The Other Spies and their longevity that 007s can only envy

Never rile up fans of “The Other Spies.”

A Bond website, Dalton Was Best, got a lot of publicity for declaring that Daniel Craig is now the second-longest serving Bond. The methodology was starting with the time an actor was cast as Bond through the time his replacement was announced.

The Avengers Tv Show on Twitter, using those rules came up with some calculations of spy actors who have much more longevity than any Bond actor.

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Patrick Macnee is 37 years because he began in 1961 as Steed and wasn’t re-cast until Ralph Fiennes in the 1998 Avengers feature film. Peter Graves is 29 years because he debuted as Jim Phelps in 1967 and wasn’t replaced until Jon Voight in the 1996 Mission: Impossible movie. Tom Cruise is at 20 years and counting (21 this fall) because he was the star of the Mission: Impossible movie series that started with the 1996 film.

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Two more worth mentioning: Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. They were signed in 1963 (when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot was shot) and weren’t replaced as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin until 2013 when the U.N.C.L.E. film began production. That’s an even 50 years.

But Harry Palmer hasn’t been recast since Michael Caine’s debut in 1965. (He did three theatrical films in the 1960s and two made-for-television ones in the 1990s). By the recasting rule, Caine, in theory, is still on the clock, with his 52nd anniversary later this year.

I doubt these calculations will go viral the way the Daniel Craig one did. Still, you never know what you can stir up.

UPDATE (7:35 p.m. ET): Well, this post stirred up at least a little hornet’s nest.

The Avengers Tv Show received tweets asking about Jim West, Maxwell Smart, John Drake and The Prisoner. This was never intended to be a comprehensive ranking, more like poking fun at the original blog post (and reaction by the British media that made it go viral).

Separately, reader Matthew Bradford ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE notes another Len Deighton-based production featured a character that may have really been Palmer under a different name. Actually, the explanation is more detailed than that, but Matthew says you can make the case the Palmer role was re-cast, or at the very least the issue deserves an asterisk.

UPDATE II (7:45 p.m. ET): Earlier today a friend e-mailed and raised these questions about the early Bond actor longevity rankings that started all this.

“Do they count the fact of when these guys were NOT under contract?

“Connery after THUNDERBALL?

“Roger after SPY and each film thereafter?

“Dalton until 1994?

Pierce signed for DAYLIGHTS and then released?”

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Guy Ritchie says Brad Pitt was his choice for (older) Solo

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt

Director Guy Ritchie, talking on A PODCAST, says Brad Pitt was his first choice to play Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Had Pitt, 51, been cast, his version of Solo would have been older compared to a younger Illya Kuryakin, Ritchie said. The American actor “told me to piss off,” the director said of Pitt.

Ritchie didn’t provide a time frame when all this occurred. He confirmed (as he did in other interviews) that Tom Cruise, 53, was indeed considered to play Solo before opting to concentrate on Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

“Mission: Impossible interfered with the process,” Ritchie said. “He (Cruise) was occupying too much of the same space.”

Also, as he has done in other interviews, Ritchie says actor Henry Cavill, 32, was considered to play Kuryakin, but the director felt Cavill didn’t look right with blonde hair. Armie Hammer, who turns 29 this month, ended up with the role. Also, in the Ritchie-directed movie, Solo and Kuryakin were depicted as being roughly the same age, the same as the 1964-68 original series.

One other notable quote about the U.N.C.L.E. movie from Ritchie: “We’re more about (Harry) Palmer than we are about (James) Bond.”

To listen to the podcast, CLICK HERE. The U.N.C.L.E. quotes occur after the 31:00 mark.

The Secret Service principals compare movie to old-style 007

UPDATE (July 26): A reader who was at the presentation tells us that a Colin Firth quote below was transcribed incorrectly by Screen Rant. Quote has been changed to reflect that.

Some of the people behind the new Kingsman: The Secret Service compared the upcoming film to 1960s James Bond movies and other spy entertainment of that decade, according to the entertainment website SCREEN RANT.

The movie got promoted at the San Diego comic book convention. The film is based on a 2012 comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.

Millar made light of more recent Bond films with Daniel Craig in discussing Kingsman. “James Bond cries in the shower now in these movies but [star Colin Firth] gets to do cool stuff – like firing these gadgets and all this stuff. I think he got the best gig in the end.”

Firth kept his comparisons to the 1960s. He was quoted thusly by Screen Rant (with corrections included): “I enjoyed this kind of thing growing up in the ’60s and the character of the spy movie has its roots in the ’60s. It’s the Man from Uncle U.N.C.L.E., it’s the Harry Donner Palmer films, it’s John Speed’s Steed’s Avengers, and those early Bond films. It’s the guy in the suit who seems slick and cool and capable but very contained but you cross him at your peril.”

The Matthew Vaughn-directed film is due out this fall in February.

Len Deighton on From Russia With Love

Len Deighton and Michael Caine


The Deighton Dossier blog has a new interview with author Len Deighton. You can read the entire interview by CLICKING HERE One thing that caught our eye was Deighton’s description of his work on From Russia With Love, the second 007 film.

The Q and A featured questions from readers. One of those readers was Jeremy Duns, journalist (he dug out Ben Hecht’s screenplay drafts for producer Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale) and spy author.

Richard Maibaum got the screenplay credit for From Russia With Love, with Johanna Harwood receiving an “adapted by” credit. Maibaum had a long association with Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. On the early Bond films, Harry Saltzman, the other Eon co-founder, was involved heavily in developing the scripts and often sought English writers such as Paul Dehn and John Hopkins. Saltzman later produced the Harry Palmer series, starring Michael Caine, based on Deighton novels.

Here’s how Deighton in the Deighton Dossier interview, prompted by a question from Duns, described his time working on the film:

I’m very interested in your work on From Russia With Love – do you have any surviving drafts of your script and how do you regard it?

Len: I went to Istanbul with Harry Saltzman, plus the director and the art director. As with virtually all movies, the producer is the driving force who gets the idea, buys the rights, commissions the screenplay, chooses the actors and employs the director.

Harry demonstrated this creative power. We took breakfast together every day so that he could guide me and teach me how film stories worked. It was a wonderful course in movie making especially as the rest of each day was spent roaming around Istanbul with Harry plus the director and art director talking about locations and building the sets back in England.

I’ve always been rather careless about typescripts and notes etc. And having a restless disposition I have packed, unpacked and repacked countless times as my family and I lived in different countries, I don’t have much written stuff left.

Terence Young directed the movie and Syd Cain worked as art director, with Michael White as assistant art director.

The Deighton Dossier and this blog, are members of the Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies. We noticed the From Russia With Love mention from Tweets by Jeremy Duns.

Ken Russell’s brush with the world of spies

Movie director Ken Russell died this week at the age of 84. Obituaries concentrated on films such as the rock opera Tommy or the drama Women In Love.

Russell though had a flirtation with spy entertainment, directing 1967’s Billion Dollar Brain, the third of 007 producer Harry Saltzman’s Harry Palmer series, based on Len Deighton’s novels, and starring Michael Caine. It wasn’t supposed to be Saltzman’s last film of the series but it turned out that way.

Saltzman, restless by nature, wasn’t content with producing James Bond films with Albert R. Broccoli. Various authors have detailed how Saltzman’s outside ventures caused tensions between Saltzman and Broccoli. Nevertheless, Saltzman frequently tapped the talents of 007 crew members. Billion Dollar Brain was no exception, including sets designed by Syd Cain and titles designed by Maurice Binder.

Speaking of which, here are Binder’s titles:

Steven Soderbergh catches up on his U.N.C.L.E.

Director Steven Soderbergh, who has said he’s “obligated” to direct a movie based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., at least has been getting acquainted with the likes of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.

Sodbergh kept a list, starting in February 2010 and running for a year, of the movies and TV shows he would watch. The list is online (we can’t put in a link right now, but will do so later). It includes 27 of 29 first-season episodes of Man From U.N.C.L.E., an indication Soderbergh is taking the prospective movie seriously. He also read Jon Heitland’s 1987 The Man From U.N.C.L.E. book. He watched the U.N.C.L.E.s starting in late October 2010 through mid-January 2011.

Other things of interest on his list were the three Harry Saltzman-produced Harry Palmer movies (The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain) as well as movies directed by the late Sidney Lumet that starred Sean Connery (The Hill and The Anderson Files Tapes). He also watched some episodes of Mad Men, the acclaimed drama that’s set in the 1960s and Soderbergh reportedly wants his U.N.C.L.E. movie to be set in the ’60s. Coincidence? Probably (he watched the Mad Men episodes in the summer of 2010). But who knows?

More interesting? No James Bond movies. Perhaps that’s a sign Soderbergh won’t try to make an U.N.C.L.E. movie into a warmed over 007 film, similar to the 1983 television movie, The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: To view Soderbergh’s list of movies and TV shows he watched for a year, JUST CLICK HERE. Warning: it’s a PDF file. The existance of the list was first disclosed by the Vulture Web site in a post IN A POST YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE. The Vulure site, in turn, is part of New York Magazine’s Web site. You can view the main page of the magazine’s Web site BY CLICKING HERE.

Mister 8’s May Madness final: Tara Chace vs. U.N.C.L.E.

Fellow COBRA Mister 8’s May Madness competition is nearing its conclusion. It appears the finale will be Tara Chace/Queen & Country vs. Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin of U.N.C.L.E.

The Web site hasn’t officially started voting in the finals yet, but U.N.C.L.E.’s semi-finals match against Harry Palmer was scheduled to end at midday, May 31, and U.N.C.L.E. had a 102-26 lead. Tara Chace steamrolled to the finals over James Bond, The Avengers and the Impossible Missions Force. U.N.C.L.E. reaches the finals after a two-vote win over Get Smart (leading Maxwell Smart, one supposes, to say, “Missed it by that much!”) and wins over Jason Bourne and Len Deighton’s spy (unnamed in the novels but getting the Palmer name in the Harry Saltzman-produced movies).

Who knows? Maybe somebody will give a rat’s ass (the words of a posted in a reply to this earlier posting about May Madness concerning Tara Chace’s defeat of 007).

UPDATE: As A.S., the webmaster of Mister8 notes in his response, the Tara Chace/U.N.C.L.E. match is on. he has the URL in his reply or YOU CAN CLICK HERE. Voting lasts until June 9.