What’s at stake for the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in Italy

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer during filming in Italy

As The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie approaches the end of principal photography, here are some thoughts about what’s at stake for the production.

A potential U.N.C.L.E. franchise or back to limbo? There have been various attempts to revive the 1964-68 series. But there was a 15-year gap between the series and a 1983 television movie with original stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum and another 30-year gap until the new movie started filming in September.

It’s a situation similar to The Lone Ranger. There were movies in 1956 and 1958. There wasn’t another live-action film until 1981, which flopped. It wasn’t until 2013 until another movie was released. It, too, flopped.

Best case scenario: the U.N.C.L.E. movie is enough of a hit it spawns sequels. Worst case: It flops and U.N.C.L.E. goes back to limbo for decades, if not forever.

A chance for Henry Cavill to become a star for something in addition to Man of Steel: Comic book movies sometimes revive careers, such as Robert Downey Jr. in three Iron Man movies and The Avengers. In some cases, an actor can be a star in a comic book-based film but not necessarily have that success spill over to other projects.

Playing Napoleon Solo is different than Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel. It remains to be seen if U.N.C.L.E. broadens Cavill’s star power before the Superman-Batman movie that’s slated to come out in 2015.

A chance for Armie Hammer to recover from a flop: Armie Hammer had the title role in 2013’s The Lone Range, although Johnny Depp’s Tonto was the star. Still, generating $260.5 million in worldwide ticket sales (splitting the take with theaters) isn’t the way to make money when you’re spending $215 million (or more) to produce the movie. Put another way: The Lone Ranger had total U.S.-Canada ticket sales of $89.3 million. Skyfall, the most recent James Bond movie, had $88.4 million in its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada alone.

A hit always helps an actor. With the U.N.C.L.E. movie having an estimated budget of $75 million, it should be easier for the U.N.C.L.E. movie to be financially successful. But whether that happens remains to be seen.