Steven Soderbergh drops MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

Things are not looking good for Warner Bros long planned (and troubled) movie take on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The Playlist is reporting that Steven Soderbegh has dropped out as director. This is not good news for the project, because he and writer Scott Z. Burns have been developing since early 2010.

Here is a description of last night's meeting between Soderbergh and WB execs:

Soderbergh was in meetings with WB brass this evening in Los Angeles and could not come to an agreement over casting and budgets and decided to part ways on the project. With the studio already hemming and hawing over casting options, this week they delivered a low $60 million dollar budget proposal for what is supposed to be the first in a tentpole franchise threequel. Soderbergh felt the figure wasn’t enough for a ‘60s set period spy film that’s set on four continents, and with a March date looming, he could no longer wait for the studio to refine numbers or set cast, officially pulling out of the project.

George Clooney dropped out because he did not think he could handle the stunts with his bad back. WB was fine with that news and decided they wanted to go with a much younger actor.  Soderbergh presented The Killing's Joel Kinnaman and Michael Fassbender, and was met with indecisive execs that ended up using eacch acctor for other WB projects Arthur & Lancelot for Kinnaman and Londongrad for Fassbender. As you could expect, Soderbergh was a bit upset over this poaching of his top choices for the lead.

At one point Johnny Depp was interested in the Russian ‘U.N.C.L.E’ spy role of Illya Kuryakin, when The Lone Ranger was on hold. This caused a major delay in the casting. Despite names like Ryan Gosling, being thrown around, WB still was hopeful they could land Depp to give the project a major name.  WB then though Matt Damon would be a good fit, and he loved the script but opted out to focus on his directorial debut.

This casued the studio to push the film that was planned to shoot in 2012 to 2013, which interfered with Soderbergh's Liberace movie Behind the Candelabra. As you may recall, Bradley Cooper was brought in to meet with Sodebergh, but no offeres were officially made.

The Playlist goes on to describe more of the situation by saying:

Soderbergh met with Channing Tatum who was ready to turn up for any role the filmmaker wanted him for, but with an indecisive studio and a budgeting issue in the air, this idea never even had time to congeal. Considering that "Contagion" was made for $58 million and has grossed $127 million worldwide to date and the film still has yet to open in a few territories, the move seems slightly odd, but budget belts are still tightening these days.

Moreover it was Warner who came to Soderbergh in the first place and asked him his take on the long-gestating project that had gone through several iterations that the studio were never content with (and the movie already had $5 million out against its proposed budget from past iterations, including one by David Dobkins).

In the interim, WB will have to start over and may have to scrap their planned March shoot date. It would not surprise us if this project goes back into some form of development as the ‘60s-set Soderbergh/Burns version was very specific to the way they work and envision films. Meanwhile, Soderbergh is still looking ahead. Insiders tell us that he’s looking to shoot another film in the March 2012 time frame where he would have been shooting ‘U.N.C.L.E.,’ had he and the studio seen eye to eye. Considering his rapid clip – and the fact he’s been looking at potential scripts for a few weeks now as the writing had been on the wall – it’s not inconceivable that the filmmaker can bang out a quick picture before he shoots his ‘Liberace’ film this summer.

I am looking forward to seeing Haywire in Janurary and am intrigued to see Magic Mike. Michael Dogulas will star as Liberace in the biopic which is planned next for the director. I think he is a solid director and that WB really messed up with the lack of firm decisions and action. Second guessing themselves has forced them to be without a director. 

What are your thoughts?

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