Elements that should be part of an U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill

If Warner Bros. is serious about making a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, there are some elements that should be part of the film. Here are some examples:

The “innocent”: As envisioned by executive producer Norman Felton and writer-developer Sam Rolfe, the innocent was a character who acted as a stand-in for the audience. The innocent was an average person who got sucked into an exotic world of adventure, sometimes by design, sometimes by luck.

For example, in the Rolfe-scripted pilot episode, Napoleon Solo has been assigned to prevent an assassination of the leaders of a newly independent African country. Industrialist Andrew Vulcan (Fritz Weaver) is known to be part of Thrush, an independent, villainous organization (think SPECTRE but much larger).

Robert Vaughn’s Solo recruits Elaine May Donaldson (Patricia Crowley), a Vulcan girlfriend from college because she can get close to him quickly enough to be of help.

Some U.N.C.L.E. fans don’t like the innocent because they’d rather have more screen time for Solo and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). But the innocent is what makes U.N.C.L.E. different from James Bond. Solo and Kurykin have to both look out for the innocent and try to save the world.

Innocents can be hard characters to write. Bill Dana in the THIRD-SEASON episode The Matterhorn Affair is supposed to be funny but is really, really annoying. But it would be throwing out the baby with the bath water to not include the innocent.

The theme by Jerry Goldsmith: Jerry Goldsmith provided a distinctive theme for the 1964-68 series and scored three early episodes. Here’s how television music expert Jon Burlingame descrbed it in a 2004 INTERVIEW:

…”The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” will not be “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” without Jerry Goldsmith (or, at least, a faithful rendition of his theme played by a 100-piece orchestra).

Sometimes, though, film composers don’t like using existing themes. There are some Star Trek movies that either don’t use or greatly downplay the Star Trek themes from the 1966 original show or 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation theme. Indeed, Goldsmith himself scored the first Star Trek movie in 1979 and came with a main title theme that ended up being used as the Next Generation theme eight years later.

Meanwhile, Goldsmith’s U.N.C.L.E. theme isn’t the composer’s most famous television music with the general public. Star Trek: The Next Generation’s theme (which includes part of Alexander Courage’s 1966 original theme) is certainly better known. You could argue that’s also true of Goldsmith’s themes for The Waltons and Barnaby Jones.

As a result, it might be tempting for the filmmakers to not use Goldsmith’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme. But that would be a mistake.

A proper drama-humor balance: Like 007 movies, U.N.C.L.E. mixed humor in with drama. But U.N.C.L.E. had to produce as many as 30 episodes per television season. That (along with a turnover of producers) meant that the mix could, and did, get out of whack. In general, the third season had too much silliness (titles such as The My Friend, the Gorilla Affair are a sign of that). In fact, some of this began creeping in during the second half of season two. Meanwhile, some fans think the fourth season overcorrected and didn’t have enough humor.

Armie Hammer, who is slated to play the Kuryakin role, SAID IN AN INTERVIEW that the script is “so funny.” That would imply it’s not like the show’s fourth season. The trick is to avoid being like the third and instead like the better entries from the first two seasons.

We’ll see. Meanwhile, here’s the standard caveat: Warner Bros. has yet to make an announcement, though Cavill and Hammer have commented multiple times in interviews about it.

Hammer says U.N.C.L.E. movie using Soderbergh’s script

Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIER is quoted as saying The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie he’ll be doing uses the Scott Z. Burns script from 2011 that Steven Soderbergh was going to direct.

That script, set in the 1960s was based on a real-life 1966 incident that mirrored the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball.

An excerpt that includes Hammer commenting on the Illya Kuryakin role played by David McCallum in the original 1964-68 series:

“I’m also very excited about playing a Russian,” Armie added. “I’m in the middle of my research phase now. I’m studying the political climate during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was a fascinating time globally. It’s such a great script (by Scott Z. Burns), and it’s so funny! Guy Ritchie has such a great take on it.”

Hammer is also quoted in the story as saying filming begins in August. That raises the possibility the movie, if it becomes a reality, would be out in time for the television show’s 50th anniversary in 2014.

Soderbergh dropped out of the U.N.C.L.E. projct in late 2011. Warner Bros. assigned the project to Guy Ritchie to direct. Henry Cavill has said he’s playing Napoleon Solo, the character Robert Vaughn played in the television show. Warner Bros. hasn’t made an official announcement about the movie, but there have been reports it’s gearing up to be filmed in the U.K.

Most of the interview concerns The Lone Ranger movie where he plays the title character opposite Johnny Depp’s Tonto.



When Michael Jordan thought he was 007 material

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

It’s not just SPORTSWRITERS who like to compare former basketball star Michael Jordan. According to his agent, Jordan apparently thought he was 007 material in the early 1990s.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek, in its July 1 issue, features SPORTS AGENT DAVID FALK ON ITS “HOW DID I GET HERE PAGE? It’s an infographic featuring quotes from the subject, photos and a timeline.

There’s this quote from Falk in the 1992 section, related to when Falk founded Falk Associates Management Enterprises (or FAME):

“I told Michael, `You’re not an actor. If you’re ever going to be in a movie, you have to play the person you can play best. He said, `Who’s that? James Bond?’ I said, `No, Michael Jordan.'”

Jordan may have been kidding. The infographic doesn’t provide any additional information. The comment works as a joke because Jordan isn’t known for being humble (click HERE or HERE for examples) either as a successful basketball player (six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls) or a less successful baseball player and NBA team owner.


Wet Nellie (well, one of them) goes up for auction

"Wet Nellie" from The Spy Who Loved Me

“Wet Nellie” from The Spy Who Loved Me

“Wet Nellie,” the submarine car from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, is coming up for auction, according to THE HEMMINGS DAILY WEB SITE.

There was no single submarine car, as noted in the documentary Inside The Spy Who Loved Me. One of the cars did function underwater, albeit with occupants with scuba equipment. Here’s an excerpt from the Hemmings Web site:

Of the eight white Lotus Esprits used in the filming of the 1977 James Bond flick The Spy Who Loved Me, none actually completely transformed from canyon-carving sports car to missile-launching submersible, as depicted in the film. One, however, was actually built as a (barely) functioning submarine, and that underwater prop will soon head to auction, potentially trading hands for the first time since it was unearthed in a storage locker in 1989.

Constructed by Perry Oceanographic, the Lotus-themed submarine was said to have cost producers over $100,000 to build. During the movie, Don Griffin, a retired Navy SEAL who served as Perry Oceanographic’s test pilot on all new underwater craft, piloted the submarine, which the filming crew affectionately dubbed “Wet Nellie.” The craft was a “wet” submarine, meaning that Griffin utilized SCUBA gear during the chase scene sequences.

The “Wet Nellie” name stemmed from 1967’s You Only Live Twice, which featured a gimmicked-up mini-helicopter dubbed “Little Nellie.”

Wet Nellie is scheduled to be auctioned in early September. For more details, you can CLICK HERE.


“Waiting for Mendes” (or 007 dog days)

To direct or not to direct Bond 24

To direct or not to direct Bond 24

It may be time to update the classic Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot for James Bond fans. All you’d need to do is tweak the title to Waiting for Mendes.

While nobody knows for sure, it appears that Bond 24, the next 007 movie, is in a kind of hiatus until Skyfall director Sam Mendes decides whether he wants another turn in the Bond director’s chair. First he said no, then changed his mind to the equivalent of “let have a think on it.” (You can CLICK HERE for a story on the MI6 fan Web site that carries Mendes quotes from three different outlets.)

In the play Waiting for Mendes, characters Vladimir and Estragon, instead of waiting for the mysterious Godot, spend their time waiting for Sam Mendes to make up his mind about Bond 24.

“Do you think Daniel Craig will best Roger Moore’s record of appearing in seven James Bond movies?” Vladimir asks.

“Sean Connery also did seven,” Estragon replies.

“But that does not count,” Vladimir says. “Never Say Never Again is an unofficial Bond movie!”

“Unofficial?” asks Estragon. “Did not producer Jack Schwartzman obtain the rights legally?”

“You are engaging in double talk. Besides, once Sam Mendes returns as director, everything will be well again. Daniel Craig will have his eight Bond movies, mark my word.”

Estragon frowns. “But when will Bond 24 come out? 2015? 2016? God forbid, 2017?”

And so on and so forth. Perhaps Michael G. Wilson could have a cameo appearance. Meanwhile, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum. Thus, the wife of former soccer player David Beckham can proclaim her husband would be a great 007, AND IT GETS WRITTEN AS IF IT’S AN ACTUAL STORY.

It’s all a bit silly, especially in light of another recent story that claims Beckham IS GOING TO AUDITION TO PLAY THE LEAD IN THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. MOVIE (Which, presumably, would be a surprise to actor Henry Cavill, who seems to be under the impression he’s going to be the star.)

Still, it would seem, until Mr. Mendes decides, there’s not going to be much real Bond 24 news. For Bond fans, the dog days continue.

Richard Matheson and his (unlikely) contribution to spy TV

Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson

Author Richard Matheson died this week at the age of 87. Obituaries, SUCH AS THIS ONE ON NPR quite rightly detailed work such as I Am Legend, classic episodes of The Twilight Zone and the early 1970s television movie Duel, starring Dennis Weaver, which was one of Steven Spielberg’s early directing credits.

He also made an unlikely contribution to 1960s spy television. It wasn’t on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or Mission: Impossible or Get Smart or The Wild, Wild West. Instead, it was the script for an installment of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., the spinoff that only lasted one season.

The specific episode was THE ATLANTIS AFFAIR, the ninth episode of the series. While it suffers some of the same campiness that crimped the entire Girl series, it is one of the better entries for the show. With Matheson scripting, April Dancer (Stefanie Powers) and Mark Slate (Noel Harrison) come across as more than competent, which wasn’t always the case in a show that too often played it for laughs while falling short.

Matheson’s script even introduces some science fiction elements. The villain in the episode is even played by Khigh Dhiegh, two years before his debut as Wo Fat, the arch-foe of Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O.

HMSS’s favorite character actors: Roy Jenson

Roy Jenson getting kicked by James Coburn's Derek Flint

Roy Jenson getting kicked by James Coburn’s Derek Flint

One in an occasional series

Roy Jenson is one of the most famous actors you’ve never heard of.

If you look at his IMDB.com bio, you’ll see one of the most famous scenes of 1974’s Chinatown, where Jack Nicholson’s J.J. Gittes is about to get his nose cut wide open. For our purposes, he was a frequent presence in 1960s spy entertainment, including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (the pilot episode and a two-part fourth-season story), Our Man Flint, The Ambushers (the third Dean Martin Matt Helm movie), Mission: Impossible, I Spy and The Wild Wild West.

Born in 1927 in Calgary, Jenson for a time played professional football in the Canadian Football League. At 6-foot-2, at a time it wasn’t common to encounter somebody that tall, he eventually found work as a stunt performer and bit part player. When the 1960s spy craze commenced in U.S. television, Jenson found frequent work as secondary villains.

The actor died in 2007 at the age of 80. To view his IMDB.com bio, CLICK HERE.

Forster’s World War Z scores No. 2 at U.S. box office

Marc Forster while directing Quantum of Solace

Marc Forster while directing Quantum of Solace

The Marc Forster-directed World War Z finished No. 2 at the U.S. box office this weekend, with $66 million in ticket sales, according to the Box Office Mojo Web site. It finished behind Monsters University at $82 million and ahead of Man of Steel, on its second U.S. weekend, at $41.2 million.

World War Z, with Brad Pitt as star and producer, shared some things with the Forster-directed Quantum of Solace: script problems and a high budget. Paramount Pictures, however, unlike Sony Pictures with Quantum, was willing to delay its movie so a new ending could be written and filmed.

World War Z, which concerns a mysterious plague that turns people into fast-moving zombies, cost an estimated $190 million to make, less than Quantum even with the reshoots and more elaborate special effects.

Forster and World War Z initially got some bad publicity about the reshoots (which delayed the film’s release from late 2012), including a VANITY FAIR STORY. But as the movie got released and reviewed, the publicity turned positive, including A SYMPATHETIC STORY ABOUT FORSTER on the Deadline: Hollywood site.

U.N.C.L.E. movie supposedly gearing up in the U.K.

"What do you think about that, Illya? We never got more than 30 miles away from Culver City."

“What do you think about that, Illya? We never got more than 30 miles away from Culver City.”

A movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is supposedly gearing up at the same studio complex where GoldenEye, the 17th James Bond film, was filmed.

The Screen Daily Web site has AN ARTICLE about how U.K. film studios are being booked with work, helped by a new tax credit. Here’s an excerpt:

Over at the Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, the Wachowskis are shooting Jupiter Ascending. Rush director Ron Howard has exchanged Formula 1 cars for the world of whale hunting with his new feature In The Heart Of The Sea. Meanwhile, The Man From UNCLE is also revving up at Leavesden.

The Leavesden studio is a former Rolls-Royce PLC factory. It was turned into a studio for 1995’s GoldenEye when Pinewood Studios, the traditional home of the 007 film series, was fully booked. Warner Bros. acquired the studio in 2010 as a European base of operations.

The Screen Daily article doesn’t have any more details about the U.N.C.L.E. project. The story mostly details how other major projects, including a new Star Wars film and The Avengers 2 may be filmed in the U.K.

The original 1964-68 U.N.C.L.E. series, starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, was filmed at the old Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in Culver City, California, and the show never ventured more than about 30 miles away.

The winner for Skyfall product placement

Daniel Craig's 007 has a Macallan

Daniel Craig’s 007 has a Macallan

BRAND CHANNEL, a Web site devoted to marketing, has determined the winner of companies who struck product placement deals in Skyfall. Who finished atop the heap? None other than Macallan Scotch Whisky.

Here’s an excerpt:

But no brand got more exposure than The Macallan whisky, which appeared in several scenes and was even called out by name as one of Bond’s particular favorites. All the better, the placement didn’t cost Macallan a (Money)penny. “When the final edit of the Skyfall came out our Macallan director was a little nervous about the drink being associated with the scene where Daniel Craig takes a dram then fires a gun—as obviously being an alcoholic beverage it is important for us not to be associated with violence, crime, and underage drinking,” Lucy McQueen, the public affairs assistant for Macallan-owner Edrington Group, told brandchannel.


Front Row Analytics, the analysis division of Front Row Marketing Services, estimates the value of Macallan’s appearance in Skyfall at $8.98 million. And that’s just the theatrical value through January 2013. Front Row, which uses proprietary analytics to put a dollar value on eyeballs and other subjective criteria, further projects value of $473,647 (DVD / Digital) and $256,667 (future broadcast airings) for Macallan. But there’s more.

“The brand value that Macallan has and will receive over the lifetime of the film, is unlike other product placements,” said Eric Smallwood, Senior Vice President of Front Row Marketing Services & Front Row Analytics.

The article notes the “50-year” Macallan in the film was a 1962 vintage, meaning it was a 25-year-old bottle of Scotch. Getting some of the latter costs about $2,600. An actual 50-year-old bottle would cost $7,800. Either is a big step up from Heineken, the main beer sponsor of Skyfall.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE. The story also evaluates product placement of other 2012 movies, including Argo and Ted.

The Web site