Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (our extensive coverage of the film HERE) in theatres right now and reminding us just how enjoyable the art of methodically paced storytelling with compelling characters played by top-notch actors can be - there really is no better time to start anticipating what Steven Soderbergh's adaptation of 60's spy show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. might be like. Certainly Tinker Tailor's Swedish director Tomas Alfredson has laid down the gauntlet to Soderbergh for what a London set Cold War thriller should be and although the American filmmaker's movie will be more pulp/Bourne-actioney, the ensemble property is at least a related cousin to John Le Carre's novel, and it's certainly whet our appetites for it. Soderbergh's latest, his doomsday virus horror Contagion is currently in it's second week of release in the U.S. and has earnt a pleasing $45 million (it comes to the U.K. next month), and the experimental director is already shooting his follow-up, the mega low-budget male stripper film Magic Mike with Channing Tatum. But attention will soon to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - his big budget blockbuster at Warner Bros. that the studio hopes will be the beginnings of a new franchise. The film will be the penultimate of Soderbergh's career for at least a few years (we wouldn't like to think forever) and you just know he will want to go out with a bang. The international espionage show of the 60s was partly an Ian Fleming creation and centered on an American/Russian secret agency called United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Or U.N.C.L.E. for short. Robert Vaughn (as American Napoloen Solo) and David McCallum (as Russian Illyva Kuryakin) starred and made a pretty formidable on-screen duo in in what was mostly a serious spy thriller but occasionally descended into the same kind of camp the latter Connery/Moore 007 films would. I mean when the arch nemesis organisation is known as THRUSH, you kind of know what the show is. Indeed WB looked at the property for a long time as one that could go into an Austin Powers-spoof direction but four years back pulled the trigger on butchering Get Smart instead. Thankfully U.N.C.L.E. was saved for this... Based on a story Soderbergh and his Contagion/The Informant writer Scott Z. Burns have mapped out - the period London set movie was birthed with the idea of George Clooney as Napoleon Solo but his attachment was always extremely loose and a bad back (he's getting old now he's passed 50!) meant he had to pull out over a fear that he couldn't keep up with the rough and tumble parts of the film. Clooney's departure has somewhat left the film's casting in something of a crisis with filming gearing up for a February start. Soderbergh's plan all along was to cast a huge Hollywood name in the Napolean Solo part and then go for a rising star as Russian Illyva Kuryakin, as WB would be satisfied that they had a box office draw secured in one of the co-leads. The Playlist have reported that Soderbergh has met with Swedish star of Snabba Cash and AMC's The Killing's Joel Kinnaman during Comic Con and is eager to cast him. But now with Clooney out and unless Soderbergh can find an agreeable A-lister equal, he may get blocked in his attempts to sign him up as a co-lead. It's something of a shame because Kinnaman happens to be in Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and in a few months his stock level might rise considerably. Soon after Clooney exited the film Ryan Gosling (who is hot right now after a great year of varying roles), True Blood's Alexander Skaarsgard and the in-demand Joseph Gordon-Levittwere rumored as more mainstream alternatives to Kinnaman. How pleased Soderbergh is with those names is anyone's guess but it does seem likely that the Solo part will be cast first... Warner Bros are talking to Soderbergh and putting in front of him a list of names they like for the Solo part to give them a legitimate franchise potential. Those names are reported as including every hot name in Hollywood right now; Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Pine, Christian Bale, Leonardo DiCaprio,Jon Hamm, Russell Crowe and Robert Pattinson. And too because of the Soderbergh connection Matt Damon's name remains strongly linked and it appears he has read and enjoyed the screenplay. Though whether he could be Napolean Solo and Jason Bourne at the same time is questionable, plus he's already got plans to direct his first movie with John Krasinski in February, around the same time Man From U.N.C.L.E. will be filming. But no matter what WB wants, Soderbergh is said to be keen on rising star Michael Fassbender who he briefly worked with on Haywire and who is clearly the next big thing in Hollywood. Because of his exposure in Inglourious Basterds, as Magneto in X-Men: First Class, his potential Oscar nominated turn in Shame that is scoring highly at film festivals, and his upcoming roles in Ridley Scott's Prometheus, one would be sure WB won't have too much concern about casting him as Solo... but only likely if an actor of the same weight was cast in the other co-lead. WB are probbaly unsure as to whether Fassbender can lead a $100 million blockbuster of this caliber and because of this Gosling is the desired choice for the Russian half of the duo because a Fassbender/Gosling partnership seems more do-able than a Fassbender/Kinnaman teaming... though a Fassbender/Ewan McGregor (who Soderbergh has also just worked with on Haywire) top billing is also being tossed around. You guys still with me? Wow nearly 1,000 words and there really was no way to make that info above sound more digestible. Right now we really are no closer to knowing just who will be Soderbergh's Men From U.N.C.L.E. and there's always the danger that Soderbergh might get frustrated that he can't cast who he wants and that he just goes off to make his Liberace biopic with Michael Douglas six months sooner than it's late 2012 planned shoot and drops the U.N.C.L.E. directing duties altogether. Let's pray that doesn't happen as there's so much potential in this film. In my original article on my desired casting for the movie I had George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio as my dream pairing but I concede if Clooney's health is making it impossible then I would probably shoot for Matt Damon, despite the Bourne similarities. His age is probably more accurate for the part anyway though I do really like Fassbender, I'm not sure this is the movie for him. In any event with a February 2012 start date looming it shouldn't be long until he have some firm answers. Who would you like cast in The Man From U.N.C.L.E?