U.N.C.L.E. awakes: The Rip Van Winkle Affair

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

For one day, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was truly back after a slumber of more than 30 years. Rip Van Winkle only slept for 20 years.

May 9 was a press junket in Rome for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. Images and comments flooded social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

There hasn’t been an official U.N.C.L.E. production since The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie aired on CBS in 1983. Principal photography for the Guy Ritchie-directed feature film took place in the late summer and fall of 2013.

There have been milestones since then, including test screenings in 2014 and release of a first trailer in February. Still, the Rome press junket represented the biggest push by Warner Bros. to begin to raise visibility for the film.

Warner Bros. is in an unusual situation for the “summer” movie season (which begins the first weekend of May). It has no “tent pole” movie, so AS NOTED IN THIS VARIETY STORY, it’s releasing more films than other studios for the summer, looking to make up in volume what it lacks in spectacle. Thus, U.N.C.L.E. has become part of the studio’s “flood the zone” strategy.

Anyway, that’s for studio executives. For U.N.C.L.E. fans — at least those who want new U.N.C.L.E. tales — May 9 marked a beginning (or reawakening).

The U.N.C.L.E. movie, by 2015 standards, is modest ($75 million production budget). It’s in the shadow of the James Bond franchise, whose new installment, SPECTRE, has a $300 million budget, making it one of the most expensive movies of all time.

On the very same day Warners had its coming out party, SPECTRE released its latest “clapperboard” shot, one of the ways the 007 franchise uses social media to promote its product. (If you want to see all the SPECTRE clapperboard shots in scene order, CLICK HERE.)

In the end, despite U.N.C.L.E.’s Ian Fleming connection (the 007 author helped name Napoleon Solo), the two are different animals. Bond is the big kid on the block. U.N.C.L.E. is trying to get established again after a long layoff.

The U.N.C.L.E.’s movie’s Napoleon Solo is played by Henry Cavill, passed over for the role of 007 in favor of Daniel Craig in 2005. Both movies filmed in Rome, but SPECTRE spent $60 million there, almost as much as U.N.C.L.E.’s entire budget.

May 9 was a big day for U.N.C.L.E. fans. It remains to be seen whether the U.N.C.L.E. movie so long in development will be worth the wait. For at least one day, many U.N.C.L.E. fans felt a surge of excitement that it might be.

U.N.C.L.E. movie to be promoted at Rome event, fan site says

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

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

Cast members of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie will be participate in a media event in Rome this weekend, the HENRY CAVILL NEWS WEBSITE said.

Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Debicki will be part of the event, according to the fan website, which writes extensively about Cavill’s various projects.

Cavill and Hammer play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the characters portrayed by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in the 1964-68 series. Debicki plays a new character who appears to be a femme fatale in the film that comes out in mid-August.

Here’s one of the items contained in the Henry Cavill News story. Alicia Malone, who is part of a website called Malone’s Movie Minute took to Twitter to tease the event.

Cavill and Hammer appeared at the recent CinemaCon event in Las Vegas, where upcoming movies are promoted to theater owners.

Rome was one of the main locations for the Guy Ritchie-directed U.N.C.L.E. movie, which was filmed in the late summer and fall of 2013. The movie, set in 1963, has an “origin” story, showing how American Solo and Soviet Kuryakin came to work together. It has a different time line than the show, where U.N.C.L.E. had been formed shortly after World War II.

WSJ on M:I and U.N.C.L.E.; new Kirby-Steranko story

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

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

Here’s a roundup of some Other Spies developments.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL has a story about making movies based on television series, specifically looking at Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

One excerpt:

Why does TV continue to inspire movie dreams?

It is partly because of the extra time and money a feature can offer filmmakers. More fundamentally, even an aged television series can provide brand-name recognition, which acts as a commercial safety net—although an unreliable one.

(snip)
For every successful adaptation, though—from “Star Trek” to “21 Jump Street”—there’s the risk of turning out “The Lone Ranger.” The 2013 film with Johnny Depp as Tonto was rejected by audiences, who were uninterested in the plot, unfamiliar with the 1950s television show and more mystified than intrigued by Mr. Depp wearing a dead-bird headdress. The film led to a nearly $200 million loss for Disney.

The story includes quotes from M:I director Christopher McQuarrie about watching the original Mission: Impossible in returns (“It was sort of iconic to me.”) and U.N.C.L.E. movie co-writer Lionel Wigram, who says Warner Bros. wasn’t “interested in a contemporary story. But we could do a ’60s spy movie that appeals to a modern audience, and is very much the zeitgeist of ‘Mad Men.’”

Nick Fury

Nick Fury

COMIC BOOK RESOURCES reports that Marvel Comics plans to run a previously unpublished Jack Kirby-Jim Steranko art in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. No. 9 coming out in August.

Here’s text from a press release in the Comic Book Resources story:

First, this August, S.H.I.E.L.D. #9 answers a question half a century in the making. A mystery that lies at the heart of the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. – who is the “Man Called D.E.A.T.H.”?! Written by Mark Waid with art by Lee Ferguson – this special, oversized anniversary issue features a never before published S.H.I.E.L.D. sequence penciled by Jack Kirby and inked by Jim Steranko! Plus – Al Ewing brings you a second story featuring the return of Dum Dum Dugan and the birth of the new Howling Commandos! Along with the very first S.H.I.E.L.D. story from 1965 and the original sequence that inspired S.H.I.E.L.D.’s creation – this is not one to miss!

Jack Kirby and Stan Lee both co-created Nick Fury (as the start of a World War II comic book) and S.H.I.E.L.D. (where an older Fury takes command of the agency). Steranko took over S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1966, first as artist and then as writer. Steranko’s early S.H.I.E.L.D. efforts had him doing finished art over breakdowns by Kirby.

Cavill, Hammer say they’d like to do an U.N.C.L.E. sequel

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

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

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, stars of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, say they’d be happy to reprise the roles of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in another film if their first effort is successful at the box office.

The two were interviewed at CinemaCon this week by JBlo Movie Trailers, which posted the video to YouTube.

“I certainly enjoyed playing Napoleon Solo so fingers crossed I get to do it again,” Cavill said. Added Hammer, “I’d love to make one of these again.”

The big question is whether the movie, due out Aug. 14 in the United States, will do well enough for Warner Bros. to commission a sequel. The movie will come out just two weeks after Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the fifth installment of the film series featuring Tom Cruise. On the other hand, the U.N.C.L.E. movie had (these days at least) a modest production budget of $75 million, which is small change compared to the $300 million outlay for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

This blog has previously posed the question if Cavill would have the time to make an U.N.C.L.E. sequel. He’s committed to playing Superman in a two-part Justice League project, with release dates in 2017 and 2019 as well as a stand-alone Superman movie at some future date. Based on Cavill’s comments, he sounds like he could fit in another U.N.C.L.E. turn if it comes up.

In the interview, Hammer also discussed something he’s mentioned before. The actor says he bought a DVD set of the original 1964-68 series after he was cast as Kuryakin. He said he liked the second season but thought the show went “off the rails” in the third when the humor-drama balance tipped more toward the humor side.

Anyway, here’s the interview:

U.N.C.L.E. movie stars attend Warner Bros. presentation

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, the stars of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, participated in a Warner Bros. presentation in Las Vegas on April 21.

The event was CinemaCon, a national trade show for motion picture exhibitors. By sheer coincidence, it’s at Caesar’s Palace, where the last official U.N.C.L.E. production — the 1983 television film The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. — was filmed.

Cavill and Hammer, who play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in the U.N.C.L.E. film, were part of a Warner Bros. panel. Both showed up in beards and light-colored suits and no ties.

During the presentation, Cavill and Hammer showed new footage from the U.N.C.L.E. movie, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The trade publication didn’t provide details.

Earlier, Tom Cruise appeared at CinemaCon to plug Paramount’s Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. According to THE WRAP, the actor-producer explained how the movie’s signature sent was performed where Cruise is hanging from the side of an aircraft.

Cruise also showed two clips from the film. For more details, CLICK HERE to read a story by The Associated Press.

The Mission: Impossible film will debut on July 31, with the U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out two weeks later.

What follows are Tweets From MTV and Warner Bros. of Cavill and Hammer.

UPDATE (11:25 p.m.): We embedded an MTV video where Cavill and Hammer were interviewed. An hour later, it stopped working. So we went ahead and stripped it out.

REVIEW: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. trailer

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

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

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser trailer debuted Wednesday night. There were at least a couple of surprises. And one possible James Bond homage.

To be specific:

–0:04 mark: Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo, in the back seat of a vintage car, asks, “Are they still following us?” He employs dramatic pauses similar to the original Solo, Robert Vaughn. Why is that surprising? Cavill has said he never watched an episode of the original 1964-68 series. Meanwhile, Brit Cavill sounds convincingly American (not surprising given how he played Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel).

–Armie Hammer, as Illya Kuryakin, has a strong Russian accent. It’s much stronger than David McCallum, the actor who originated the part, ever displayed.

–The homage? Around the 1:00 mark, CIA agent Solo and KGB operative Kuryakin fight in a rest room, demolishing it. That’s extremely similar to the pre-credits sequence of the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale, the rebooted 007 movie where the British agent records his first kill.

According to the trailer, the year is 1963. An unknown criminal organization “with ties to former Nazis” is said to have built an atomic bomb. This forces the United States and Soviet Union to cooperate — even to the point of assigning Solo and Kuryakin, shown here as being foes, to work together.

Obviously, this just a taste of the movie. It doesn’t have familiar U.N.C.L.E. memes such as the secret headquarters, because U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t been formed yet. At the very end of the trailer, we catch a glimpse of Hugh Grant as Waverly. It’s hard to evaluate anything about how the actor will do playing a role originated by Leo G. Carroll.

The trailer, in effect, was the first “official” U.N.C.L.E. production since the 1983 TV movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It’s interesting. You can’t evaluate an entire movie based on a trailer, of course. For those who welcome a new take on U.N.C.L.E., there’s nothing to be discouraged about. For those who wanted the series left alone, they likely won’t be reassured.

GRADE: Incomplete. But we’d like to see more. You can view the trailer below:

UPDATE: Missed this the first three times, but at 1:08 mark, Kuryakin appears to be using a preliminary version of what would become the U.N.C.L.E. Special on the television series.

1:19 mark: another Vaughn like delivery by Cavill: “This could get a little messy.”

1:57 mark: possible homage to the original series and the third-season opener, The Her Master’s Voice Affair.

UPDATE II: Warner Bros. has yanked the video we embedded.

UPDATE III: This embedded video still works.

UPDATE IV: Could this be the movie’s version of the U.N.C.L.E. Special?

Armie Hammer with a weapon that looks like an U.N.C.L.E. special

Armie Hammer with a weapon that looks like an U.N.C.L.E. special

UPDATE V: The official WEBSITE FOR THE MOVIE is now up.

UPDATE VI: Daniel Pemberton, who composed music for the film, says via Twitter the trailer doesn’t contain his score.

Year of the Spy: Warner Bros. dodges M:I 5

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Paramount’s decision to move Mission Impossible 5 up to late July has caused Warner Bros. to change its summer release schedule — but not (at least for now) its movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Warners had its Point Break action movie slotted for July 31. That was before M:I 5, with star-producer Tom Cruise, was placed on the same date after originally being scheduled for Dec. 25.

So now, Warners has moved Point Break to Dec. 25, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO WEBSITE. Thus M:I 5 and Point Break have swapped their original release date.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., also from Warners, is still slotted in for Aug. 14, just two weeks after M:I 5. Thus, movies based on two 1960s spy shows still will debut just a fortnight apart.

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