Warner Bros. gives an early press screening of U.N.C.L.E.

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Warner Bros. has conducted an early media showing of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, according to the editor of an entertainment news website.

Steven Weintraub, editor in chief of Collider.com, took to Instagram and Twitter tonight to say he was attending.

“Going back to the 60s with Guy Ritchie tonight,” Weintraub wrote in a caption accompanying a photo he put on Instagram. “Seeing an early screening of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Wb. must think they’ve got the goods to show us the film 6 weeks early.”

The movie, starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, doesn’t arrive in theaters until Aug. 14. Warners originally scheduled the Guy Ritchie-directed film for mid-January, usually seen as a studio dumping ground for movies.

Warners later switched U.N.C.L.E. to August and kept it there, even after Paramount moved up Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation to July 31 from Dec. 25. The M:I movie features star/producer Tom Cruise, who had been courted to play Napoleon Solo in U.N.C.L.E. but opted against it. That paved the way for Cavill’s selection.

UPDATE (June 30): A writer for the Reuters news service put out a tweet after the screening. No other details provided.

U.N.C.L.E. movie co-writer talks to Collider about the film

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

Lionel Wigram, co-writer and co-producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, gave an extensive interview to COLLIDER.COM about the film. It was actually conducted in 2013 during filming. Here were a few things that caught our eye:

He says the relatively tight budget helped: In the summer of 2013, Variety reported the movie’s budget was reduced to $75 million after Tom Cruise opted not to play Napoleon Solo. That’s a quarter of what SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, is going to cost.

Wigram told Collider the budget made the movie better.

(T)here was certainly a moment when there was a version of the script which we budgeted was considered to be too expensive by all concerned and we had to do a job of compressing certain scenes, compressing the story to make it work [with the budget]. What I found was that creatively it worked better too, which I was surprised by, but sometimes if you’re willing and open to trying stuff, sometimes you surprise yourself and suddenly it all becomes much tighter. Where the centre of the movie was a bit flabby, suddenly the compression made everything move much quicker and gave it an energy that it hadn’t had before. It was a pleasant surprise.

How he and director Guy Ritchie and their production company got involved: Warner Bros. “brought up The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I remembered we both always wanted to do a spy movie so I said, ‘What about this?’” Wigram told Collider.

“This felt different in the sense that this was a 60’s spy movie, and it was two people instead of one. Instead of the lone spy it was two, so that was a good starting point. We thought, ‘What the hell, why not?’ It’s a good excuse to make our version of a spy movie, and it’s a good starting point of a structure.”

(SPOILER) There’s a twist: In the movie, Napoleon Solo works for the CIA and Illya Kuryakin for the KGB. Their bosses “have a little sneaky agenda, they hope to get one over on the other at the end of it, but at least for the time being there’s a temporary alliance and from that comes U.N.C.L.E.,” Wigram said.

Why do an “origin” story: “There’s no backstory in the TV show,” Wigram said. “Let’s give them interesting backstories. How can we give a context to this story, as I said, that’s interesting and has got some meat on it? And this was the best that I could come up with anyway.”

Casting of Henry Cavill as Solo: Wigram told Collider all involved considered an older Solo to entice an established star. “(B)ecause of Man Of Steel, Henry had become that much more of a bankable entity, so the studio was more confident about the idea of us doing it with two young guys.” Cavill was 30 during production and Armie Hammer, who plays Kuryakin, was 27.

There’s a lot more from Wigram. To read the entire interview, CLICK HERE. Also, here’s a shoutout to Henry Cavill News, which spotted the interview earlier and published THIS POST.

SPECTRE footage shown at CinemaCon (no spoilers)

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Sony Pictures showed some new footage from SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, according to writers who attended.

The event is where studios make presentations for theater owners of upcoming films.

Steven Weintraub, the editor-in-chief of the entertainment website Collider.com, tweeted the following about Sony’s presentation:

Jim Vejvoda, executive editor-movies of IGN.com, also sent out a tweet:

Paramount and Warner Bros. on April 21 had presentations that highlighted Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., both coming out this summer. SPECTRE is due out in theaters in early November.

UPDATE (April 23): COMICBOOK.COM has a description of of the footage, leaving out what it describes as a “big spoiler.” For those who don’t want to know anything about the movie, even with the “big spoiler” withheld, don’t click on the link.

VARIETY also has a description of a key scene that’s part of the footage shown at CinemaCon. Variety doesn’t disclose the main spoiler, but has a plot detail not in the Comicbook.com story. Those who are super spoiler sensitive probably should avoid.

Zimmer scoring U.N.C.L.E. movie looks doubtful

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer

Composer Hans Zimmer has cast doubt whether he’ll be able to score The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now in production.

Zimmer scored both of director Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies. In an interview with COLLIDER.COM, Zimmer was asked if he’d work again with Ritchie on U.N.C.L.E.:

“I have no idea, because once I’m really in full Interstellar mode I’m just gonna go be in full Interstellar mode. I think it might not work out timewise. I love Guy and I’d love to do something else with him. If it’s not this then I’m sure we’ll meet up again sometime.”

Interstellar is director Christopher Nolan’s new science fiction movie, which is scheduled for a fall 2014 release. Zimmer worked on Nolan’s Batman triology of films. The composer also is slated to do Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is also coming out next year. (Note: the Henry Cavill News fan site provided a heads up about the Collider.com interview.)

The composer slot is the last major crew position that hasn’t been announced for U.N.C.L.E., which doesn’t have a formal release date yet.

David Arnold, the five-time James Bond film composer, said SEPT. 3 ON TWITTER in a response to a question from this blog that he hasn’t been asked to do the job. With his Bond work, plus films such as a Samuel L. Jackson version of Shaft, Arnold has been willing to use theme music by other composers. Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) wrote U.N.C.L.E.’s distinctive theme, something long-time fans would want in the movie version with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

Another fan favorite would be Michael Giacchino, who did 2011’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, 2004’s The Incredibles and is slated to do at least three movies with 2014 release dates according to HIS IMDB.COM BIOGRAPHY.

Finally, a possibility that would excite some fans of the original 1964-68 series would be 81-year-old Lalo Schifrin. The Argentine-born composer is best known for his theme to Mission: Impossible. (The theme has been used in the four Tom Cruise movies but Schifrin has been passed over for actually scoring the films.)

Schifrin also scored two U.N.C.L.E. episodes as well as arranging Goldsmith’s theme for the second season.

Why we guess Bond 24 won’t be out until at least 2015

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

This week, Gary Barber, the CEO of MGM Holdings Inc., the parent company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, said the company is “hoping within the next three years” that Bond 24 will be released.

That’s a much different tune that late 2010 when MGM, in bankruptcy court, said it planned TO GET THE BOND FILM SERIES BACK ON AN EVERY-OTHER-YEAR SCHEDULE. It was even different from November when Barber told investors that MGM was “hopeful” that Bond 24 could come out in 2014. “If not in ’14, certainly in ’15,” he said at that time.

With these week’s comments by Barber, entertainment Web sites such as WHATCULTURE! and FLICK DAILY are taking the MGM CEO literally and saying Bond 24 won’t be out until 2016. That’s probably extreme, but Barber and MGM clearly are backing off the idea of Bond 24 coming out in 2014.

Here are our guesses why:

Eon Productions (which actually makes the 007 films) doesn’t seem keen on a 2014 timetable: Last year, an executive of Sony Pictures (which co-financed Skyfall with MGM and co-financed the movie) said Bond 24 would make a 2014 release date. Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall star Daniel Craig slapped that idea down in an interview with COLLIDER.COM.

(QUESTION:) Last week Rory, the president of distribution of Sony, announced Bond 24 for I guess late 2014…

Broccoli: He was getting a little overexcited (laughs). We’re just actually focusing on this movie. One hopes that in the future we’ll be announcing other films, but no one’s officially announced it (emphasis added)

Craig: No one’s announced anything. He got a little ahead of himself (laughs).

(emphasis added)

Actually, somebody had announced something — an executive of Sony Pictures, an Eon Productions business partner who was acting in his official capacity, had announced that Bond 24 was coming out in another two years. In effect, Broccoli and Craig were saying, “Move along, nothing to see here.”

In an interview with the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Barbara Broccoli had this comment about studios:

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.”

In the case of MGM, it co-owns the 007 franchise with Eon. But, based on these comments, it would seem as if Broccoli doesn’t view MGM exactly as a partner. At the very least, it doesn’t sound like Broccoli wants to hurry the process along. Meanwhile, Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Broccoli’s half brother and the other-co boss of Eon, had this to say in an interview with the DEN OF GEEK! Web site:

Have any preparations been made for Bond 24 yet?

Broccoli: No, no.

How long a space do you think you’ll need?

Wilson: If we’re rapid it’ll be two years, if we’re not it’ll be three. (emphasis added)

It’s not as critical for MGM to get Bond 24 out by 2014: When MGM made that filing in bankruptcy court it was, well, bankrupt. This week, it reported considerably improved financial results for 2012, much of it from Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The Hobbit has release dates for sequels in 2013 and 2014. Presumably, MGM will want Bond 24 sooner than later, but a 2014 release date isn’t a matter of life and death for the studio. Meanwhile, Bond remains an important asset for MGM and CEO Barber talked on this week’s investor call how the company was working with its “partners” (his words) at Eon. If Eon isn’t that keen for a 2014 release, Barber has less reason to force the issue at this point.

To quote M from the film You Only Live Twice, “Mind you, all of this is pure guess work.” But our guess is that a 2015 release for Bond 24 is more likely than a 2014 one.

How Hollywood still doesn’t get U.N.C.L.E.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: misunderstood in Hollywood

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: misunderstood in Hollywood

Scott Z. Burns, who wrote a script for a proposed movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., seems really proud that he based the plot off the real-life Palomares 1966 crash of a B-52 plane with atomic bombs.

There was one bomb that wasn’t recovered initially. It was “laying on the floor of the Mediterranean and no one could find it and so it was the race to find it that was what our episode was about,” Burns told Collider.com IN AN INTERVIEW. The scribe said he thought “it “was going to be really, really cool and I’m bummed we didn’t get to do it.”

The thing was the crash happened Jan. 17, 1966, less than a month after Thunderball, the fourth James Bond movie, debuted. Thunderball centered on the theft of two atomic bombs from a NATO aircraft. When the Palomares incident occurred, comparisons to Thunderball were made then and since SUCH AS THIS 2012 STORY on the BBC’s Web site or THIS POST on the Web site of The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.

Put another way, Burns, who was working for director Steven Soderbergh (who ditched the project in late 2011), wasn’t exactly examining fresh ground. Especially considering the last official U.N.C.L.E. production, 1983’s The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie, concerned how a resurgent Thrush (the villainous organization that opposed U.N.C.L.E. in the show) stole, you guessed it, two atomic bombs from a U.S. military plane.

What’s wrong with that? Wasn’t The Man From U.N.C.L.E. sold to NBC as “James Bond for television”? True enough, but if you take the time to actually watch the show, you’ll see some technology that still hasn’t been invented: a near limitless power source held in reserve in case Earth is ever invaded (The Double Affair); a vaporizer (The Arabian Affair); a mind-reading machine (The Foxes and Hounds Affair); and a serum that accelerates the healing process (The Girls of Nazarone Affair). And that’s just off the top of our head.

But U.N.C.L.E. was different than Bond in more than gadgets. The dynamic was noticeably different, in part, because Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) interacted with “innocents,” or stand-ins for the television audience. Some times, it was deliberate (recruiting a former girlfriend of the villain in the pilot episode), other times “innocents” got drawn into the story by dumb luck.

In any event, Solo and Kuryakin had to try to defeat the villain *and* look out for the “innocents.” That element alone changed the dynamic significantly compared with James Bond’s film universe. In addition, Napoleon Solo, while sharing Bond’s appreciation for the ladies, also had a moral streak Bond didn’t seem to exhibit.

Perhaps the best example was the show’s final episode, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair Part II. A former U.N.C.L.E. official believes the world is inevitably headed for ruin unless the “right” people take over. Kingsley (Barry Sullivan) has access to a gas that will make people obedient (there’s that tech that hasn’t been invented yet). This way, “my way,” as Kingsley says, the never-ending battle between evil and good will be settled permanently for good.

Solo is offered a chance to join Kingsley but instead sharply criticizes Kingsley and his lieutenants, the “wonders” of the title. “In your world, Kingsley, there’ll be no wonder,” Solo says in what is one of Robert Vaughn’s best acting moments in the series. It’s a bit of gravitas in a story that was padded out for a two-part length so it could be released internationally as a movie.

You wouldn’t get much of this vibe from comments that Soderbergh and Burns made about U.N.C.L.E. while they were involved in the aborted movie. All too often, U.N.C.L.E. is viewed in Hollywood as a way to do an alternate James Bond.

To a degree that’s understandable. Sam Rolfe, who wrote the pilot and was the first-season producer, died two decades ago. Norman Felton, the long-retired executive producer, died last year at age 99. There are few people left in Hollywood who even remember the show much, much less know what made it tick.

Until evidence surfaces to the contrary, it’s clear Hollywood simply doesn’t get U.N.C.L.E.

What Soderbergh’s U.N.C.L.E. would have been like

The cast of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television show.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: still dormant.


Scott Z. Burns, who wrote a script for director Steven Soderbergh for a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in 2011, has told COLLIDER.COM some details about the aborted project, which would have been set in the 1960s.

An excerpt:

Burns: Yeah, Steven and I both loved it because (U.N.C.L.E.) was a way of doing a spy movie and setting up a really interesting character that was fascinating to us, because U.N.C.L.E. wasn’t affiliated with the US or with Russia, it was this great cold war thing. And now spies have all these great toys but we would have to take some of them away, because it was the 60’s and there would be different plots because you didn’t always have a cell and you couldn’t solve problems with some of the things now.

So we had this idea based on something happening in the real world…there was a thing that happened with a B-52 bomber in like 1966 or 1967 over Spain where it was refueling and there was an accident and it lost its payload and three bombs fell on Spain and the Atlantic, and they hadn’t been armed, but …contained warheads.

So we scattered plutonium all over a farm field in Spain, the second bomb was recovered, but the there was a period of time when the third bomb was laying on the floor of the Mediterranean and no one could find it and so it was the race to find it that was what our episode was about, which I thought was going to be really, really cool and I’m bummed we didn’t get to do it.

Burns also told Collider that the project “was pretty close to going. I think we were all shocked that it didn’t happen.” Instead, Soderbergh quit the project.

This came out because Soderbergh, 50, wants to retire from directing. After U.N.C.L.E. crashed, he and Burns did a medical thriller called Side Effects, which comes out Feb. 8. Thus, publicity for Side Effects is underway.

Soderbergh’s last directing project, is a made-for-HBO movie about Liberace. Meanwhile, there have been no signs that Warner Bros., which has the rights to the 1964-68 U.N.C.L.E. television series, is doing anything with the property soon.