Armie Hammer gives an update on U.N.C.L.E. sequel effort

Armie Hammer in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Armie Hammer, in an interview with the Uproxx website, included an update about efforts to try to get a Man From U.N.C.L.E. sequel off the ground.

Previously, the actor told the /Film website he had convinced Lionel Wigram, co-writer and co-producer of the 2015 movie, to start work on a script for a sequel.

In the Uproxx story, Hammer was asked about comments from U.N.C.L.E. director Guy Ritchie that he didn’t know much about it. This excerpt picks up from there with Hammer asking the interviewer a question. Interviewer comments are in boldface.

 

Was this before King Arthur premiere or after the King Arthur premiere?

Before.

Okay, because he came into town for the premiere and we all had dinner: Guy, Lionel, myself, and Lynn Harris, who was one of the executives on the movie. And we all had dinner together and that’s when I told them. I was like, “So, guys.” So, yes, it is completely conceivable that he didn’t know. After you interviewed him, probably about a week after that, sat down and was like, “So here’s the deal. We’re doing this.”

He seemed very happy people were discovering it.

Yeah, people bring it up quite a bit and it just makes me really happy for Guy and it makes me really happy for Lionel and for Henry and for myself. You know, we put a lot of work into it and we really enjoyed making it, so the fact that people enjoyed watching it is a lot of fun. And if people enjoyed watching enough to sort of warrant making another one, I would be there. You know, I loved working with those guys. I loved working on that project. I’d love to do another one.

Again, the odds would seem to be against an U.N.C.L.E. sequel. The 2015 movie generated less than $110 million in global box office.

Then again, at times, the odds were against the original movie being made. It had been in development at Warner Bros. for more than 20 years.

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U.N.C.L.E. sequel being written, /Film says

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

Armie Hammer is quoted by the /Film website as saying a sequel for the 2015 Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is being written despite the film’s tepid box office.

According to the website, Hammer said he contacted Lionel Wigram, the co-producer and co-scripter of the 2015 movie.

“I was like, ‘Dude, what’s the deal? I get asked about this shit all the time. Can you just write a sequel?’” Hammer is quote as saying.

“He was like, ‘You know what? Yeah, fuck it, I’ll do it. Sure, I’ll write a sequel.’ I was like, ‘If you write one, I’m sure we can get one made,’ so who knows? Today is the first day I’ve actually told anyone that story.”

Two caveats: 1) Studios and production offices are littered with scripts that were never made into films. 2) Wigram, in this telling, doesn’t exactly sound like it’s his top priority.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s global box office was less than $110 million. During its opening weekend in the U.S., it came in No. 3, behind Straigh Outta Compton and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. The latter debuted two weeks earlier than U.N.C.L.E.

Wigram’s collaborator in writing the film was director Guy Ritchie. The duo’s latest project is King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which has had three separate release dates but is currently scheduled to come out May 12. That movie also is being scored by Daniel Pemberton, who did the music for the U.N.C.L.E. film.

The 2015 project was an “origin” story and dispensed with familiar U.N.C.L.E. tropes such as a secret headquarters. It had Hammer as Illya Kuryakin and Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo. Cavill currently is working on Mission: Impossible 6.

UPDATE (April 17): The Collider website also chatted with Armie Hammer. That story had slightly different quotes from the actor. “I actually recently talked to Lionel Wigram… and I was like, ‘Dude if you don’t start writing this script I’m gonna show up at your house and cut all of the tires of all of your cars, I swear to God.’”

So, in this telling, Wigram replied (according to Hammer), “You know what? Fuck it. I’m just gonna do it, I’ll probably start writing it.”

A few thoughts about the U.N.C.L.E. Blu Ray

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

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

The blog made an preliminary examination of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Blu Ray disc which went on sale today. Some random observations:

Some interesting content in the extras: For example, one of the extras shows how some of the stunts were performed. In an early sequence, Gaby (Alicia Vikander) and Solo (Henry Cavill) are in a car which Gaby appears to be driving. For much of the sequence, there was a stunt driver in a cage atop the car. There was also judicious use of “green screen” CGI.

Technology: In the original series, Sam Rolfe, who scripted the U.N.C.L.E. pilot, said he wanted the tech to be about 15 year ahead of what was available at the time. During the original show, the tech went beyond that, including vaporizers and mind-reading machines. Meanwhile, in one of the extras, co-scripter and co-producer Lionel Wigram said the idea in the movie was to keep the tech as close to the early 1960s as possible.

A bittersweet line: Also in the extras, Armie Hammer says he hopes the movie will lead to more U.N.C.L.E. film adventures. Given how the movie flopped, that’s not likely to happen.

Lens flares: Director Guy Ritchie appeared to adopt a visual signature of fellow director J.J. Abrams, particularly in the opening sequence in East Berlin and later when Solo is tortured by a former Nazi. But there’s even more of the visual technique through much of the movie.

Oops: At the 38:44 mark, you can see very faint shadow of a boom microphone on the door to Illya’s hotel room in Rome when Solo comes calling. To be honest, the Spy Commander missed this detail the five times he saw the movie in the theater. But it’s the kind of thing you can catch up with when you can pause and rewind.

“Have the chair warmed up”: This line was used twice, albeit in subtitles, and foreshadows a sequence when Solo is tortured by the former Nazi. Again, the kind of thing that’s easier to catch when you can pause and rewind.

Daniel Pemberton’s score: Still one of the best things about the movie. Director Ritchie didn’t want to mimic a John Barry James Bond score and it was one of the best decisions he made.

The Jerry Goldsmith U.N.C.L.E. theme: Ritchie really, really didn’t want it in the movie and Pemberton barely placed a few notes in it. In the end, it really wouldn’t have mattered to throw the original U.N.C.L.E. fans a bone and include it in the end titles.

It’s still one of the best entries in 2015’s “Year of the Spy.” Yes, it changed the back stories of Solo and Illya. Still, the movie got the most of its relatively modest $75 million production budget.

 

REVIEW: Guy Ritchie adds an edge to U.N.C.L.E.

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

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

Director Guy Ritchie, after stripping out some familiar memes from his version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., adds in some edge that often wasn’t present in the 1964-68 television series.

It mostly works, although things don’t really kick in until the film’s second half. The first half is a little flat.

The proceedings get reinvigorated when Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo finds himself in peril starting at the midway point of the movie. From that point on, both Cavill and Armie Hammer’s version of Illya Kuryakin get more traction. Make no mistake. The movie remains light and breezy, but there’s a feeling of increased stakes.

The second half also is when Hugh Grant’s Waverly, a cagey British spymaster, starts to have a slightly bigger role. Grant, who turned 53 when U.N.C.L.E. was in production, is decades younger than Leo G. Carroll was when he played Waverly in the series. But Grant’s version is just as manipulative, if not more so, than the original.

Ritchie, who co-wrote the script with Lionel Wigram, essentially tore down the original show. No secret headquarters, no vast worldwide organization. Even if a sequel is made, it’s doubtful any of that would make a comeback in a Guy Ritchie U.N.C.L.E. universe.

Instead, the writers emphasize the basic characters — Solo, Kuryakin and Waverly. Even here, there are notable differences from the show. Solo’s still a womanizer who likes the finer things in life, but has a back story of being an art thief. Kuryakin is given a back story even more at odds with the show (which had very little background for the character).

Ritchie also emphasizes the Cold War setting in a way the original didn’t. It’s the initial layer of edge added by the director. The story begins in East Berlin as Solo, here a CIA agent, is assigned to “extract” Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), a mechanic whose estranged father is a missing nuclear scientist.

That’s the beginning of a long sequence where Solo and Gaby are pursued by the seemingly indestructible Kuryakin, here a KGB operative. Things move quickly and it holds the viewer’s interest.

By comparison, the rest of the first half, while not bogging down, doesn’t move as quickly. We get the set up.

A mysterious organization is close to building an atomic bomb. The U.S. and Soviet Union decide they have to work together. Solo and Kuryakin size each other up (an excuse to add more of the back story the screenwriters have devised). Gaby is to be part of the mission because she has an uncle who works for the company run by evil mastermind Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki).

Besides all that exposition, Ritchie is setting things up for the second half, but not in a straight forward way.

The director pays lip service to U.N.C.L.E.’s idea of having an “innocent” be part of the plot. Instead, it’s sleight of hand, introducing a complication that — stop me if you’ve heard this before — adds edge to the film.

Despite all the alterations in their backgrounds, Cavill and Hammer do provide recognizable versions of Solo and Kuryakin. Each one ups the other equally. Each saves the other’s life. They eventually do operate as a a team.

Once Solo gets captured — and is being tortured by a former Nazi who’s pretty adept at it — the preliminaries are over and film gets down to business. Cavill is suitably suave and the British actor is convincing enough as an American who thinks his way out of trouble as much as he fights.

Hammer’s Kuryakin, or rather “Edgier Illya,” is falling for Gaby and Hammer does fine taking advantage of those scenes. “Edgier Illya” has more than a few psychological problems, and Hammer gets to play with that also.

For those who’ve never seen the original series, there really isn’t a need to catch up before seeing the film. For fans of the show, the ones who accept the film as an alternative reality will like it just fine.

One of the highlights of the movie is Daniel Pemberton’s score. It’s more Lalo Schifrin than John Barry, but that fits with Ritchie’s alternate universe U.N.C.L.E.

Some notes, mostly for fans of the show. Norman Felton (1913-2012), the executive producer of the series, is credited as an “executive consultant.” Sam Rolfe (1924-1993), who developed the series and was its first-season producer, receives no credit. Meanwhile, the 1965 Hugo Montenegro arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme is heard for *maybe* five seconds when Solo is checking radio stations while in a truck.

Also, for James Bond fans, a character gets to share the name of a minor villain in Thunderball, although here it’s spelled Count Lippi.

Finally, the end titles show dossiers of the principal characters. It’s an effect similar to, but more subtle than, the little scenes that occur in the end titles of Marvel Studios movies. Fans of the show will likely want to review them to see even more differences, particularly with Waverly’s.

For the Spy Commander, the movie was a tossup in the first half, but the second charged things up. GRADE: B-Plus.

U.N.C.L.E. director says he sought ’60s look for film

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

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

Guy Ritchie, during a press junket in London this week for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., said he tried to give the movie a ’60s look and make it different visually from his previous projects.

“I’m quite well known for using slow-mo shots and we did none of those,” the director told ScreenSlam.com in a video interview the website uploaded to YouTube.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie was done as a period piece and is set in 1963.

“It was a constant process of using either old techniques such as split-screen or doing as much as we could in camera,” he said. “We tried to stick to a theme of ’60s filmmaking.”

The director also said U.N.C.L.E. wasn’t “going to compete with $200 million movies in terms of action for action’s sake.” The U.N.C.L.E. movie had a $75 million production budget.

The ScreenSlam.com video is below. Ritchie was interviewed along with Lionel Wigram. Both co-wrote the film’s script and are among the four producers of the movie. The film will be released in the United States on Aug. 14. Shoutout to @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter, who flagged the video.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s gamble

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

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

After two years (or so) of fan debates, we’re about six weeks before The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie — a project decades in the making — finally comes out.

Needless to say, it’s been a roller coaster ride. Who should be Solo? Who should be Kuryakin? Should this even be attempted at all?

This post is prompted after reading yet another fan debate on these subjects. Rather than hash over the debating points, this is an attempt to summarize what’s going on.

It would appear that director Guy Ritchie and his producing/writing partner Lionel Wigram are betting they can strip U.N.C.L.E to its component parts — Solo, Kuryakin and Waverly — and dispense with familiar memes (cool secret HQs, among them) that have been adapted by others such as Kingsman: The Secret Service. There may be the odd reference to the original 1964-68 series, but it may not be much more than that.

The Ritchie-Wigram target — something that Warner Bros. evidently agrees with — is younger viewers. Essentially, the filmmakers want to make U.N.C.L.E. palatable to the younger demographic while hoping enough first-generation fans are willing to go along for the ride.

Will it work? We’ll see. For some first-generation fans, having a Del Floria’s front to the secret HQs is a key part of the original U.N.C.L.E. concept. Others don’t like an “origin” storyline, which has become the default option for lots of “re-imagined” popular entertainment.

Whatever the case, “Mr. Warner” (check out old Warner Bros. cartoons for the joke) has stepped up recently to promote the movie, including making it part of next weekend’s San Diego Comic Con. For many long-time fans, having U.N.C.L.E. be part of that event — which has become a major venue for promoting movies — couldn’t even be imagined as recently as a year ago.

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.