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Exclusive: George Clooney Eyeing Lead In Steven Soderbergh's 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'

by Kevin Jagernauth
November 17, 2010 5:38 AM
10 Comments
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While In Early Stages, Picture Is Being Envisioned As "Back To Roots" '60s-Set Film



2011 is shaping up to be a banner year for director Steven Soderbergh and therefore likely a big one for Warner Bros. too. The prolific filmmaker is planning on releasing his latest spy-based action thriller "Haywire" next spring, he's currently shooting the virus thriller "Contagion" for an already-planned October 21, 2011 release date (Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow are just a few of the A-list names, but no, it won't be in 3D), and he's just announced his latest project, the big screen version of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E" for the aforementioned WB.

But it's even getting even better. Sources very close to the director tell us an A-lister is already in talks with Soderbergh to star in the picture and that star would be none other than "Ocean's 11-13" actor, George Clooney.

Clooney and Soderbergh are obviously not strangers as the actor has starred in six of the director's films, including "Solaris," "The Good German" and "Out Of Sight." Their now-defunct co-owned film production company, Section Eight also produced "Syriana" as well as the Clooney-directed films "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and "Good Night, And Good Luck" (Section Eight was also planning once on making "Est," the story of Werner Erhard, founder of the "personal growth" seminars known as est during the 1970s before they shuttered, and Clooney was going to co-produce; that plan was scrapped long ago).

We're also told that as awesome as this sounds, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E" is still very much in its early stages. However, WB chief Jeff Robinov has signed off on Soderbergh's original take on the material, which would not modernize the film and keep it set in the director's beloved 1960s (one just needs to take a look at "The Limey" for how much affection the lenser has for this era of filmmaking).

Another plan is to start from scratch which would mean throwing out all the old existing scripts (various iterations penned by Max Borenstein and David Campbell Wilson once for David Dobkin, now a producer on the project and Doug Liman who eventually passed). So Scott Z. Burns, who wrote Soderbergh's "The Informant," "Contagion," and recently turned in his draft of "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" for David Fincher, would essentially start from a blank page and the idea is to "take back 'U.N.C.L.E' to its roots." We're also told the Clooney/Soderbergh plan is being seen as their "last film together," presumably because the helmer is still thinking about the early retirement he's been envisioning for a few months now.

As recently echoed by Matt Damon, we're told Soderbergh still intends to shoot "Liberace" in the summer or early fall with Michael Douglas and "The Informant" star. Michael Douglas is apparently doing well and has finished his cancer treatment. The filmmaker is currently in Chicago shooting "Contagion" which will also star Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, and more recent additions like Demetri Martin, Bryan Cranston and Elliott Gould.

So the plan, currently, is to squeeze “The Man From U.N.C.L.E" in as a late 2011 shoot, but with "Liberace" shooting mid-to-late year and Clooney still having to put post-production touches on his next directorial effort "Ides of March," it's conceivable that 2012 may be more realistic. Though it certainly wouldn't be the first time the filmmaker has shot multiple films within one calendar year.

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10 Comments

  • Joanna | May 29, 2013 2:34 PMReply

    Thank goodness Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are cast now. This is going to be so good. :)

  • lily | June 8, 2011 1:01 AMReply

    I thought Soderbergh was retiring?

  • Jim in Kentucky | December 21, 2010 8:25 AMReply

    I would love to see this kept set in the 1960s, and NOT updated. That is where U.N.C.L.E. belongs. I beg them not to do an update like "Mission Impossible." Those are horrible as "remakes." The "Mission Impossible" films were not remakes at all. They were just action vehicles and could have been titled anything. Updating destroys the essence of the being. It's like saying the current Batman films are "updates" of the Adam West TV series. They're two different animals.

    Keep the humor purely tongue in cheek as in the first season, not farcical as in season three. Daniel Craig's "Casino Royale," over Peter Seller's version, if you know what I mean. No slapstick. No cheese. No two by fours smacking Illya in the head. Please don't destroy the fond memories of my childhood.

    My thought on casting: Matthew Gray Gubler (Dr. Reid, on "Criminal Minds") to play Illya Kuryakin. He'd have to cut the hair and maybe beef up a bit, but he favors David McCallum and can act.

    I think bringing the original actors into the movie in some capacity would be a nice tribute to the fans of the original show, but, in what capacity, I don't know. I thought about Robert Vaughn or David McCallum as Alexander Waverly, but... not sure. They need to be in there somewhere, even if just a cameo scene in the "Mask Club." I could see a nightclub scene with Vaughn and McCallum each squiring an actress who played on the show. Wouldn't it be great to see Senta Berger or Nancy Kovack Mehti back in a cameo? Maybe even Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison in a role. Speaking of which - maybe Harrison as Waverly? He has that affable but curmudgeonly British look, nowadays.

    If they would consult with Danny Biederman (who owns a lot of the original props) and Robert Short (who owns the original U.N.C.L.E. Piranha car) and who both understand and love the show as we original fans do, it would be a HUGE source of help in capturing the feel of the show. If set in the 60s, I can see U.N.C.L.E. "upgrading" the communicators for the field agents from the cigarette pack communicator to the pen communicator in one scene.

    I hope they keep the first season music for this film. Excellent score. Can't be beat. That drum intro and "march-like" quality to the rest of the theme sets the pace for the action.

    Keeping my fingers crossed.

  • Howard Schumann | November 20, 2010 6:14 AMReply

    Why was the Est project scrapped? It is so important to celebrate the life of this man who has contributed so much to thousands of people. All people hear are the media lies and the rantings of the anti-cult crusaders. I was so looking forward to this project. What are they afraid of?

  • tomswift | November 19, 2010 12:51 AMReply

    "Ducky" must make an appearance - even if uncredited!

  • vf | November 18, 2010 10:11 AMReply

    No to Brad Pitt, Illya was brilliant, just no. And that would be too reminiscent of Oceans 11. Pretty hard to replace David McCallum.

  • Sean | November 18, 2010 12:17 AMReply

    I don't think he'll retire. I just think he'll take a Malick like break. But in Soderbergh math that's what, like 3 years.

  • marmot | November 17, 2010 9:09 AMReply

    Wow! I suggested this very thing on a blog a few months ago. Clooney would be perfect in this role. Brad Pitt would be perfect as Illya. Clooney and Pitt both have the charm and comic timing to make this an awesome movie.

  • mark | November 17, 2010 8:51 AMReply

    Paul Bettany would be a terrific Ilya Kuryakin!

  • carrie | November 17, 2010 7:24 AMReply

    i had said it!

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