Update: We now have more details on the status of The Man From U.N.C.L.E, including that George Clooney may be starring in the lead role. See below for details.
Back in April we reported on the news that Warner Bros. was finally moving forward with The Man from U.N.C.L.E., its new movie version of the classic 1960s TV series, with relative newcomer Max Borenstein writing the script and David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) directing.
Despite the film gaining speed this year, a movie of U.N.C.L.E. has been in development (hell) as far back as the mid 1990s. There's no telling why it's taken this long to finally get this project into production, but alas here we are. The Hollywood Reporter has the news that WB has made a bold move by bringing on Steven Soderbergh to direct and Scott Z. Burns to write the script.
The inclusion of Dobkin and Borenstein suggested that WB's version of U.N.C.L.E. would be more comedic than serious, but now that Soderbergh and Burns seem to be coming onboard, we may have a more serious movie on our hands - more Miami Vice than Starsky & Hutch, perhaps.
There's no word why WB is changing writers and directors so drastically. THR reports that the studio thought Borenstein's script was strong but have decided to hand the project to Burns for a rewrite. Dobkin will now act as producer on the project instead of director, along with John Davis (I, Robot, AVP).
For those of you unfamiliar, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a spy series that ran on NBC from 1964 to 1968. It followed two secret agents, Napoleon Solo (played by Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (played by David McCallum), who work for a secret international law enforcement agency known as the "United Network Command For Law and Enforcement" or U.N.C.L.E. They battled against an organization known as T.H.R.U.S.H. or "Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity", who wanted to take over the world.
Soderbergh is certainly an interesting choice to direct the U.N.C.L.E. adaptation. He's one of those directors who seems to be able to bounce between deep and serious dramas like Traffic and Solaris, and light and fun movies such as The Informant! and the Ocean's trilogy, without compromising on quality.
Soderbergh is also a busy man, with two star-studded movies coming out next year: Haywire (previously entitled Knockout) starring Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor; and Contagion starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne.
Burns is a diverse Hollywood writer, with past credits including The Bourne Ultimatum and Soderbergh's The Informant! and Contagion (last we heard, Burns is also writing the script for David Fincher's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea remake). If both men get the gig, I think it's safe to assume Soderbergh and Burns have a good working relationship, since U.N.C.L.E. would be their third collaboration.
U.N.C.L.E. is, of course, just one of many old TV shows to get the 21st century movie treatment. It's a spy story not too dissimilar to the James Bond franchise (in fact, Bond creator Ian Fleming supposedly had a hand in creating U.N.C.L.E.) - could this adaptation follow in the more serious footsteps of the revitalized Bond franchise? Considering Burns was one of the writers of the third Bourne film (a franchise that gave Bond a serious wake-up call) I don't think it's too hard to imagine U.N.C.L.E. taking on that same badass mentality.
UPDATE: The Playlist has managed to dig up some more info on U.N.C.L.E. They are reporting from "sources close to the director" that long-time Soderbergh collaborator George Clooney is in talks to star in the lead role. If Clooney was ultimately cast it would be the seventh time he will have worked with Soderbergh after Out of Sight, the Ocean's trilogy, Solaris and The Good German.
There's word that this may be Soderbergh and Clooney's last film together and maybe even his last as director in general (after Haywire and Contagion) as he's been talking about early retirement for quite a while now. That would certainly be a big loss for the world of movies.
We are reminded that despite U.N.C.L.E. gaining traction, the project is still in the very early stages. However, WB chief Jeff Robinov has given the thumbs up to Soderbergh's take on the project which would keep things set in the '60s as opposed to modernizing it as some may have speculated.
There's also a plan to scrap all the existing scripts for the project - including the original one written by Borenstein - which would mean that Burns would start a brand new script from scratch instead of rewriting an existing one. The words "take back U.N.C.L.E. to its roots" are being thrown around.
The plan is for Soderbergh to shoot The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at the end of next year, although it's said the plan is still to shoot Soderbergh's Liberace biopic in mid-to-late 2011. He's currently filming Contagion, which is due out on October 21st, 2011, and his action film Haywire is set to hit theaters sometimes in 2011.