As Steven Soderbergh gets ready to unveil "Contagion" in Venice, and shoot "Magic Mike" next month, his slate of projects before he retires is dwindling with only "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "Liberace" left. As we reported last fall, longtime Soderbergh pal and collaborator Clooney was lined up to lead 'U.N.C.L.E.' but it appears that is no longer in the cards.
Deadline reports that Clooney is exiting the picture, though reasons why aren't clear just yet. The project is gearing up to shoot in February 2012 when Clooney will likely be stumping hard for his awards season contender "Ides Of March" with the Oscars arriving right at the end of the month. You might recall, that Warner Bros. had to push Clint Eastwood's "A Star Is Born" from its planned start -- also in February -- due to Beyoncé's pregnancy and it's unlikely they wanted to mess up their calendar any more by moving 'U.N.C.L.E.'
Based on the 1960s television show, the franchise is one that WB has been trying to get off the ground for years. The approach for this version is to start from scratch, with writer Scott Z. Burns ("Contagion," "The Informant!") tossing the previous 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) and going for a fresh start. The project won't contemporize the setting, but instead, as Burns recently told CinemaBlend, it will use a real life event from the era as the focus. "I think if people know the show they’ll recognize tiny little things," Burns said. "All those shows are called, like, 'The Terbuf Affair' or whatever. Our affair comes from something that was actually going on in the world at the time."
With Clooney out, we'll have to see whether or not Soderbergh will stick around minus his pal or line up someone else. Undoubtedly, he has his pick of actors, but Clooney leaves some big shoes to fill and there aren't many actors of his age/calibre/stature who can get a period based franchise film greenlit. We'll be curious to see how this all plays out.