Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns Talks Steven Soderbergh’s Scrapped MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.; Reveals the Plot of Their Proposed Film

     January 29, 2013

scott-z-burns-the-man-from-u-n-c-l-e-slice

As we move closer towards the release of Side Effects, which could very well be the final theatrically released film from director Steven Soderbergh, many are looking back at the multitude of great features that the filmmaker has made over the past two decades.  One of the more fascinating projects that Soderbergh was attached that didn’t come to fruition was a feature film adaptation of the 1960s spy TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E..  The filmmaker was developing the project only just a couple of years ago, before ultimately bowing out in late 2011 over creative differences with Warner Bros.

Steve recently sat down with screenwriter Scott Z. Burns in anticipation of Soderbergh’s upcoming thriller Side Effects, and during the course of their conversation Burns talked about working with Soderbergh on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. In addition to talking about possible casting for the film, Burns went into quite a bit of detail with regards to the proposed plot of their take.  Hit the jump to see what he had to say.

scott-z-burns-the-man-from-u-n-c-l-eSteve asked Burns if he could tease what their U.N.C.L.E. film might have been about, and the scribe provided a fairly detailed synopsis:

“Steven and I both loved it because it was a way of doing a spy movie and setting up a really interesting character that was fascinating to us, because U.N.C.L.Ewasn’t affiliated with the US or with Russia, it was this great Cold War thing.  And now spies have all these great toys but we would have to take some of them away, because it was the 60s and there would be different plots because you didn’t always have a cell and you couldn’t solve problems with some of the things now.  

So we had this idea based on something happening in the real world where there was this—I’ll tell you what, here I’ll reveal a whole bunch.  I don’t know if Warner Brothers is going to use this but there was a thing that happened with a B-52 bomber in like 1966 or 1967 over Spain where it was refueling and there was an accident and it lost its payload and three bombs fell on Spain and the Atlantic, and they hadn’t been armed, but the contained warheads.  So we scattered plutonium all over a farm field in Spain, the second bomb was recovered, but the there was a period of time when the third bomb was laying on the floor of the Mediterranean and no one could find it and so it was the race to find it that was what our episode was about, which I thought was going to be really, really cool and I’m bummed we didn’t get to do it.”

the_man_from_uncle_imageUltimately Warner Bros. was only willing to spend $60 million on the budget for U.N.C.L.E., which based on this synopsis doesn’t sound near high enough.

“It was pretty close to going.  I think we were all shocked that it didn’t happen and it was because it didn’t happen that [Side Effects] did.  It was going to be this movie that Steven and I were going to do together, it was going to be our sort of swan song and I think we both felt pretty shitty that we were losing that opportunity because we really liked the script and we were excited about getting it cast.”

Speaking of which, the casting process for U.N.C.L.E. was pretty extensive, as reports swirled that everyone from Bradley Cooper to Channing Tatum was up for the role once George Clooney passed due to health concerns:

“I think in the end we talked about a lot of people, Matt [Damon] was busy; I think we considered a lot of different folk.  It just didn’t come together and Steven had a real desire to do a movie last year around this time and that’s when he then came to me and said, ‘I’ve read some scripts but Side Effects is my favorite thing that’s out there.  How would you feel about giving that to me?’”

Watch the portion of Steve’s interview with Burns regarding The Man from U.N.C.L.E. below, followed by a transcript.  Look out for the full interview soon.

the-man-from-u-n-c-l-eYou mentioned earlier The Man from U.N.C.L.E. since that might not ever get made. Can you tease people about what your take on that is?

Burns:  Yeah, Steven and I both loved it because it was a way of doing a spy movie and setting up a really interesting character that was fascinating to us, because U.N.C.L.Ewasn’t affiliated with the US or with Russia, it was this great cold war thing.  And now spies have all these great toys but we would have to take some of them away, because it was the 60’s and there would be different plots because you didn’t always have a cell and you couldn’t solve problems with some of the things now.  So we had this idea based on something happening in the real world where there was this- I’ll tell you what, here I’ll reveal a whole bunch.  I don’t know if Warner Brothers is going to use this but there was a thing that happened with a B-52 bomber in like 1966 or 1967 over Spain where it was refueling and there was an accident and it lost its payload and three bombs fell on Spain and the Atlantic, and they hadn’t been armed, but the contained warheads.  So we scattered plutonium all over a farm field in Spain, the second bomb was recovered, but the there was a period of time when the third bomb was laying on the floor of the Mediterranean and no one could find it and so it was the race to find it that was what our episode was about, which I thought was going to be really, really cool and I’m bummed we didn’t get to do it.

man_from_uncle_tv_show_image_01Was this one of these things where it was right on the cusp of going or was it like it never really got that close to going?

Burns:  It was pretty close to going.  I think we were all shocked that it didn’t happen and it was because it didn’t happen that this did.  It was going to be this movie that Steven and I were going to do together, it was going to be our sort of swan song and I think we both felt pretty shitty that we were losing that opportunity because we really like the script and we were excited about getting it cast.

Because there were rumors that Clooney was going to do it.

Burns:  Yeah, I think in the end we talked about a lot of people, Matt was busy; I think we considered a lot of different folk.  It just didn’t come together and Steven had a real desire to do a movie last year around this time and that’s when he then came to me and said, “I’ve read some scripts but Side Effects is my favorite thing that’s out there.  How would you feel about giving that to me?”

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