Producer Norman Felton had to make a decision: Who would be cast as Napoleon Solo, the character he co-created with Ian Fleming?
The task may not have been difficult as finding a Solo for a 21st century movie version of the show (finally cast with Henry Cavill). But it wasn’t a slam dunk, either.
According to Jon Heitland’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. book, Felton for a time considered a friend, Harry Guardino, for the part.
Also in the running was actor Robert Brown, who five years later would briefly be cast as Hawaii Five-O’s Steve McGarrett until the part was re-cast with Jack Lord. Also, according to the Heitland book, Felton decided to offer the role to Robert Culp, but the actor wasn’t available.
Felton ended up going with an actor already in his employ: Robert Vaughn, 30, who was the second lead in The Lieutenant, a drama about U.S. Marine Corps officers. Felton was the show’s executive producer, with Gene Roddenberry as the creator-producer.
“I was looking for someone who would give the character a certain visual sense of sophistication,” Felton told Heitland in an interview for the 1986 book.
Vaughn, in 2007, recalled the deal being done quickly:
Other work on the project proceeded. Sam Rolfe turned in his second-draft script and Don Medford was hired to direct on Oct. 9, 1963, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E.-007 Timeline.
By November, the rest of the cast was in place. David McCallum would play the small part (in the pilot script) of Illya Kuryakin, a Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent, and Will Kuluva as Mr. Allison, the U.N.C.L.E. chief.
Production was scheduled to begin on Nov. 20. It would be shut down for four days because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy two days later.
In the coming months, two men named Broccoli and Saltzman would present another challenge.
Filed under: The Other Spies Tagged: | Craig Henderson, Don Medford, Gene Roddenberry, Harry Guardino, Ian Fleming, Jon Heitland, Norman Felton, Robert Brown, Robert Culp, Robert Vaughn, Sam Rolfe, The Lieutenant, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, The Other Spies, TV spy shows