Steven Soderbergh finally called it quits on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV show adaptation a few weeks back (at the time of writing this) as he was unable to agree with Warner Bros. executives over both the proper casting and budget for the 1960s-set secret agent adventure-thriller. The film has since then been in a state of development limbo, as far as the general population has been concerned.
Warner Bros., however, isn’s ready to allow the project to collapse just yet; the studio is now negotiating to bring the duo responsible for its renovated Sherlock Holmes franchise (ie. producer Lionel Wigram and director Guy Ritchie) onboard for Man from U.N.C.L.E..
Deadline says that the plan is for Ritchie to direct Man from U.N.C.L.E., which already has an (essentially) complete screenplay in place, as penned by previous Soderbergh collaborator, Scott Z. Burns (The Informant!, Contagion). However, the site’s report makes no mention as to whether or not Wigram and Ritchie have plans to rework Burns’ script draft.
The original Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series ran from 1964-1968; it revolves around an American (Napoleon Solo) and a Russian (Illya Kuryakin) – a buddy duo who work for the United Network Command For Law and Enforcement (a.k.a. U.N.C.L.E.) organization, which strives to keep the world safe – especially from a dangerous criminal body known as the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity (a.k.a. T.H.R.U.S.H.).
Burns and Soderbergh were envisioning the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film adaptation as a period action flick that would retain the show’s 1960s setting, but also mark the first installment in a new globe-trotting franchise that would serve as an alternative to the Mission: Impossible movie series – seeing how the latter also originated in the mid-1960s as a television show, but was “updated” to a contemporary setting when it made the jump to the big screen.
Most moviegoers would probably agree that Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies are good examples of how to effectively go about “updating” an older property, while also both remaining loyal in spirit to the original inspiration and not actually changing the setting. So, assuming the 1960s backdrop does not end up being…dropped, Ritchie seems a reasonable (if somewhat unexpected) choice to helm The Man from U.N.C.L.E..
In terms of style, Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. should be quite different from Soderbergh’s (planned) version. The former filmmaker is known for (among other things) his highly-energetic camerawork, clever use of music, and overall fast-and-loose approach to storytelling. Soderbergh, by comparison, tends to favor more of an “artsy” aesthetic (ex. inventive camera angles/editing) and smooth-handed structure, even on his more mainstream efforts. Depending on your personal preference, a Ritchie-directed Man from U.N.C.L.E. might sound more, less, or just as appealing (or, rather, not appealing) than one helmed by Soderbergh.
Once Wigram and Ritchie are officially set for Man from U.N.C.L.E., the next step will be to secure two leading men for the picture. That might be easier said than done, seeing how (reportedly) part of the reason behind Soderbergh’s departure was Warner Bros.’ inability to decide what sort of Hollywood actors should be sought for the film – either a more seasoned veteran (ex. George Clooney) or a younger up-and-comer (ex. Ryan Gosling).
We will continue to keep you posted on the status of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as more information is released.