Director Steven Soderbergh has exited the adaptation of the 1960s spy TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Soderbergh had been developing the project since 2010 with screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, but The Playlist is reporting that the Oscar-winning director and Warner Bros. couldn’t come to an agreement over casting and budget. You’ll recall that back in August, George Clooney passed on the lead role and the casting process has been drawn out ever since. Actors mentioned for the lead include Bradley Cooper, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Alexander Skarsgard, Joel Edgerton, and earlier this week we heard Channing Tatum was in the mix (i.e. the usual suspects of young actors who don’t care hefty price tags like Clooney or Matt Damon, who was also considered for the lead, but passed because it conflicted with production on his directing debut).
However, Warner Bros. only wanted to provide $60 million for the first in what was supposed to be a spy franchise for the studio, and Soderbergh reportedly felt that the number was too low, the casting process was taking too long, and he couldn’t put everything together for a March shooting date. Hit the jump for more on the now-defunct movie.
According to The Playlist, after Clooney passed due to his bad back, the studio wanted a much younger actor, and Soderbergh’s top two choices were Michael Fassbender and Joel Kinnaman, but the studio were wary of both choices only to later cast the actors in Londongrad and Arthur & Lancelot, respectively.
Conversations then moved to the aforementioned other actors, and surprisingly, Johnny Depp was interested in playing Russian U.N.C.L.E spy role of Illya Kuryakin after The Lone Ranger hit a snag due to budget problems. Warner Bros. sat on their hands for several weeks hoping that they could score Depp and get their A-lister, but The Lone Ranger eventually sorted out its budget issue (for the low, low price of $215 million) and the U.N.C.L.E casting process grinded on.
Considering A) Warner Bros. were the ones who came to Soderbergh with the project, B) they didn’t want his actors for U.N.C.L.E. but still took them for other movies, C) he has his Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra, set for June and he plans to make it his last film before his retirement/sabbatical, and D) the studio wouldn’t give him more money even though the $58 million Contagion scored the studio a $127 million hit, it’s not difficult to see why Soderbergh bailed.
Since Soderbergh works at such a fast pace, it’s likely he’ll still have a movie ready to shoot in the spring before Candelabra. As for Warner Bros., they’ll probably have to scrap their March start date for U.N.C.L.E. and start over, although they may end up going in the same 60s-set direction envisioned by Soderbergh and Burns. Personally, I’m indifferent on whether we get a Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie. More than anything, I’m curious to see what Soderbergh will do before Candelabra and if he’ll be able to get it off the ground in time. His next film, Haywire, is due out January 20th and his male-stripper movie Magic Mike will probably hit theaters sometime in summer 2012.