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.

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.

Could Johnny Depp wreck U.N.C.L.E. movie?

“Have our little plans gone askew?”

–Thrush villain Victor Marton (Vincent Price) in The Foxes and Hounds Affair

If Steven Soderbergh’s planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. crashes without reaching production, it may be due to a chain reaction involving Johnny Depp. At least, that’s the impression you getting reading between the lines of a POST ON THE PLAYLIST WEB SITE.

Playlist first SAID IN SEPTEMBER that Soderbergh’s first choices to play U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the lead characters of the 1964-68 television series, were Michael Fassbender and Joel Kinnaman. In the new post on Nov. 9, the Playlist says Warner Bros. had been on board with those choices. The plot thickened, however.

The monkey wrench came however when “The Lone Ranger” had fell into budget problems at Disney. In the interim, Johnny Depp read the Scott Z. Burns-penned (U.N.C.L.E.) script and wanted to take the Ilya (sic) role. WB were over the moon and essentially let it be known that Soderbergh could essentially cast anyone in the lead with a huge star like Depp in co-starring role.

Of course, after a little budget cutting, The Lone Ranger was again given a green light and Depp was no longer interested in U.N.C.L.E. In the interim, according to the Playlist, Fassbender and Kinnaman moved onto other projects. In effect, Depp’s flirtation with taking on the role made famous by David McCallum cost pre-production time for the U.N.C.L.E. project.

More complications, according to the account: the studio now wanted Matt Damon to star, except he’s busy.

WB pushed to shoot the (U.N.C.L.E.) film the following year, in early 2013 with Damon in the lead, but Soderbergh – who definitely wants to make the Liberace biopic “Behind The Candelabra” his last film for at least the foreseeable future — held his ground.

Soderbergh is supposed to direct the Liberace project, which will be shown on HBO, around mid-2012. Based on the Playlist account, the clock *appears* to be ticking. If Soderbergh and Warners can’t get leads cast *relatively soon* it may be hard to get an U.N.C.L.E. movie in production in time for Soderbergh to do it. And, as of now, there’s no Kuryakin and no Solo, played by Robert Vaughn in the television series.

Thus, Depp’s involvement may prove to be the catalyst that eventually runs wrecks an U.N.C.L.E. movie before it starts. That’s certainly the case if — and we stress that word — Soderbergh departs. Development likely would start all over again from scratch. We’ll see.

Soderbergh loses his Kuryakin, Whatculture! says

Steven Soderbergh, director of the upcoming movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., lost out on the chance to cast his preferred choice as Illya Kuryakin, according to the Web site Whatculture!

The key excerpt:

Steven Soderbergh met with Joel Kinnaman, the Swedish star of Snabba Cash and lead of The Killing, to discuss the role of Illya Kuryakin in his adaptation of the 60s spy show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that is being turned into a large scale blockbuster at Warner Bros. Upon the meeting, Soderbergh made it known he wanted to cast the rising star but in the end Warner Bros have slotted him into co-leading another of their big money potential franchise starters.

According to the Whatculture! story, which you can read by BY CLICKING HERE, is a movie called Arthur & Lancelot, that starts filming in March.

In The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Russian agent Kuryakin was the Number Two of Section Two (Operations and Enforcement) of U.N.C.L.E., second only to American agent Napoleon Solo, a character created by Norman Felton and Ian Fleming, the latter, of course, the creator of James Bond.

Kuryakin, along with almost everyting else about U.N.C.L.E., was created by Sam Rolfe, who got a “developed by” credit on the show. Kuryakin’s popularity rivaled Solo’s. Many of Kuryakin’s characteristics were established by Alan Caillou, who wrote several episodes that helped develop the Kuryakin character. Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played Solo and Kuryakin in the original series.

The Whatculture! story mostly concerns itself with Kinnaman’s background and details about the Arthur & Lancelot movie project. In any case, no news yet on who McCallum’s successor as Kuryakin may be.