Directors including Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Matthew Vaughn once circled the project, as did stars like George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum. However, the hoped-for bigscreen adaptation didn’t get real traction at Warner Bros. until Guy Ritchie, the director who reimagined the studio’s 2009 blockbuster “Sherlock Holmes” and its sequel two years later, pitched his take.
“There were several screenplays along the way, but it never got to the starting line before Guy,” says Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production at Warner Bros. Pictures. “It needed a direction, it needed someone who had a point of view and a real voice. It’s very particularly Guy Ritchie’s ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ ”
That said, “U.N.C.L.E.,” which cost $75 million to produce, and tens of millions more to market and release, poses a sizable risk for the Burbank studio. The film, which debuts Aug. 14, lacks proven box office stars, and the underlying property isn’t nearly as popular as, say, the Scotland Yard sleuth or the mythic king of Ritchie’s other upcoming release, “Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur.”
Ritchie, who has fond memories of watching the TV show as a child, suggests that even though the title is meaningless now, he loves that it is “cool” and “quirky,” and that the premise of the series is one of collaboration. “It had enough components for me to feel I could make it feel fresh,” he says.
The 46-year-old British director, who lives in London, only recently learned about the previous attempts to bring the project to life as a movie. “We started from scratch; there’s not one thing left from any previous attempt to write a script, or anyone associated with it,” he notes. “We literally started with a blank page.”