We've known for a while about Cavill and Hammer and Grant was announced a few weeks ago, but this is the first confirmation I've seen that Grant will be playing Waverly... and that's the first bit of casting on this project that really excites me! I'm certainly not up in arms or anything about Cavill or Hammer, but neither choice struck me as especially exciting either. This one does. I wouldn't have pictured Grant filling the shoes of the great Leo G. Carroll, but now that it's done I can totally see it. (Especially following Grant's heavily made-up appearance in the Seventies portion of Cloud Atlas.) Best of all, though, the press release also officially confirms that the film will be set in the 1960s. This was the case when Soderbergh was attached (working from a script by The Bourne Ultimatum's Scott Z Burns), but I was afraid no other director would have the chutzpah to set a modern action movie in the Sixties. Still, it looked in recent months like Ritchie was doing just that, and Hammer made allusions to the film being a period piece in interviews, but it's wonderful to have that officially confirmed. The Cold War setting is the aspect that has me most excited about this project. We've seen a comedic recreation of the most fertile period in spy film history in the excellent OSS 117 movies, but I, for one, can't wait to see a straightforward action spy movie set in that era but shot with modern techniques. (Assuming, that is, that this U.N.C.L.E. film is a serious movie and not a comedic take, like Starsky and Hutch.)
Ritchie is not using the Burns script, but rather one that he penned with his producing partner Lionel Wigram. Wigram and Ritchie produce along with John Davis and Steve Clark-Hall; one-time directorial candidate David Dobkin remains attached as executive producer.
Here is the plot description provided in the press release:
Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. centers on CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.There are some details in there likely to alarm U.N.C.L.E. TV purists, but I'm thoroughly encouraged, personally. It makes complete sense for the American and Russian agents to come to U.N.C.L.E. from their respective countries' secret services. And as Wigram points out, this is a new take. "Guy and I have long loved these characters," he says, "and wanted to start from scratch with our own take and create a film steeped in the 1960s for today’s audiences." That sounds just fine to me. Beyond the origins, the plot sounds very much like it could come from an actual episode of the show, or from any number of spy movies produced during that decade. And that's as it should be. It sounds like it will involve the traditional U.N.C.L.E. rival THRUSH (the international criminal organization), and it sounds like it will involve an "innocent" (the TV show had a gimmick of teaming Solo and Kuryakin with a civilian - usually a beautiful woman - week after week) in the scientist's daughter.
Also confirmed in the cast are Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina), Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) and Jared Harris (Moriarty in Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes sequel). I really liked Debicki in Gatsby, and I've been a fan of Harris ever since his wonderful performance in the criminally underrated 1994 vampire film Nadja (a remake of Dracula's Daugher). Plus, he's now a Hammer star! Presumably Harris will be playing either the missing scientist or the villain... or possibly both, should those characters prove to be one and the same.