How do you convert a television show to the movie screen? It is a conundrum that has plagued movie studios for decades now. For every Mission: Impossible, The Fugitive or 21 Jump Street -- movies that figure out how to extend the premise of the original program – there are far too many I Spy, Land of the Lost or Entourage adaptations out there. It’s a tricky line to balance, and one that many are going to try and figure out because TV shows will continue to inspire movies – and vice versa.
One of the latest attempts at reviving the past reaches theaters on August 14. Guy Ritchie, who recently energized Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, is applying his dry wit and stylish visuals to the 1960s Cold War spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., except instead of modernizing the story, he’s sending 2015 audiences into the past. Henry Cavill (Man of Steel), Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) and Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) are adding sex appeal and gritty humor to the spy genre, turning the time-tested subsection of action thrillers on its head.
On a frigid day in 2014, I was lucky enough to join a handful of film journalists on the London set of Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to interview the cast and crew, watch them film scenes, and get a general sense of how they plan to recreate this sliver of Cold War history. Here, then, are the five most interesting things I found out!
The Stars’ Inspiration Is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidWhile it’s true that Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are playing classic Man From U.N.C.L.E. partners Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, respectively, we heard from numerous people on set that the vobe the duo keeps giving off mirrors that of Robert Redford and Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You can pick this up in the banter they have in the most recent trailer (above), as well as in the first tease, which Warner Bros. released a few months back. Ritchie, in particular, talked to us at length about trying to find a tone that resembled Butch Cassidy, even while admitting that audiences initially dismissed George Roy Hill’s 1969 classic because it was a "comedy." Ritchie told us:
People tend to look slightly down their noses at comedies, thinking that, ‘Oh, it’s a comedy, so I won’t take it that seriously.’ I think it’s much harder to make a good comedy than it is to make something that’s straight and apparently serious. So I like that balance between finding -- it’s a real film, but it has a lightness of touch, and I think very few people can apply that lightness of touch. That’s a tone that I’m interested in, generally, in the work of film, and I suppose Butch Cassidy is the greatest illustration of that.
Similar to how Ritchie feels Butch Cassidy changed the idea of a Western, he’s hoping U.N.C.L.E. can alter the idea of a secret agent movie. But how? Let’s keep exploring.