Tom Cruise isn't as invulnerable at the box office as he used to be (see: Rock of Ages), but WB is entrusting the Mission: Impossible star to carry another 1960s spy TV series-turned movie - in the form of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. adaptation.
Cruise is reported to have begun early talks for Man from U.N.C.L.E., presumably eyeing the role of American spy Napoleon Solo. We're also hearing the actor is lining up to reprise his Jack Reacher role as the title character, drawing from one of the other seventeen books authored by Lee Child (whose eighteenth Reacher novel arrives this Summer).
Man from U.N.C.L.E. was going to be a reunion for screenwriter Scott Z. Burns and director Steven Soderbergh, with Channing Tatum being considered to star. Studio executives (reportedly) butted heads with Soderbergh on budget and casting, which prompted the director to move on and make Side Effects with Burns and Tatum instead. Sherlock Holmes producer Lionel Wigram and director Guy Ritchie were put in charge of the project after Soderbergh departed.
A Ritchie-directed take on Man from U.N.C.L.E. could lie in Cruise's wheelhouse, as his version should feature the A-lister playing the "ordinary man with superhuman durability" type he's perfected over the years. Soderbergh's take would have fallen closer to The Informant! meets Haywire, which probably wasn't a great way to attempt and jump-start a new lucrative franchise set on an international stage.
Will the masses be interested in watching Cruise trotting so close to his Ethan Hunt character, while crossing into Mission: Impossible territory (as far as contemporary spy game thrillers go)? There's already a fifth Mission installment on the way, one which could reteam Cruise with Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie.
Speaking of which: the Reacher sequel new comes as a surprise, following reports earlier this year suggesting that Paramount will only consider green-lighting the project after its predecessor reaches the $250 million global benchmark (according to Box Office Mojo, it's at $215.6 million). The followup isn't a sure thing, but the solid profits on a $60 million investment - coupled with good vibes surrounding Cruise and McQuarrie's hard-boiled crime/action throwback - have convinced studio heads to not throw in the towel just yet.
Cruise returns to the big screen in next month's Oblivion, a sci-fi blockbuster that could build on the momentum from Jack Reacher - demonstrating its lead can still draw a sizable audience, outside of when he defies the laws of physics in a Mission: Impossible movie.
Indeed, it would be a nice to see the Cruise/Ritchie Man from U.N.C.L.E. adaptation follow Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible - by focusing on cloak-and-dagger espionage rather than cartoonish superheroics - and not repeat the mistakes from Ritchie's overblown Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Otherwise, a Jack Reacher followup sounds like the more enticing future Cruise project.
Which sounds better to YOU: Richie's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. starring Cruise or a Jack Reacher sequel? Do both sound equally promising - or have you gotten your fill of Cruise saving the world on the big screen?
Let us know in the comments section!