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!