Steven Soderbergh will no longer direct The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for Warner Bros, the tentpole film revival of the popular 60′s t.v. spy show that was to begin shooting in March.
The Playlist have broke the story, claiming the Oscar winning filmmaker has had enough of the long-drawn out casting and budgetary battles with WB and after a crisis meeting last night in Los Angeles, Soderbergh decided to bail on the film. Soderbergh and his Contagion & The Informant writer Scott Z. Burns had been developing an adaption of the international espionage show of the 60′s that centered on an American/Russian secret agency called United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (Or U.N.C.L.E. for short) for the past two years.
Whilst not unexpected news (if you check back over our last few articles, we had expected him to leave sooner) it’s still a hammer blow for us as a Soderbergh directed big budget, period spy blockbuster was something we were dying to see. An official announcement from Warner Bros is expected today or Monday.
The word is the the studio who have amassed a considerable fortune from the Harry Potter and Batman films and are looking to recycle some of that cash into brand new franchises, were only wanting to put $60 million into an adaptation of a decades dormant t.v. franchise that the current film-going generation may not have heard of. Soderbergh, who was tasked with directing the first in what would be a trilogy said that budget wasn’t anywhere near enough for a 60′s set summer blockbuster film set on four different continents and when WB wouldn’t increase their financial backing, Soderbergh walked.
Problems between WB and Soderbergh were ignited earlier in the year when Soderbergh’s first choice for the American Napoloen Solo, film star George Clooney, felt his body (specifically a bad back) couldn’t handle a Bourne franchise at his age. That left WB in something of a panic as they were only granting Sodberbergh the luxury of a 50 year old action lead because it was George Clooney and they immediately told Soderbergh he would have to skew younger.
Soderbergh came up with Michael Fassbender (as Solo) and The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman (as Russian Illyva Kuryakin) for his two top choices and whilst WB liked both actors, they wanted more bankable film stars. In a move that no doubt pissed Soderbergh off they positioned Fassbender and Kinnaman on other projects – Londongrad and Arthur & Lancelot respectively – and began courting Johnny Depp hard after he read the film script and liked the idea of starring in the role of Illya Kuryakin, the Russian spy.
The Playlist say this was during the collapse of The Lone Ranger and whilst Jerry Bruckheimer was working overtime to keep Ranger alive, WB were trying to nab Depp, attempting to secure ‘the film star’ they were so desperate for. When The Lone Ranger was revived, Depp could no longer do it.
Somewhere in that period Matt Damon (reluctantly) turned down the movie because of it’s similarity to Bourne and because he was prepping his first film as a director which would shoot next year. A proposal from Warner Bros was made to shoot The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in early 2013 with Damon but Soderbergh has his future meticulously planned and still wants to go on a lengthy hiatus/retirement after his Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra”.
Then a casting chaos ensued. Bradley Cooper, Joel Edgerton were discussed as options and just last week Soderbergh met with Channing Tatum (who have just worked together on Magic Mike) but the problems between Warner Bros and Soderbergh have become so large that the director bailed yesterday.
So where does this leave The Man From U.N.C.L.E. now?
Well I imagine WB and Soderbergh will at least have one last discussion about trying to come to an agreement to make the film but if it is truly over for him, then I can’t see how the film could begin shooting in March. No other director can come on board and direct a script so personally crafted by Soderbergh and Burns, it’s just not going to happen. So you can probably expect the film to be delayed until 2013 and WB will probably go back to square one with a new script/new director/new vision. Can we suggest Chris Nolan with Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio? I bet Warner Bros would give that trio more than $60 million.
Meanwhile Soderbergh is now looking over scripts for a project he can quickly direct, probably something on the same scale as The Girlfriend Experience, before he directs his final film with Michael Douglas as Liberace. This leaves us without the joy of seeing what a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie from Steven Soderbergh would have looked like. Man, you know, I can’t wait until this year is over.
Guillermo Del Toro didn’t get to make At The Mountains of Madness with Tom Cruise
Ron Howard didn’t get to make The Dark Tower with Javier Bardem (though that project is still clinging on for life)
Paul Greengrass never got to make his Martin Luther King Jr biopic.
And now Steven Soderbergh isn’t making The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Whilst there have been some exciting projects greenlit this year (such as Gilroy directing The Bourne Legacy and Sam Mendes making a James Bond film) those four projects above are heartbreaking loses.
This article was first posted on November 18, 2011