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Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. didn’t quite open as explosively as he and the studio likely were hoping for. Reviews were decent, with the spy thriller earning a 67% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes (and a rave from our own Mike Reyes). But it ran into the buzzsaw that was Straight Outta Compton, and couldn’t recover. This leaves us wondering: would a little jolt of A-lost star power have helped the film’s case?
Ritchie was a guest on MTV’s regular podcast Happy Sad Confused, where he admitted that his first choice to play Napoleon Solo on screen wasn’t Henry Cavill, who eventually landed the role. No, Ritchie was eyeing a reunion of sorts, as he explained:
My original idea for Napoleon Solo was… Brad Pitt was who I wanted actually. … I wanted him to play the older role, and I wanted the Russian to play the younger role, so there was going to be an age disparity there, as well. And then Pitt told me to piss off, and Tom didn’t, so then I had Tom."
The "Tom" in that statement is Tom Cruise, who also was attached to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. for a while until his commitments to Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation prevented him from participating in Guy Ritchie’s post-War lark. But let’s get back to Brad Pitt for a moment. The actor and the director obviously collaborated back in 2000 in the crime comedy Snatch. Pitt was on fire at the time, coming off of 1999’s Fight Club. But his choices on screen alienated a few, choosing to play a character with so thick of an accent, you basically couldn’t understand a word of dialogue.
Why would Pitt pass on the chance to play Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.? Hard to tell. Maybe he balked at Ritchie’s idea that he’d be playing an "older" role (though Pitt is 51 now, and had matured into older roles). Pitt also regularly returns to work with directors over the course of his career, be it David Fincher or Steven Soderbergh. So that shouldn’t have held him up.
Now we’re just left to wonder how different Man from U.N.C.L.E. would have been as a Brad Pitt joint. Not that Henry Cavill was an issue. In fact, he was so charismatic, charming and likable in Man that I’m kind of depressed he’s locked in to the DC Cinematic Universe for so many years, because this seems like a fun franchise for him. Guy Ritchie’s movie is still in theaters as we speak, and is worth checking out… with or without Brad Pitt.