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October 24, 2014

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' Is Heading to the Big Screen

by Allison Waldman, posted Apr 14th 2010 6:08PM
the_man_from_uncle_robert_vaughn_david_mccallumThey're at it again. Another popular television series from yesteryear, in this case 1964-68, is being remade, reworked and revamped into a big screen movie. 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E,' one of the iconic spy shows spawned by the James Bond craze, has been tapped by Warner Brothers as a theatrical. The Hollywood Reporter reports that David Dobkins, best known for 'Wedding Crashers,' will direct 'The Man from UNCLE' and Max Borenstein is writing the script.

The big question now is not when or why, but who. Who will Warners choose to play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the two super secret agents of United Network Command for Law Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.), and even if the casting is perfect, as a follow up, how will they inevitably screw it up? The track record for well-loved TV shows being rejiggered for the silver screen is awful.

Therefore, let's eliminate some of the likely suspects who would be sure to flop in either role. Will Smith? He was miscast in the film version of 'The Wild, Wild West.' Owen Wilson? He may have the David McCallum look -- blonde and cute -- but he was sleepwalking in both 'I Spy' and 'Starsky and Hutch.' He's a no all the way.

Tom Cruise? Well, 'Mission: Impossible' was a hit three times over in theaters, but it had nothing to do with the original and even went so far as to destroy the Jim Phelps character by making him a traitor!

Two remakes that weren't too bad were 'Maverick' and 'Get Smart,' and in the former case the director -- Richard Donner -- was wise to include James Garner in the picture. Which is what David Dobkin should do immediately. Robert Vaughn and David McCallum should be filming some kind of cameo to lend credibility to the project. They were the men in 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' Use them while you can!

Still, it's hard to get overly enthused for the feature, which may not be on screen for a year or more. So many of these films just don't capture the thing that made the original a success. 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E' had a good balance of spy thrills with comic invention.

The early black and white years, the better episodes, were marked by good writing and great chemistry between the stars. That extended to Leo G. Carroll as their boss, Mr. Waverly. It was a fun show, and in the same era when 'Star Trek' was on NBC, too, both shows had a great fan following among kids. The stars were all over the teen magazines, even if the Nielsen numbers weren't registering how popular they really were.

For now, it's probably best to follow Mel Brooks' musical advice -- from 'The Twelve Chairs' -- "Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst."

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