In a rather unexpected development, director Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the popular TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has lost its leading man. Tom Cruise was originally set to star in the Warner Bros. spy pic, which is being planned as a potential franchise-starter, but with a fall production start-date looming Cruise has now vacated the starring role in order to focus his efforts on getting Mission: Impossible 5 off the ground. The film had recently started filling out its cast with Armie Hammer signing on to co-star and Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina) entering talks to play the film’s female lead, but Ritchie must now start searching to fill his leading role . Hit the jump for more on the future of both U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible 5.
Warner Bros.’ adaptation of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has had a rather troubled development process. Steven Soderbergh was initially planning to direct with George Clooney being eyed for the lead role, but Clooney opted not to sign on for fear of exacerbating his back problems with the film’s action-heavy demands. Actors like Bradley Cooper and Channing Tatum were subsequently eyed to topline the pic, but Soderbergh eventually left the project altogether when Warner Bros. refused to provide him with the budget necessary to fulfill his vision.
Ritchie signed on to produce and direct The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in December of 2011, and the project was finally on track to start production this year before Cruise’s abrupt exit. Deadline reports that Cruise decided to leave U.N.C.L.E. in order to focus his efforts on producing and starring in Mission: Impossible 5, which he wants to get in front of cameras before the end of the year. The M:I franchise is Cruise’s baby and he has always been heavily involved in the development, planning, and production of each film. As such, it would be, well, implausible for him to prep for and shoot The Man from U.N.C.L.E. later this fall while also remaining hands-on in all things Mission: Impossible 5 before that film goes in front of cameras.
With Iron Man 3 screenwriter Drew Pearce recently tapped to pen the screenplay for Paramount’s Mission: Impossible 5 and Cruise’s Jack Reacher helmer Christopher McQuarrie expected to direct, it’s clear that things are moving full-speed ahead on the sequel. Brad Bird’s fourth installment, Ghost Protocol, will be a tough act to follow, but clearly Cruise is focused on making M:I 5 the best film it can be, even if that means sacrificing prior commitments.
Warner Bros. will now focus on replacing Cruise quickly in order to keep Man from U.N.C.L.E. on track for a 2013 production start-date. Hammer is still onboard to play a version of the role played by David McCallum in the TV series, and I’m interested to see who Ritchie ropes in as Cruise’s replacement. Could one of his Sherlock Holmes cohorts like Robert Downey Jr. or Jude Law step in, or will it be another A-lister entirely? We should hear firm word sooner rather than later.