The Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse strikes again

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) teaser poster

Years ago, the blog discussed The Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse — a series of mostly unrelated events with one thing in common. Namely, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

There were genuine tragedies. Sam Rolfe, who developed the original show, died of a heart attack while trying to come up with a new made-for-cable-TV version in the 1990s. More of the “curse” involved promising new versions that would never see the light of day.

The “curse” has reared up its ugly head with the two stars of the 2015 movie, the most recent (and perhaps final) version of U.N.C.L.E.

The biggest impact is being felt by Armie Hammer, who played Illya Kuryakin in the 2015 movie.

To put it simply, Hammer’s career is in freefall. Here’s an excerpt of a Variety story via the Chicago Tribune.

The new year kicked off with what will likely be the most bizarre celebrity story of 2021: Armie Hammer — the genetically blessed movie star of “Call Me by Your Name” and “The Social Network” fame, and heir to the Hammer family oil fortune — began trending online for being a cannibal.

Hammer is not a cannibal.

What, what? It’s a long story. And it’s not really worth telling in detail here. The problem is Hammer has been dropped by his talent agency and his publicist because of isues with his personal life. Also, he hasn’t had many hits. So, suddenly, he’s seen as radioactive. He has dropped out of projects and his future is in doubt.

Also facing future questions is Henry Cavill, who played Napoleon Solo in the 2015 film.

In the early 2010s, Cavill was cast as Superman. His solo Superman film, Man of Steel, came out in 2013. It was supposed to be the first step in creating a film universe based on DC Comics characters, similar to the Marvel Cinematic University.

Unfortunately for Cavill, he only got the one solo movie. He appeared in Batman v Superman (2016) and Justice League (2017), but took a back seat to Ben Affleck’s Batman

At one point, had U.N.C.L.E. been a box office success, he could have been part of two film franchises. But U.N.C.L.E. was a disappointment and Warner Bros. clearly isn’t hurrying to bring out any new Cavill versions of Superman. His last hurrah may be a Zack Snyder-cut of Justice League due to come out on the HBO Max streaming service.

When Cavill began his Superman career, he was the young and up-and-comer. Now he’s pushing 40 (he’ll turn 38 in May) with an uncertain future.

Oh, well. At least, Cavill has the streaming show The Witcher streaming series to fall back on.

Henry Cavill on Bond, U.N.C.L.E. and Superman

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (art by Paul Baack)

Men’s Health is out with a long feature story about actor Henry Cavill. He was once up for playing James Bond (losing out to Daniel Craig), played Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and was Superman in three films.

Various entertainment outlets have chewed up the story into bite-sized pieces about various topics. Here’s a roundup.

On auditioning for Bond in Casino Royale: Cavill was in his early 20s when he tested for the role of Bond. Chances are he didn’t stand much of a chance given how Eon Productions boss was pushing for Daniel Craig. The story has this passage:

To screen-test, he had to walk out of a bathroom wrapped in a towel and reenact a scene from one of the Sean Connery–era films. “I probably could have prepared better,” Cavill says. “I remember the director, Martin Campbell, saying, ‘Looking a little chubby there, Henry.’ I didn’t know how to train or diet. And I’m glad Martin said something, because I respond well to truth. It helps me get better.”

Sounds like he was probably talking about the seduction scene of From Russia With Love, which is one of the standard Bond screen test scenes.

On The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015): The article says the movie, while not a big hit, helped Cavill’s career.

It wasn’t until the big-screen remake of the TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that viewers got an idea of the actor’s innate playfulness. Cavill played a swanning, conning American agent named Napoleon Solo. And although it wasn’t a hit, it marked a crucial moment in his career. As Solo, he was droll, at ease, and effortlessly sexy.

Watching U.N.C.L.E., says director Christopher McQuarrie, led him to cast the actor as the evil-genius villain of Mission: Impossible—Fallout. “Something in Henry’s comic timing told me he had talents that weren’t being exploited,” says McQuarrie. “I found he had a charming sense of humor—at which point I knew he could be a villain. The best villains enjoy their work.”

Whether he’s still Superman: Cavill played Superman in Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman (2016) and Justice League (2017). There are no outward signs whether he’ll be back. An excerpt:

“I’ve not given up the role. There’s a lot I have to give for Superman yet. A lot of storytelling to do. A lot of real, true depths to the honesty of the character I want to get into. I want to reflect the comic books. That’s important to me. There’s a lot of justice to be done for Superman. The status is: You’ll see.”

What next for Henry Cavill?

“We want that cape back!” “Mr. Warner” said.

Henry Cavill may be turning in his Superman cape after “Mr. Warner” (Warner Bros.) decided to go in a new direction for its movies based on DC Comics characters. At least The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Cavill is out. Neither side confirmed the development to the entertainment news outlet.

Cavill, 35, played Superman in three movies, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. When not portraying the hero, Cavill has moonlighted playing spies: Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Tom Cruise’s adversary in Mission: Impossible-Fallout. And, of course, he’s a perennial name in the “Who Will Be the Next James Bond?” sweepstakes. He screen tested for Bond in his 20s for Casino Royale.

Assuming THR is correct, what’s next for the Britis actor who often plays Americans? He’s part of a Netflix project, The Witcher. But does he have prospects for other franchises?

Warner Bros. perhaps hoped U.N.C.L.E. might become a franchise. Cavill stepped into the Solo role when Tom Cruise took a pass to concentrate instead on 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

That M:I film opened just two weeks before U.N.C.L.E. and was a major factor in the latter under-performing at the box office. There’s occasional chatter about doing an U.N.C.L.E. sequel despite that. Still, that would seem a long shot.

Based on the ending of Mission: Impossible-Fallout, it would seem a Cavill appearance in a seventh M:I film is unlikely. Which brings up to the inevitable Bond discussion.

Despite the fact there’s no vacancy (Daniel Craig is to star in Bond 25), the British press loves to pose the question of future Bond possibilities. And British bookies love to take bets, generating still more publicity.

Anecdotally, I’ve encountered people who love Cavill and others who decry him as a block of wood. Regardless, given the current pace of 007 film production, who knows when Cavill would even have a chance?

That’s show business, I guess.

UPDATE (12:45 p.m. New York time): Cavill’s agent says not so fast.

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UPDATE II (1:05 p.m. New York time): The io9 Gizmodo site received the Warner Bros. statement about Cavil. “While no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films, we’ve always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill, and that remains unchanged.”

Doesn’t appear to say a whole lot.

 

Justice League’s motto: Do no harm

Justice League movie logo

No major spoilers but the spoiler adverse should pass this up.

The subtitle of Justice League could be “Do No Harm.” One of the main missions of the film seems to be to repair the damage done to DC Comics characters in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

In that regard, Justice League succeeds.

(OK spoiler sensitive types bail out now.)

The film brings back Superman who had died at the end of Batman v Superman. What’s more, he’s brought back (after an understandable period of adjustment) as being….well, Superman.

With 2013’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, the Man of Steel was full of self doubt, unsteady and, at times, not very Superman-like. In Justice League, Henry Cavill’s Superman costume looks like it has been cleaned. It looked dirty in his previous two appearances.

Even better, Superman embraces being a hero. That’s what Superman does. The movie doesn’t have Clark Kent wink at the audience, the way comic book Clark Kent did decades ago. But it’s a big improvement. And Superman actually isn’t in the movie that much.

Other characters do a lot of the heavy lifting. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman understandably carries a lot of the load. Jason Momoa grabs attention as Aquaman, a character general audiences probably aren’t that familiar with. Ezra Miller brings a neurotic take on the Flash.

Finally, there’s Ben Affleck’s Batman. The actor took much of the brunt of criticism for Batman v Superman, which depicted the character at times as a homicidal maniac. The “do no harm” label applies here as well. Batman is more on an even keel (well, as much as a guy who dresses up in a Bat costume can). The new-look Affleck/Batman even shows some compassion at times.

The production of this film has been a bit of a soap opera. Extensive rewrites and reshoots. A large budget, raising doubts whether this movie will ever earn a dime of profit. And even having Henry Cavill’s mustache (grown for Mission: Impossible 6) digitally erased in the reshoots.

And, of course, there has been plenty of speculation whether Affleck will return as Batman. Intentional or not, a scene in the film evokes this when Affleck’s aging Bruce Wayne acknowledges he can’t keep being Batman much longer.

In the end, the movie makes the viewer forget the soap opera. That may be the biggest compliment one can provide. GRADE: B-Plus.

Wonder Woman about to be No. 1 DC film in U.S. box office

Wonder Woman poster

Wonder Woman is on the verge of being the No. 1 DC Extended Universe movie at the U.S. box office.

The film’s U.S. box office totaled $325,083,830 as of June 27, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

That means Wonder Woman likely will pass 2016’s Suicide Squad ($325,100,054) today. Next up, also from 2016, is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which had U.S. box office of $330,360,194.

The DCEU began with 2013’s Man of Steel, which had U.S. box office of $291,045,518.

Wonder Woman’s global office still lags the other three DCEU films.

The movie’s worldwide total was $660,883,830 as of June 27.

It’s getting close to Man of Steel’s global box office ($668,045,518). Meanwhile the worldwide numbers were $873,260,194 for Batman v Superman and $745,600,054 for Suicide Squad.

Wonder Woman has been a lift for Warner Bros. Both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad received many bad reviews. That wasn’t the case for Wonder Woman, which has a 92 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

In the U.S., Wonder Woman hasn’t had the quick box office dropoff experienced by the two 2016 DC movies.

UPDATE (June 30): Wonder Woman surpassed Batman v Superman in U.S. box office on June 29, according to a post by Scott Mendelson on Forbes.com. Its U.S. box office total was $330,529,475 as of June 29, according to Box Office Mojo.

Justice League trailer debuts

Justice League movie logo

Warner Bros. unveiled its first Justice League trailer today and it appears to address criticism that its DC superhero movies are too dark and dreary.

For example, this movie’s version of Commissioner Gordon (J.K. Simmons) tells Ben Affleck’s Batman, “It’s good to see you playing well with others again.” There are a few one liners in the trailer as well.

Warners began its “DC universe” with 2013’s Man of Steel. While the movies haven’t bombed by any means, none of the films have exceeded the $1 billion mark the way some Marvel Studios films (two Avengers films, Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War) have.

Last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was intended by the studio to reach the $1 billion level. It generated global box office of $873.3 million.

That’s more than respectable but was considered disappointing in that it featured the three biggest starts of DC Comics, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. It also had an estimated budget of $250 million, so the studio needs big box office.

For those interested, take a look. Justice League debuts in November.

UPDATE: Can Henry Cavill do U.N.C.L.E. sequels?

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Adapted and updated from a June post.

File this under “getting ahead of yourself.” Still, at major companies, people are paid to think about various future scenarios. So…

Back in June we posed the question if The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is a success, will the lead actor be able to do any sequels?

Warner Bros. IN AN OCT. 15 PRESS RELEASE said it plans on keeping Henry Cavill busy playing Superman.

In addition to the current Batman-Superman movie now in production, Warners said it plans a two-part Justice League movie with Cavill as Superman as well as another Superman solo film the actor.

The studio also controls U.N.C.L.E. and has a movie in post-production which will be released in August 2015.

As we stated a few months ago, you have to wonder if Cavill will have enough time to do future U.N.C.L.E. films. He played Napoleon Solo in the U.N.C.L.E. movie.

The Batman-Superman movie, which amounts to a preview of the Justice League, is scheduled to be released in March 2016. Warner Bros. says Justice League Part one will be released in 2017 and Justice League Part Two will be out in 2019. The studio didn’t disclose a planned release date for Cavill’s second solo Superman movie. The actor first played the character in 2013’s Man of Steel.

Superhero movies involve a lot of special effects and long shooting schedules. Even if Cavill signed an U.N.C.L.E. contract that secured his services for sequels, you have to wonder if he’ll have any time to squeeze future Solo adventures into his schedule.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie was shot over three months. Compare that to Skyfall, the most recent James Bond movie, that had a seven-month shooting schedule.

Again, this is looking way ahead. The U.N.C.L.E. movie hardly is assured of being a hit. It doesn’t have the name recognition of the comic book characters from Marvel and DC that are populating movies.

Still, it is something to keep in mind as events unfold in the months ahead. Whatever contracts Cavill has signed, Superman-Justice League movies are a top priority for Warner Bros. U.N.C.L.E., even if the movie is a financial success, is a secondary priority.

‘Mr. Warner, when does U.N.C.L.E. get some publicity?’

Henry Cavill in a new publicity image

Henry Cavill in a new publicity image

This past week, Warner Bros. unleashed some publicity images for a movie involving actor Henry Cavill — a movie that won’t be out for 22 months.

That film, of course, is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, due out in May 2016. Warners released a new publicity image of Cavill as Superman. Various outlets bit on doing stories, including Forbes.com and USA Today. The movie currently is in production.

Meanwhile, Cavill has done another Warners feature. By comparison, the studio is in radio silence concerning the film. That project is a film version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which is due in a little more than six months, in mid-January 2015.

Long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans have a mixed reaction. Some would like to see a new take on the 1964-68 television series. Others wished the studio would have left well enough alone. Either way, there’s a feeling of disrespect. Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo in the series (the role Cavill played in the film), says he wasn’t asked to do a cameo. That rubbed some fans the wrong way.

What it comes down to is business. Warners is looking to Batman v Superman as the precursor to a Justice League movie, where a group of super heroes combine their forces. The studio watched as Disney/Marvel had a huge hit with 2012’s The Avengers and the owners of the WB shield want in on that kind of action.

The U.N.C.L.E. film, meanwhile, is more of a back door operation. Warners would, of course, like it to be a hit. But it has bet a relatively modest sum, if $75 million can be called modest. That’s less money that, say, the first Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes film. That 2009 project, which, like U.N.C.L.E., was directed by Guy Ritchie, had an estimated budget of $95 million. Of course, Downey, fresh off 2008’s Iron Man, was a star. It remains to be seen whether Cavill is a star beyond 2013’s Man of Steel.

Warners has a lot invested in its superhero properties (its parent company owns DC Comics). It’s also trying to play catch up with Disney/Marvel’s machine-like output of films.

Also, Superman has more name recognition among the general public than U.N.C.L.E. does. Christopher Reeve did four Superman films from 1978 to 1987, Warners has produced various Superman TV projects, a 2006 movie and Man of Steel. There hasn’t been an U.N.C.L.E. production since a 1983 television movie. The first-generation U.N.C.L.E. fan base isn’t getting any younger.

Put another way, leveraging DC characters is a top priority for the studio. U.N.C.L.E.? Not so much.

For better or worse, U.N.C.L.E. fans are going to have to wait to see what Cavill and Ritchie have done with U.N.C.L.E.

What we know and don’t know about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is days away from finishing principal photography. So here’s a quick look at some of what’s know and not known about the project.

It’s a (relatively) lean production: The movie has a production budget of about $75 million, according to a
JULY STORY IN VARIETY BY JON BURLINGAME.

That’s hardly pocket change and a bigger budget than independent dramas. But it’s also noticeably less than Skyfall, the most recent James Bond movie ($200 million); R.I.P.D. ($130 million); The Lone Ranger ($215 million); and Man of Steel ($225 million).

Then again, a big budget is hardly a guarantee of success. Skyfall was a hit and Man of Steel (with Henry Cavill, the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s Napoleon Solo, playing Superman) did well enough to proceed with a sequel. R.I.P.D. and The Lone Ranger (with Armie Hammer, the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s Illya Kuryakin, as the title character although the star was Johnny Depp’s Tonto) were bombs. That’s especially true of R.I.P.D. a comedy with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds that generated total worldwide ticket sales of $78.3 million, which was split with theaters.

It was a (relatively) tightly scheduled shoot: The U.N.C.L.E. movie began filming on Sept. 6. It will finish on Dec. 7, according to A TWEET by Luca Calvani, who play’s the film’s villain. That’s almost exactly three months. By comparison, Skyfall had a seven-month filming schedule from late 2011 through mid-2012.

There will be humor; the question is how much: Cavill signed on as a late replacement for Tom Cruise to play Solo. He said U.N.C.L.E. would have “DRY HUMOR.” The 30-year-old actor described himself as liking dry humor but not a fan of slapstick humor.

One fear of first-generation U.N.C.L.E. fans is there would be too much humor, which happened during THE THIRD SEASON of the original 1964-68 series. One sign that may not be the case: Entertainment Weekly DESCRIBED a scene where Calvani attacks Cavill “savagely,” kicking him in the “bollocks.” That never happened during U.N.C.L.E.’s sometimes goofy third season.

A broken record (by this blog), but who’s going to be the composer? One of the biggest unknowns still remains who will be the movie’s composer.

Hans Zimmer, who worked on director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes movies, has said he probably doesn’t have time given other commitments. Jerry Goldsmith, who composed the distinctive U.N.C.L.E. theme, died in 2004. Music is always an important consideration and there’s still no clue who will handle those chores for the new U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Some fan complaints about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Some U.N.C.L.E. fans react to what they've seen about the new movie.

Some U.N.C.L.E. fans react to news about the new movie.

Everybody’s a critic, the saying goes. So it is with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie a month after it began filming.

The Internet in its myriad forms, including Facebook, Twitter, listservs message boards and blogs like this one, has the potential to give every fan a voice. And many take advantage of the opportunity.

While it’s hard to say how representative they are, here’s a sampling of some fan complaints about the movie that stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in the roles originated by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. A lot of this is subjective and if you’re an U.N.C.L.E. fan you may agree or disagree.

1. The lead actors are too tall: Norman Felton, executive producer of the original 1964-68 series, was on record as not wanting “big, ballsy men” as his leads, which is one reason why Vaughn and McCallum, each below 6-feet tall, got the roles. Some fans refer to Kuryakin/McCallum as LBG, or “little blonde guy.”

Cavill is 6-goot-1 while Hammer is 6-foot-5. That is admittedly a big change and some fans don’t like it. Cavill was a last-minute casting change for 5-foot-7 Tom Cruise, who opted out of the project.

2. Henry Cavill is too muscular: Cavill, 30, is the latest screen Superman (in 2013’s Man of Steel) and will reprise the role in 2014 for a Superman-Batman movie that will be released in the summer of 2015. That’s different that Felton’s “everyman” vision.

3. Armie Hammer isn’t blonde enough: Hammer had dark hair playing the Lone Ranger in the 2013 Disney movie. He has lightened his hair, but for some fans he’s not blond enough.

Armie Hammer with a David McCallum haircut.

Armie Hammer with a David McCallum haircut.

4. Hammer doesn’t have Illya Kuryakin’s hairstyle: McCallum’s Kuryakin had bangs and his hairstyle got shaggier later in the series. Based on photos taken during filming in Rome SUCH AS THIS ONE, Hammer isn’t attempting the same hairstyle.

5. Why does Hollywood do all these remakes and/or sequels? This is a broader complaint about Hollywood in general. As movie costs have spiraled, studios have gotten conservative and are viewed as less willing to take risks in general.

Occasionally, there are remakes worth doing. Humphrey Bogart wasn’t the first actor to play Sam Spade. My Fair Lady, seen as a screen classic, is essentially a musical remake of Pygmalion. Some argue The Godfather Part II is better than the original. The problem isn’t necessarily remakes per se, but how they’re executed.

6. This is going to be a flop on the scale of 2013’s Lone Ranger movie! Actually, that’s almost impossible. The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s budget is a reported $75 million, while Disney’s Lone Ranger movie had a budget of as much as $240 million.

Meanwhile, as far as U.N.C.L.E. concerned, the past 30 years of fan discussion has centered on either the original show or U.N.C.L.E. projects that didn’t get made. Looking on the bright side, the U.N.C.L.E movie is something new to talk about — whether the movie turns out good or ill — for the first time in a long time. It also may recruit new U.N.C.L.E. fans, starting with fans of the lead actors.