The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (UNCLE) dominated TV for years, as its chief agents, Napoleon Solo, played by Robert Vaughn and Ilya Kuryakin, played by David McCullum, constantly battled nefarious no-goods during the height of the cold war. Fancy gadgets and a nifty pistol that easily transformed into a sniper rifle with a few attachments were the order of the day, along with, of course, a bevy of beautiful women. (See attached video) This was the time of Sean Connery’s version of James Bond. Though the “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” was on TV where guidelines were stricter, there were still some standards to maintain for quality spy programming.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” in film version, has been in development for nearly a decade. Only recently, has momentum for the film version of the spy show augmented. Enter Tom Cruise.
Cruise seems intent on capturing every franchise character role possible. He latched onto Ethan Hunt and turned the “Mission Impossible” show into a monster box office series. He recently played Jack Reacher in a film version of “One Shot” with the hopes of turning it into a franchise as well. A few critics, myself included, had problems with the casting; Cruise, at barely 5’7” and 150 lbs, doesn’t come close to Reacher, who looks more like Brock Lesner. Now, Cruise wants to be Napoleon Solo. But not even Cruise, with all his Hollywood muscle, can guarantee “The Man from U.N.C.L.E” movie will become reality.
Steven Soderbergh several years ago had the project with George Clooney up for the Solo part. Clooney backed out and Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender were all considered. When none of these actors could be tied to a contract, Soderbergh bailed and Guy Ritchie was ushered in to helm the project. He tried to secure Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to play Solo and Kuryakin, respectively. Affleck was entangled with “Argo”, which garnered him an Oscar this year, and could not commit to the movie.
Cruise has shown interest in the role. He is being dangled in front of Ritchie as the proverbial carrot on a stick. If Ritchie can sign Cruise, the project will fast forward. The studio fears if Cruise doesn’t sign, Ritchie will walk, and the endeavor will slide down the Hollywood shoots and ladders to square one.
Fiore Mastracci is a veteran film critic who thinks Clive Owen would make a fine Napoleon Solo, while Jason Stathum could be Kuryakin. Afterall, McCullum played the Russian agent with a British accent. You’re welcome.