As many of you know today from the success of Austin Powers, there were a lot of super cool, swingin’ 60’s spies that followed in the wake of James Bond.
One of the best known from back then was The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which starred Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo, and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin, both secret agents fighting the evil organization THRUSH, which was obviously a goof on SPECTRE in James Bond. (And by the way, U.N.C.L.E. stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement).
U.N.C.L.E. ran on NBC from 1964 to early ’68, and there have been plans to turn the show into a movie for years. Right after the explosion of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino was thinking of doing a version like how Brian DePalma tackled Mission: Impossible, and lately, Steven Soderberg of Sex, Lies and Videotape fame, was the latest filmmaker that is trying to bring the show to the big screen.
Yet the big question lately is who will play The Man From U.N.C.L.E., or at least Napoleon Solo. Originally it was going to be George Clooney, who would be an excellent choice, and who has worked well with Soderberg, but he dropped out citing back trouble. Then Bradley Cooper of Hangover fame was briefly announced, then quickly unannounced.
Now Deadline reports the role may go to Channing Tatum, who starred in Public Enemies, G.I. Joe, and Dear John, and is also starring in Magic Mike, a Soderberg film about a male stripper that he’s currently shooting. As usual, Soderberg has a lot on his plate with Magic Mike, Haywire, an action thriller that’s getting strong buzz, and a biopic of Liberace, which will star Michael Douglas. Yet now this could all be in the crapper, because Deadline just reported that Soderberg left U.N.C.L.E. over budget disagreements.
As we’ve reported here on TG, Soderberg has been openly flirting with retiring, which would be a shame if he calls it quits, because he’s achieved many directors dreams of making his own idiosyncratic work, and making good mainstream films that keep him in the major studio system.
Man From U.N.C.L.E. could have been in the latter category, and he could could have delivered another mainstream blockbuster a la the Ocean’s Eleven series. Whether Soderberg keeps making movies for the rest of his life, or will soon call it quits, he sure isn’t slowing down for the next couple of years.