Matt Helm movie project resurfaces, Deadline says

 

Illustration of Matt Helm on the back cover of the first edition of The Wrecking Crew, the second Helm novel.

The Matt Helm movie project that has been kicking around Paramount for years has resurfaced, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

The latest version of the project has Bradley Cooper attached to star, and Tom Shepherd hired to write a script, the entertainment news website reported.

“George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are attached as executive producers, and Steven Spielberg is involved in some capacity,” Deadline said.

Fans of Donald Hamilton’s original novels have long wanted to see a serious version of Helm. Four spoofs starring Dean Martin and loosely based on Hamilton novels were made in the 1960s. Helm was also turned into a private eye in a short-lived series with Tony Franciosa in 1975.

In the novels, Helm was a “counter assassin” and told in the first person. They were a mix of Mickey Spillane (in terms of tone) but often had plots as fanciful as Ian Fleming’s.

Hamilton penned 28 Helm novels — 27 were published from 1960 to 1993, while the Hamilton family has held on to the unpublished 28th in case a movie got made. Hamilton died in 2006.

Whether anything comes of this effort remains to be seen.

Advertisements

The men who would be Napoleon Solo

"I'm ready for my comeback, Mr. DeMille."

“I’m ready for my comeback, Mr. DeMille.”


In 35 years or so of ATTEMPTED REVIVALS OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., one recurring problem has been who to cast as Napoleon Solo, the title character.

Solo was created by Norman Felton and Ian Fleming and developed by Sam Rolfe, who created most everything else about the 1964-68 television series. Obviously, it’s a pivotal role. Here’s a look at a partial list.

The original, Robert Vaughn: Around 1976-77, producers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts enlisted Sam Rolfe to write a TV-movie that would bring back U.N.C.L.E. Rolfe’s script, called The Malthusian Affair, had a somewhat older, but still active, Solo and Illya Kuryakin. The plan was to bring back Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, working with some new agents. The project never got further than the script stage.

A few years later, in the early 1980s, Danny Biederman and Robert Short attempted a theatrical movie version. Their plan, also, was to have the original stars. But the producers ultimately couldn’t convince a studio. Vaughn and McCallum did reprise the roles in a 1983 made-for-television movie, The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., that deliberately depicted Solo as retired and straining to regain his old form. Vaughn turned 50 during filming.

George Clooney: In 2010-11, George Clooney appeared to be the choice of director Steven Soderbergh, who said he had committed to a new U.N.C.L.E. movie. It was easy to understand. The pair had worked a number of times together. Eventually, though, Clooney, owing to health issues, took his name out of the running. By this point, Clooney was the same age as Vaughn was in The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Bradley Cooper: The actor, transitioning from movies such as The Hangover to more serious fare such as Silver Linings Playbook, was reported to be the new Solo for a time after Clooney’s departure. Looking back, it’s hard to determine whether this was really happening or an attempt by agents and/or publicists to gain their client attention. Regardless, Cooper was soon out and his career has been on the rise since.

Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender


Michael Fassbender: Soderbergh reportedly proposed Michael Fassbender to Warner Bros. as a Solo contender. Fassbender had shown flashes of a James Bond while playing a young Magneto in a 2011 X-Men movie. Soderbergh had also cast Fassbender in a spy movie called Haywire.

According to various accounts, Warner Bros. didn’t like the choice because of Fassbender’s lack of star power. Almost immediately, Fassbender’s star power began to rise but it was too late.

Channing Tatum: Soderbergh took a look at Channing Tatum, another actor he had worked with (both Haywire and Magic Mike, a film about male strippers). His football player build was considerably different than the 1964-68 original television series. Soderbergh exited the project before anything could happen Solo-wise with Tatum. Tatum, meanwhile, also sees his star power rise. The actor also ended up working with Soderbergh one more time in Side Effects, a 2013 movie.

Tom Cruise: At the end of 2011, Warner Bros. assigned U.N.C.L.E. to director Guy Ritchie after Soderbergh’s departure. Cruise’s name didn’t emerge as a potential Solo until early in 2013. Like Clooney, a Cruise Solo would be notably older than the original version of Solo. According to the Deadline entertainment news Web site, Cruise exited U.N.C.L.E. negotiations to concentrate on a fifth Mission: Impossible movie.

It remains to be seen who will show up on this list next.

UPDATE (June 8): It didn’t take long to wait. On May 28, Variety reported that Henry Cavill, star of Man of Steel, was in talks to play Solo. Cavill, while promoting the 2013 Superman movie, said in early June during interviews that he had committed to playing the U.N.C.L.E. ace agent for his next project. Meanwhile, actor Armie Hammer, while promoting Walt Disney Co.’s The Lone Ranger, said on Australian television he’d be working with Cavill on the movie.

The reverse Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse

Channing Tatum: one-time Solo contender, now hot Hollywood property

Channing Tatum: one-time Solo contender, now hot Hollywood property

We’ve posted before about how there’s a CURSE that seems to prevent new versions of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. from becoming reality. But there also seems to be a reverse curse — actors who get mentioned as leads in a new U.N.C.L.E. but don’t end up in the roles do really, really well.

All of this is undoubtedly coincidence but consider:

George Clooney: The actor was director Steven Soderbergh’s first choice to play Napoleon Solo for an aborted U.N.C.L.E. project. The two had worked together multiple times but Clooney took his name out of the running, in part because he wasn’t up to the physical demands of the role. He ends up picking up an Oscar as one of the producers of Argo after that 2012 film received the Best Picture Academy Award.

Bradley Cooper Cooper was supposedly offered the role of Napoleon Solo after Clooney’s exit. At the time, he was seen as the star of comedies such as The Hangover that didn’t have a lot of content. Now, he’s viewed as a Serious Actor (R) after getting a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook.

Michael Fassbender: There were multiple stories that Soderbergh suggested Michael Fassbender to play Napoleon Solo after Clooney and Cooper faded from the scene. Supposedly, Warner Bros. vetoed the choice because Fassbender wasn’t considered a star. Now, the German-Irish actor is considered a star.

Channing Tatum: The actor, who resembles a football linebacker, also was mentioned before Soderbergh finally quit his U.N.C.L.E. project. Last year, Paramount abruptly pulled GI Joe: Retaliation from release. The story at the time was the studio needed time to add 3-D effects. But the Deadline: Hollywood Web site reported the real reason was the need to re-shoot scenes so Tatum’s character wouldn’t get killed off because the studio brass had concluded he was now a star. Studios don’t reschedule big, expensive movies lightly. (UPDATE, March 31: If there were reshoots, well, Channing’s character doesn’t exactly come out whole, but he does take up a lot of the early part of the movie. GI Joe 2 also was the top film at the U.S. box office during Easter weekend.)

Joel Kinnaman: this actor was Soderbergh’s choice at one point to play Illya Kuryakin, but got vetoed by Warner Bros. because, you guessed it, he wasn’t considered a star. Subsequently, he was cast in the lead role in an upcoming remake of RoboCop. Apparently, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which also co-owns the 007 franchise, was willing to take a chance where Warner Bros. was not. MGM, though, hedged its bet by including Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman in the cast.

Matt Helm project still kicking around at Paramount, THR says

Matt Helm: still waiting for another shot at the big screen

Paramount is still interested in a serious Matt Helm movie, according to Web site of The Hollywood Reporter.

In A STORY THIS WEEK, there was this nugget from an interview with Adam Goodman, president of Paramount Film Group:

Goodman faces his share of challenges as Paramount looks to make up for the defection of Marvel movies to Disney and the possible end of its relationship with DreamWorks Animation in December. Sitting down with THR recently in his spacious, bright corner office on the Melrose lot, he revealed that Tom Cruise likely is close to signing a deal to star in a Top Gun sequel and that Ehren Kruger has returned to write Transformers 4, even as Shia LaBeouf exits. He also disclosed that he’s moving ahead with franchise hopefuls Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Matt Helm, Earthseed, J.J. Abrams’ Micronauts and Without Remorse. (emphasis added)

No additional details about the Helm project, to be based on Donald Hamilton’s 27 published novels from 1960 to 1993. This is essentially the first whisper of any movement in three years. Back AT THAT TIME, there was talk that Steven Spielberg might be interested in producing, Gary Ross in directing and Bradley Cooper in starring.

None of that, obviously, happened. Spielberg has had multiple movies subsequently while Ross had a mega-hit with The Hunger Games. Cooper’s name surfaced as, for a time, the leading contender to play Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but that evaporated in the latest chapter of the U.N.C.L.E. curse.

Prospects for the first Helm movie since the four Dean Martin comedies of the 1960s? Personally, we suspect the new Titan Books editions of Hamilton’s novels will be out long before any film.

11 things that went wrong with the U.N.C.L.E. project

For one last time, in honor of Napoleon Solo’s No. 11 U.N.C.L.E. badge, we have an 11-themed post, this time the 11 things that went wrong with the now-crashed movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

1. An indecisive studio. Warner Bros. picked up the rights to U.N.C.L.E. when its parent company, Time Warner, acquired Ted Turner’s media empire. (It was part of the old Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film library that Turner bought in the mid 1980s.) The studio hasn’t been able to pull the trigger on a movie version for two decades. That tendency toward indecision will figure into other of the 11 reasons.

2. Steven Soderbergh’s farewell tour. In 2010, Soderbergh, who comes across as a thoughtful filmmaker, became involved with the project and this seemed to be good news. But he also wanted to either retire at a young age (he turns 50 in 2013) or at the very least take a long break. And he absolutely wanted to finish up before the end of 2012. That meant a lack of flexibility — which also influenced other of the 11 reasons.

3. Soderbergh’s friend, George Clooney. Because it was part of his farewell tour, it now appears it was Soderbergh’s idea that old pal George Clooney, 50, play Napoleon Solo.

4. Clooney’s bad back. But Clooney had a bad back due to a an injury in 2004. So even if he felt like coloring his hair, he wasn’t up to doing an action movie. So he bowed out.

5. The economy. It’s not very strong and that’s affecting movie studios, causing them to trim budgets and making them even more risk adverse.

6. Warner Bros.’s reaction to Soderbergh’s choices. According to THE PLAYLIST WEB SITE, Soderbergh’s next choices were Michael Fassbender as Solo and Joel Kinnaman as Russian agent Illya Kuryakin. Warners apparently had a mixed reaction. They weren’t sure about the actors for U.N.C.L.E. but were more than willing to cast them in prominent roles in other movies.

7. Enter: Johnny Depp. The actor’s Lone Ranger movie was temporarily canceled at Disney (partly because of, you guessed it, the economy). So he was looking for something to do. He thought it might be rather fun to play Kuryakin. Warner Bros. liked that idea.

8. Exit: Johnny Depp. Lone Ranger movie back, so sorry, Depp (figuratively) told Warner Bros. Now there was no Fassbender or Kinnaman, either.

9. Warner Bros and Soderbergh go back and forth. Bradley Cooper, Channing Tatum, who knows who else had their names bandied about. The Playlist said Warner Bros. only wanted a a $60 million budget, which would include $5 million the studio spent on other proposed versions. Soderbergh, who wants to finish up with a Liberace made-for-cable-television movie for HBO, evidently had enough.

10. There’s a curse on this project. Or hadn’t you heard that?

11. Fans, who should have known better, forgetting reasons 1 and 10. That would be us, or at least we would be at the head of that line.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse

Warner Bros, which wants to make a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has seen two possible leading men, George Cooney and Bradley Cooper drop out of the project, is finding it hard to pull off a remake of the 1964-68 televison series.

Welcome to the club.

What follows is a guide to *some* of the previous attempts. Maybe this possible movie really is cursed.

1976-77: Writer-producers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts hire Sam Rolfe, the original developer of the show, to do a script for a made-for-televison movie that could be the springboard for a new show. “The Malthusian Affair” has some interesting concepts (including having a dwarf occupy an armored exo-skeleton) but it doesn’t get past the script stage. Had it become reality, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum would have reprised their roles as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.

Early 1980s: Would-be producers Danny Biederman and Robert Short cobble together a theatrical movie project. Their script had Thrush, the villainous orgnaization of the original series, take over the world without anyone realizing it. Vaughn and McCallum had expressed interest, as had former 007 production designer Ken Adam. Alas, nothing happened.

1983:: The only post-series U.N.C.L.E. project, the made-for-television series movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. airs on CBS. No series, or even a sequel made-for-TV movie, develops.

Early 1990s: Sam Rolfe attempts to do a made-for-cable-television movie that would have been an U.N.C.L.E. “next generation” story. Rolfe drops dead of a heart attack in 1993, ending any such prospect.

Circa 2004-2005: Norman Felton, executive producer of the orignal show, cuts a deal with a small production company for some sort of cable-televison project. Nothing concrete occurs.

2010-2011:: Warner Bros. entices director Steven Soderbergh to direct an U.N.C.L.E. movie after a number of false starts. As of now, nothing concrete has occurred. Whether that remains the case remains to be seen. Still, the odds seem long that Ian Fleming’s other spy (created with Norman Felton) will make a comeback.

UPDATE: For crying out loud, according to THIS STORY ON THE PLAYLIST WEB SITE, Johnny Depp wanted to play the Illya Kuryakin role played by David McCallum in the original show. But when Depp backed out, that complicated matters.

Bradley Cooper drops out of U.N.C.L.E. movie

Bradley Cooper, whose talent agency had strongly pitched the actor’s services, won’t play Napoleon Solo in Steven Soderbergh’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the entertainment Web site The Wrap says.

You can read the story BY CLICKING HERE. It’s not very long, though. Here’s a key excerpt:

The “Hangover” actor who had been in talks to play the crime fighter Napoleon Solo in Warner Bros’. big-screen version of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” will not play the role, TheWrap has learned.

Steven Soderbergh is directing the movie, which is based on the 1960s television show. Cooper was in talks to play the role that Robert Vaughn made famous.

It’s hard to tell if this is a body blow to the U.N.C.L.E. movie project or if Warner Bros. and/or Soderbergh have a plan B (or C or D or E).