Guy Ritchie’s take on NBC’s espionage series is arriving early next year, with a theatrical debut January 16, 2015, over Martin Luther King weekend. Starring Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill, this will be the first return of the property to mainstream audiences in over thirty years.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ran from 1964 to 1968, and starred secret agents Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) and, no joke, a guy named Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn), as a two-man team defending the free world from the nefarious organization, THRUSH. One of the unique aspects of the show was creator Sam Rolfe and producer Norman Felton’s narrative of international cooperation, with the two main agents hailing from North America and Russia, working for an international organization united under one cause.
This is particularly noteworthy considering the series ran during the Cold War, when there was no love loss between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was a wildly popular show, nominated for multiple Emmy Awards, and snagging a Golden Globe for Best TV Show in 1966.
1983’s made for television reunion, The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., was the last time fans of the series were treated with an original story for the series, reuniting Vaughn and McCallum in reprising their original roles.
Cavill replaces the originally cast Tom Cruise as Napoleon Solo. He’ll be joining The Lone Ranger’s Armie Hammer, who will play his Russian counterpart, Illya Kuryakin. Also onboard for director Guy Ritchie’s film adaptation are Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby), Alicia Vikander (The Fifth Estate, Anna Karenina), Fringe and Mad Men’s Jared Harris, Italian actor Luca Calvani (When in Rome), and Simona Caparrani, whom appeared in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love, and 2013’s Romeo and Juliet.
Originally to be helmed by Steven Soderbergh back in 2011, Soderbergh and Warner Bros. apparently battled over budget for the film, designed to kickstart a franchise, eventually parting ways and opening the door for Ritchie to take the reins.
The original series had a substantial evolution over its four season run, beginning as mildly serious spy fare, before jumping into heavier camp starting around the middle of Season Two, and wholly embracing comedy to its own detriment in Season Three. The sharp change in tone damaged the series, ending its run in Season 4. According to the movie’s IMDb page, Ritchie’s version mixes action, adventure, and comedy. While I rarely take things I read on IMDb at face value, it will be interesting to see which way Ritchie and cast play it.
Knowing Guy’s bread and butter, I’m hoping it’s more gritty, less hanging out with a dude in a gorilla costume.