Mar 18, 2013

Tradecraft: Tom Cruise Circles U.N.C.L.E.

Will Ethan Hunt open Channel D? The Hollywood Reporter reports that Tom Cruise is "in early talks" to star in Warner Bros.' looooong-in-the-works feature remake of the classic Sixties spy show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Following a lengthy period of development by Steven Soderbergh (in which many actors were approached, from George Clooney to Channing Tatum), director Guy Ritchie and producer Lionel Wigram (the duo behind Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes franchise) are attached to the current incarnation. Like Soderbergh before them, they've already been through a long list of actors, none of whom have stuck. (Most notably, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were approached to play series heroes Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.) According to the trade, "Sources have said that if the Cruise casting doesn't gel, Ritchie would be forced to move on to a new movie project." (His name frequently comes up as a directorial candidate for the next James Bond movie, but only in rumors.) On the one hand, I really want to see this movie made, so I'd like to see Cruise accept this mission if that's the only way it can happen. On the other, though, Cruise already has a popular movie franchise based on a Sixties spy series! Should the same guy topline both Mission: Impossible and Man From U.N.C.L.E. film franchises? He can't be all the spies! Or can he? One thing I find encouraging about this prospect is that it might indicate that Ritchie's U.N.C.L.E. movie, like Soderbergh's, remains a Sixties period piece. I didn't think that anyone else but Soderbergh would attempt a Cold War action spy franchise. The OSS 117 movies have recreated that era of filmmaking so well as parody, but we have yet to see a serious contemporary action spy movie set then (though X-Men: First Class did it very successfully with superheroes), and, personally, I'd love to see that. I have no knowledge that this is actually the case (I don't even know who's writing Ritchie's version; Scott Z. Burns penned the Soderbergh script), but it just seems unlikely that Cruise would pursue two franchises so potentially alike unless there were a big difference between them... like the period in which they were set. And I could actually see Cruise looking good decked out in Mad Men attire. But I can't quite see him as Napoleon Solo. Like George Clooney when he was attached in 2010 (early in the Soderbergh process), Cruise is now closer in age to Robert Vaughn when he reprised the role in the reunion telefilm Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair than when he originated it in the Sixties!

9 comments:

teeritz said...

No, no, no. Not Cruise. He already murdered Jack Reacher. Although, it would make sense to set it in the Sixties, just to help differentiate it from the Mission Impossibles and the Bonds.
Who else could play Solo? Fassbender? Yep, he'd be great, although he'd make a great Bond when DC hangs up the PPK. Five years ago, Clooney would have been ideal. Hell, I'd even prefer him now. Anybody but Cruise.

Jason Whiton said...

i agree. although i enjoy some of Tom Cruise's films, i can't see him as Solo. If not Clooney, I'd like to see the role actually go to someone who is less known but who could carry the film democratically with its ensemble cast. Cruise is unfortunately most able to handle 'solo' stardom on screen these days as his star-self, not play behind a character among other players. that said, i'm always an optimist and hopeful that good intentions might pay off.
-Jason (SPY VIBE)

Tanner said...

The problem is that they've already tried to get just about everyone! Including Fassbender, who Soderbergh went after at one point. If it's true that Ritchie will move on if they can't close the Cruise deal, then I'm concerned that Tom Cruise might be the last hope for an UNCLE movie. If Ritchie moves on, then I'm afraid Warner might just give up. And I know a lot of UNCLE fans would be fine with that, but I want to see a modern action movie set in the Sixties, dammit! So while Cruise would not be my top choice for Napoleon Solo... I'll take a Cruise UNCLE over no UNCLE at all any day! And, like you, Jason, I remain an optimist in such matters.

Bob said...

I remember watching the original tv show and how many people felt that David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin stole the series from Vaughn.

I can't imagine Cruise allowing any big name star portraying Kuryakin have a prominent role in the film. Look at most of the MI films and see how it was all about Cruise.

BISH said...

With, say, Johnny Depp as Tonto, err, Illya?

Mark said...

Oh dear, I hope not. I'm not a big fan of Cruise anyway, but even if I were this would be a spy franchise too far for him.

Simes said...

Well, Cruise and Robert Vaughn are about the same size....

Must count for something eh?

:-)

Bob said...

I remember a scene in Jack Reacher, where Cruise walks into a crowded bar and I don't recall anybody in that scene being taller than him. I can imagine the roll call going out to actors 'You must be shorter than Alan Ladd'!!

teeritz said...

Downey Jr as Napoleon Solo? Although he's got two franchises going at the moment, already.