CLICKING HERE. It will be run again at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Starting Aug. 31, you can access the show at or BY CLICKING HERE.

Meanwhile, here’s another interview Benson did this summer about The Black Stiletto, which is due out on Sept. 5. Warning, some (mild) spoilers — so don’t watch if you don’t wany any more details than we’ve provided:

UPDATED AND CORRECTED: 007 book cover archive


Faux "Signet" paperback cover designed by Paul Baack

From the “Things We Found While Looking for Something Else” Files…

While looking for a good-sized picture of a particular James Bond novel (Benson’s Zero Minus Ten), Google pointed us to graphic created by our own Paul Baack. Running back through the link, we discovered a 1,594-pictures gallery of James Bond book covers on Flickr!

Compiled by Londoner Gary Cook, this visual feast for literary Bond fans can be found at Gaz1961’s photostream, under the name James Bond Archive: Book Covers. This is a pretty damn terrific treat, so take a moment to let Mr. Cook know your appreciation.


Design by Gary Cook

We discovered after the fact that we have screwed up the link to Mr. Cook’s Photostream; it’s hereby corrected. While doublechecking our links, we also discovered — to our delighted astonishment — that Mr. Cook has a separate archive (hundreds of pictures!) of James Bond book covers he personally designed! Many are done in the style, and appropriating the artwork, of the great paperback cover illustration from the 1950s and 60s, making lists a singularly beautiful experiment in “what if.” Check out James Bond Book Cover Designs for a fantastic trip down alternative-memory lane.

Tell 'em HMSS sent ya!

Happy 81st birthday, Sean Connery

Sean Connery celebrates his 81st birthday today. There’s little more than needs to be said about Connery’s contributions to the James Bond film series. Terence Young, director of three of the first four Bond movies, famously said the three reasons that 007 films took off were “Sean Connery, Sean Connery and Sean Connery.”

Still, we can’t help but wonder if Connery had even the slightest hint of what was about to happen to him a half-century ago on his 31st birthday. The answer is probably not.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were a couple of journeymen producers. Terence Young was a journeyman director. Richard Maibaum, a journeyman screenwriter and occasional producer. Ian Fleming had written a number of novels that had gotten attention, including earlier in the year Life magazine listing the author’s From Russia With Love as one of then-President John F. Kennedy’s favorite novels. United Artists had only announced a few months earlier it intended to start a film series based on the novels. Connery would end up with a $16,800 paycheck for the first film, Dr. No.

Life can change in an instant. That was certainly true of a Scot actor 50 years ago, who was starting to make an impression with audiences.

Happy birthday, Sir Sean.

Reza Badiyi, designer of Hawaii Five-O titles, dies

Reza Badiyi, a television director who also designed the titles of the original Hawaii Five-O series, died over the weekend at the age of 81, according to the Deadline Hollywood entertainment news Web site.

Badiyi directed a lot of episodic television and televison movies. Before that, he was a title designer whose work graced shows such as He & She, the fifth season of Get Smart and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. But his best-known title work was on the original Five-O (1968-1980), creating images to match the theme music by Morton Stevens. Here’s the first version, running at around 1:30 for the television movie that was the Five-O pilot:

When the series went into production, Badiyi shortened and tweaked the images. The biggest change was a helicopter shot of star Jack Lord standing on a balcony of the Ilikai hotel. The titles would vary a bit over the tweleve seasons but remained fairly consistent. Here’s the season one version: