Warner Brothers has not been having much luck lately with their big screen adaption of the 1960s spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The last several months have seen them go through a number of potential actors for the lead role either outright passing on the project or walking away from negotiations. And now it seems that the project’s director Steven Soderbergh has dropped out of the project as well.
The Playlist is reporting that Soderbergh’s departure comes in the wake of a meeting he held with studio executives last night where the two parties once again clashed over the issues of casting and budget. Apparently the studio was only willing to front $60 million for the production, a number that Soderbergh considered too low for a globe-trotting, 1960s era-set action film. With a production start date of March looming, Soderbergh had decided that there wasn’t enough time to iron out their differences and still prep for the shoot.
The director and the studio had been going back and forth on the film’s casting for months. At first, Soderbergh’s frequent on-screen collaborator George Clooney was attached to star, but withdrew in August. Playlist reports that the director then suggested Michael Fassbender and “The Killing” star Joel Kinnaman as two possible replacements. The studio passed, but then put them into other projects, which did not sit well with Soderbergh. A number of other actors were discussed but none were ever approached with firm offers. Playlist states that the reports that Bradley Cooper was in discussions last month with the studio was actually a story put out by the actor’s agents in order to get the studio to make an offer.
As of this morning, the studio has not made any statement on the matter, though I would expect they would before the end of the day.
With the ball now back in Warner Brorthers’ court, what happens now?
Well, that probably depends on Warners’s flexibility over the March start date. If they are willing to push that back in order to accommodate whomever they hire to take over the film, then that’s fine. However, if they are committed to starting filming in the spring in order to meet an intractable release date, things could be in trouble before they’ve even started. Remember that Universal’s The Wolfman and Twentieth Century Fox’s X-Men 3 both had directors brought in at the last minute to take over troubled projects and look how well both of them turned.
Of course, Warners was ready to move the film’s start date if Matt Damon had signed onto the film, as it conflicted with the shooting of the actor’s directorial debut. However, Soderbergh was committed to film his Liberace biopic Behind The Candelabra to the newly proposed dates.
My guess is that the studio will scrap all the work done by Soderbergh and his screenwriting collaborator on this project Scott Z. Burns and look for someone to start the whole development process over again. However, if they do that, whomever takes on the project will already have one strike against them. Before Soderbergh signed on to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. the project had already racked up somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million in development costs from the previous attempts that the studio made at getting it in front of the cameras. that amount is now undoubtedly much higher and that only increases the pressure on the next person to step up to try and make the movie.