Still more unanswered questions about an U.N.C.L.E. movie

"Illya, what was that crack about me getting the short end of it this time?" "I may have been premature, Napoleon."

“What was that about me getting the short end of it this time?”
“I may have been premature, Napoleon.”

Tom Cruise is out (if he ever was actually in) a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So that means one thing: It’s time to raise some more unanswered questions about the project.

1. Who plays Napoleon Solo now? The DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE said Cruise, 50, pulled out to concentrate on a fifth Mission: Impossible movie.

One possibility: Robert Downey Jr., who worked with director Guy Ritchie, slated to direct the U.N.C.L.E. film, on two Sherlock Holmes films. Downey’s Iron Man Three is a big hit. Also, his contract with Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios unit has run out. Depending on what else is on Downey’s plate, he has no present commitments to Marvel.

Downey, though, might not make hard-core U.N.C.L.E. fans happy. Many complained that George Clooney (born 1961) and Cruise were too old when their names emerged as candidates. Downey, 48, isn’t much younger. Robert Vaughn, the original Solo, turned 31 during filming of the pilot episode of the 1964-68 series.

Possibility No. 2 raised by THE SCREENRANT WEB SITE is that Armie Hammer, who turns 37 27 in August, could slide from the Illya Kuryakin part to the Solo role. An excerpt referring to Hammer:

He’ll have to prove he can hold his own next to a scenery-chewing Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger, but judging by the trailers and his impressive turn in The Social Network as the Winklevoss twins, he looks to be ready for leading-man status.

Hammer seems to have a baby face in many of his roles. In the new Lone Ranger movie, he appears to be unshaven for much of the movie, perhaps an attempt to look tougher. At 6-foot-5, he towers over either Vaughn or Cruise. U.N.C.L.E. was a show that never had tall actors in leading roles.

2. Any new details? The Deadline story says that Ritchie wants to start filming this fall. So that would imply that Warner Bros. faces a relatively tight deadline to determine a leading man. It would seem to imply a release (IF the project comes together) sometime in 2014.

3. Is this the same Scott Z. Burns script that Steven Soderbergh wanted to film before dropping out in late 2011? Still unknown. Without knowing that, there’s no way to guess whether this would be a 1960s period piece (like the Soderbergh-Burns project) or set in the modern day.

4. Is this going to get made or not? Given the ROCKY HISTORY of U.N.C.L.E. revivals, I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Tom Cruise exits U.N.C.L.E., Deadline says

Tom Cruise: no Man From U.N.C.LE.

Tom Cruise: no Man From U.N.C.LE.

Tom Cruise won’t star in a Guy Ritchie-directed movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to concentrate his efforts on a fifth Mission: Impossible move, according to THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

An excerpt:

Warner Bros has a script they like, and a top director who’s expecting to direct U.N.C.L.E. in the fall. The timing proved too difficult and so Cruise stepped out to focus on M:I5.

Warner Bros will now go hard looking for the lead of this movie, which is inspired by the original TV series ran from 1964-68, with Robert Vaughan and David McCallum playing Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, two agents of the United Network Command for Law Enforcement. With gadgets and their wits and charm, they fought the evil forces of Thrush. Hammer, who’ll be seen shortly alongside Johnny Depp in the Gore Verbinski-directed The Lone Ranger, is still firmly in the film.

Actually, the organization was called The United Network Command for Law *and* Enforcement. Deadline put the word “SHOCKER” in its headline, which is a bit misleading because THERE’S A CURSE that has prevented a revival of U.N.C.L.E. from getting off the ground for decades. Meanwhile, this may mean Cruise is in for a late-career boom because of The reverse Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse where actors who reject, or are passed over for, an U.N.C.L.E. movie see their careers soar.

UPDATE: The Screenrant Web site speculates (and it’s only that) that it’s possible ARMIE HAMMER MIGHT GET MOVED TO THE NAPOLEON SOLO ROLE from the Illya Kuryakin part if July’s Lone Ranger movie is a success.

More HMSS reviews of Skyfall, conclusion

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

Final Skyfall review originally written for a never-published issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant.

Robert Cotton, the HMSS senior of the Web site’s film section, decided to do something different when he wrote about Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film.

His piece, besides being a review, is also an essay about how and why the Bond film series has evolved. It’s also part memoir: the bookends of the story provide an anecdote of how people become fans in the first place.

To accommodate the story, we created a A SEPARATE PAGE for the essay. Some excerpts:

(M)y father and I had a shared experience with each new film. It became part of our lives no matter where we were on this earth, to mark that day, to plan somehow to rendezvous for the opening day of the next Bond. And that was worldwide. No matter what happened, where we were, we tried to move heaven and earth to be there for that single event. Sometimes, we failed due to time and place and the occurrences which pull people away uncontrollably, but no matter where we were, singularly or plural, we went to see the new Bond on opening day and at minimum discussed the whole thing, shared the experience as best we could even from a distance. This was our tradition. Enough backstory. On with the review.

Right off the bat, I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Skyfall. We will get to the usual review material as we go, but this is the smartest Bond film I can remember and while I still like Casino Royale more, mainly because of the sense of discovery, of a new agent learning the ropes as it were, Skyfall seems to me the most thoughtful of the series and that is where we are going to start.


Yes, dear reader, instead of a barely serviceable plot with trademarked Nehru jacket and cat, we’ve been given revenge from the other side. Whereas last time Bond went after everyone on the planet to apparently burn off the death of Vesper, this time he has to stop an agent of his own caliber who is actually doing the same thing Bond was doing last time we saw him, seeking revenge as a rogue agent. It’s an interesting way to bring us back into the franchise storyline and I quite enjoyed it. We are given a villain who is actually an equal of Bond’s and who is out to destroy an organization (in this case MI6, in Bond’s case SPECTRE, QUANTUM, etc.) by toppling the head of that organization, which is what Bond does best. I quite liked the dichotomy and it led me far further into the story than I had expected.


Silva’s motivation is Bond’s. The villain and the hero literally go through the same mental processes and that is where this film soars. Before Bond even got there, Silva was M’s favorite. She built him up and let him fall and now the same thing has happened to her new favorite. The difference is in the outcome. Bond returns to the service out of both a sense of duty and because he cannot exist in the outside world. Bond returns angry, filled with blame, but ready to do it again for Queen and country. Bond is searching for redemption. Silva, on the other hand turns those very same motivating emotions into a desire for vengeance and his return is in order to destroy his betrayer and the organization she heads. Ironically Silva’s return becomes the vehicle for Bond’s resurrection, a theme that plays out throughout the film.

Try watching You Only Live Twice without keeping it within the context of the 1960s and you will see what I mean.
Writing styles change. If in the middle of Diamonds Are Forever, Bond had paused, had reflected on his mission, on what he was doing with his life, on his childhood, the audience would have left in droves. The same applies today if Craig’s Bond walked into a nightclub and started spouting Roger Moore lines while trying to keep his eyebrow cocked. The times have changed. I will always give the series immense credit for keeping up with the world around it.

To read the entire essay, CLICK HERE.