How the U.N.C.L.E. movie will differ from the original show

David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll and Robert Vaughn in a re-filmed scene from the pilot for U.N.C.L.E.

David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll and Robert Vaughn in a re-filmed scene from the pilot for U.N.C.L.E.

The Sept. 3 announcement by Warner Bros. about the start of production of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie demonstrated how the film is going to be different than the 1964-68 television series.

Mr. Waverly is going to be a lot younger. Hugh Grant, who will play Alexander Waverly in the Guy Ritchie-directed film, turns 53 on Sept. 9, the first day of filming. Leo G. Carroll, the original Waverly, was 77 years old when the regular series began production in June 1964. Carroll had a long career, including playing a Waverly-like character in the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock film, North by Northwest.

Carroll’s Waverly wasn’t part of the pilot. Will Kuluva played U.N.C.L.E. chief Mr. Allison and was 46 when the pilot was made in November 1963.

There’s a complicated story associated with all this. Executive producer Norman Felton was leaning to recast the U.N.C.L.E. chief part anyway. Meanwhile, NBC executives were not thrilled with David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin (who only had a few scenes in the pilot). NBC’s comments (according to some tellings, the network said to replace “the K guy”) gave the producer cover to give Kuluva his walking papers. The character actor would later appear on U.N.C.L.E. in other roles. Meanwhile, McCallum’s Kuryakin remained part of U.N.C.L.E.

Production of regular series episodes began on June 1, 1964. As late as May 12, writers doing scripts for the show thought the U.N.C.L.E. chief would be Allison. At least that’s the name used in the first draft submitted that day for The Double Affair, the eighth episode that would be broadcast.

Meanwhile, the Carroll/Waverly change for Kuluva/Allison necessitated a late re-shoot of a scene for the pilot. That took place on AUG. 20, 1964, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E.-007 Timeline. The TV version of the pilot was shown on NBC on Sept. 22.

In any event, it wasn’t always envisioned the head of U.N.C.L.E. would be well into his 70s. It remains to be seen how well Grant will be in the role. But age alone shouldn’t disqualify him.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are about to get a lot taller: As this blog HAS NOTED BEFORE, executive producer Felton wanted more average looking (at least in terms of height) actors for the show. With the casting of the 6-foot-1 Henry Cavill and 6-foot-5 Armie Hammer, that’s a thing of the past.

The movie will have an “origin” story while the series didn’t tell viewers that much. In the series, we found out relatively few details about Solo and Kuryakin.

Solo had a serious relationship with a woman named Clara Richards (later Valdar) that didn’t work out seven years before the series began (The Terbuf Affair, first season). Around the same time, he encountered a villain named G. Emory Partridge (George Sanders), who held a grudge all that time (The Gazebo in the Maze Affair, also first season).

Solo also served during the Korean War under the command of a Colonel Morgan (The Secret Sceptre Affair, first season).

Meanwhile, both Solo and Kuryakin had trained at U.N.C.L.E. survival school during the 1950s. Kuryakin specifically was a graduate of the Class of 1956 (The Survival School Affair, fourth season).

That implies U.N.C.L.E. has been in business for some time before the series began. Development notes for the series also indicate Solo was born in Canada and Kuryakin likes jazz records.

Based on the plot synopsis in THE WARNER BROS. PRESS RELEASE ABOUT THE MOVIE, it sounds as if audiences may see the formation of U.N.C.L.E.. It definitely will show the first mission for Solo and Kuryakin. Solo works for the CIA and Kuryakin is a KGB operative at the start of the film.

When THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER first said Grant had joined the cast, the trade publication said the actor’s part was “head of British Naval Intelligence.” If that’s still correct, the movie may show how Waverly also joined U.N.C.L.E.

The original show was created shortly after one of the hottest moments of the Cold War. Felton met with James Bond creator Ian Fleming in October 1962, the same month as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Fleming dropped out by June 1963, but he and Felton co-created the Napoleon Solo character. Sam Rolfe would do the heavy lifting from there to write the script for the pilot.

8 Responses

  1. Why in the WORLD do we need another blankety-blank-blank origin movie????

  2. Waverly is still the head of Naval intelligence and it seems like he is one of the people who creates U.N.C.L.E. to combat the rise of an unnamed worldwide criminal organization. Yes, much different from the old show but remember Rithie said that he is starting from SCRATCH. Which makes sense for an audience who has never even heard of the show. It’s not Star Trek.

  3. Just please, please, please… leave the corny Batmanesque humour from the sixties in the rerun DVDs. Follow the same path that the recent James Bond movies have gone. After all, UNCLE was patterned after 007 anyway, right?

  4. Huh……. Could be because most people today don’t what the hell the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement is.

  5. […] HOW THE U.N.C.L.E. MOVIE WILL DIFFER FROM THE ORIGINAL SHOW […]

  6. i believe this man from uncle film has the chance to introduce
    a new kind of uncle film. to a new generation that doesn’t know
    anything about the history of the classic cult t v series.
    which would be giving film director guy richie a chance to stamp
    his vision on the project

  7. Why remake a classic? You can’t top it, but that is what Hollywood does. They can’t come up with quality material so they either steal from the Brits or remake classics. Guy basically wants to make a spy movie and slap the MAN FROM UNCLE title across it. He has Napoleon and Illya not getting along with each other. Both leading actors are picked for their box office draw and not for these characters and they both look a like. It is cookie cuttered.. The whole thing about MAN FROM UNCLE is that the guys were handsome, but they were also average. They had great chemistry, the writers were great, everything was tongue and cheek and the spy weapons and equipment were cool. Guy is going to cheat by not sticking to the characters and the flavor of the show. I am not interested in seeing the movie.

  8. […] How the U.N.C.L.E.. movie will differ from the original show (Sept. 4, 2013): Taller lead actors, a younger Waverly and an “origin” story line. […]

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