11 new questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

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

Henry Cavill, right, and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

The past month has seen a few disclosures about a planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to be directed by Guy Ritchie. But each new bit of information, well, just generates more questions.

In honor of Napoleon Solo’s No. 11 U.N.C.L.E. badge, here are 11 of them:

1. Like Dude, don’t some of Armie Hammer’s comments bother you? Hammer, while promoting The Lone Ranger movie, has made some comments that made long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans nervous. Hammer, who is to play Illya Kuryakin, has talked about how funny the script is. That makes fans who feel the movie might be a big-screen version of THE ORIGINAL SHOW’S THIRD SEASON where the delicate drama-humor balance got out of whack.

In the end, however, movies can only be judged by the final product. A certain James Bond actor is known for dropping f-bombs and telling off-color jokes in interviews involving grandmothers and oysters. That didn’t really affect Skyfall, the most recent 007 film.

2. What about what Henry Cavill has said about the U.N.C.L.E. movie? Cavill, slated to play Napoleon Solo, has been more circumspect. He has said the film will have “dry humor” but he’s not a slapstick guy. That tends to be reassuring to fans but the same thing applies — these are interviews and it remains to be seen what the movie will be like.

3. Who else is going to be in the movie? That’s one of the biggest unanswered questions. The only other name to surface is Alicia Vikander, a Swedish actress who’s supposed to play a British agent. One key role that hasn’t been talked about publicly is Alexander Waverly, the Number One of U.N.C.L.E.’s section, a sort of first-among-equals of the international’s brain trust. Leo G. Carroll had the role in the original 1964-68 series. Not having a Waverly would be like a James Bond movie without an M.

4. What will this movie have the original show didn’t have? Since it’s a period piece set in the ’60s, it’s likely to have multiple references to the Cold War.

5. But the original show was made in the ’60s. How could it not have such references? They were there but way toned down. Occasionally, David McCallum’s Kuryakin would say things like, “I suddenly feel very Russian,” when near rich capitalists (The Love Affair in the show’s FIRST SEASON.) In The Project Strigas Affair, that same season, Kuryakin wore a disguise that made him resemble a young Leon Trotsky.

Still, the whole idea of U.N.C.L.E. was that it was a multi-national organization that fought threats transcended political boundries. Also, NBC executives were always wary of being too controversial. So you didn’t get a lot of direct, “ripped from headlines” Cold War references.

6. Why do you think there will be all these Cold War references? Hammer, in some of his interviews, has described Kuryakin as “a KGB spy.” Cavill, in another, said the movie is about “the Cold War and how American and Russian super spies join teams to fight international terrorism.”

7. Any other speculation? Look for some kind of “origin” storyline. These kinds of movies often take that route. Michael G. Wilson wanted to do an “origin of James Bond” movie in the 1980s when Roger Moore left the role and was replaced by Timothy Dalton. Wilson’s stepfather, Albert R. Broccoli, vetoed that idea but Wilson got his wish with 2006’s Casino Royale.

Finally, Hammer said this in AN INTERVIEW AT AIN’T IT COOL NEWS:

Capone: Will there be some humor tucked away in there?

AH: It’s Guy Ritchie, so it’s going to have that great aspect to it of getting dark, but also “I like watching these two guys hate each other,” and “I like watching these two guys hang out.”

That suggests at least the possibility of the “heroes meet, heroes don’t initially like each other, heroes get over their differences” story construction.

8. What about the crew besides Guy Ritchie? Again, very little information. Hammer has said the movie starts filming in August, other reports have said September. But you’d think some announcements might have been made by now.

9. Any we should look for in particular? The composer. Music is always important for a movie. Unfortunately, Jerry Goldsmith, who wrote the show’s distinctive theme, died in 2004.

Goldsmith only did three scores for the series but his music was constantly recycled in first-season episodes without an original score. That season is viewed by many fans as the best of the four and so Goldsmith’s contributions take on a bigger role that you’d guess.

Also, in the fourth season, Goldsmith’s scores were re-recorded and used partially in about half of the episodes. One episode, The Deadly Quest Affair consisted of almost all re-recorded Goldsmith music. So Goldsmith created the U.N.C.L.E. sound even if he didn’t work that much on the show.

10. Any guesses on who the composer could be? One possibility: Hans Zimmer did the scores for the two Sherlock Holemes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. that Ritchie directed. Zimmer has been busy of late. He scored 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises and this year’s Man of Steel (starring Cavill) and The Lone Ranger (with Hammer playing the title character but playing second fiddle to Johnny Depp’s Tonto).

11. The big question — is this movie a good thing or a bad thing? For fans who don’t want a movie, nothing will convince them otherwise. For fans who are intrigued, or at least hoping for the best, it remains to be seen. From the selfish standpoint of the HMSS Weblog, it provides something to write about because it doesn’t look like Bond 24 will become reality anytime soon. Plus, Ian Fleming co-created Napoleon Solo with Norman Felton.

3 Responses

  1. Does this mean that Cavill is not interested in portraying James Bond down the road?

  2. 1. Barbara Broccoli said in 2012 that she wants Daniel Craig to play James Bond for “at least *a* decade if not longer.” See 5:40 mark of this:

    2. Cavill should turn down a starring role in a movie right now and wait for a role that won’t come open for a decade? A role he’s *been rejected for* once already?

  3. The biggest Cold War reference in the show was The Shark Affair, and that was easily one of the best episodes, IMHO. It was funny – it even had slapstick! – but also deeply serious, and the ending wasn’t as cleanly happy as in most episodes.

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