'Man from U.N.C.L.E.' Premiere: Guy Ritchie, Henry Cavill and Alicia Vikander Talk Creating Own Version of TV Series
Armie Hammer and writer-producer Lionel Wigram reveal what it's like to be part of a movie that's taken a long time to get to the big screen.
This isn't your father's Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at Monday night's premiere, the cast and creative team behind Warner Bros. movie version of the '60s TV series explained that while the spy show created the foundation for the film, ultimately they created their own characters and story.
"We were inspired by the TV show and by the genre in general," writer-producer Lionel Wigram said. "In the end, we did our own thing, and ultimately it's the Guy Ritchie version of the '60s spy movie."
Writer-director Ritchie explained that he "wanted to capture the essence of what the title was," and operated on his memories of watching Man from U.N.C.L.E. reruns.
"What I drew from was what I remember of the TV series. And I had a sort of lasting impression of the TV series, which I enjoyed enormously, what I remembered of it," Ritchie told THR on the red carpet at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre. "I haven't seen an episode for 30 years, but harking back to what I remembered, I tried to capture what I remembered growing up. That was really the motive behind making the film."
Like the TV series, the movie follows American and Russian spies Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), who join forces amid the Cold War tensions of the '60s. But neither Cavill nor Hammer modeled their characters on their TV counterparts.
"Guy, myself, Armie, Alicia [Vikander], Elizabeth [Debicki], Hugh [Grant] — we all spent a lot of time in a room together building our characters," Cavill explained.
For the actor who's known for his role as Superman, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. gives Cavill the chance to show he's capable of playing other characters and allows "an audience the possibility to see [him] in other roles."
"So if you do do something that's a big departure, it's not such a stretch for them to imagine Superman playing this other extraordinary character that's nothing like Superman," Cavill told THR of the value of taking on non-superhero roles.
Vikander wasn't able to look to the TV series for inspiration since her character, Gaby Teller, wasn't on the show.
"I just enjoyed watching '60s movies and Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn and Catherine Deneuve," Vikander said of her preparation. "What I realized with the women I mentioned was that there were a lot of very strong female actresses and characters back then."
The trailer already shows Gaby's impressive strength as she wrestles Hammer's Illya to the floor. But there are more surprises with her character, which evolved from the script to the screen.
"Guy is extremely collaborative and I think my part is actually much bigger now in the film than it was on the page," the busy actress told THR. "A lot of that came out of conversations and working with the script. There's a lot of good things that came out on set."
Debicki, who plays villain Victoria, also drew inspiration from Deneuve and "iconic Bond villains that are stereotypically men."
But she didn't get hung up on her character's gender.
"I know it's slightly unusual being a female villain, but I just kind of took it and ran with it because it's a real gift as an actor," Debicki said.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has had a long journey from the small screen, with Steven Soderbergh and Tom Cruise both attached to past incarnations of the film.
Wigram noted the film's taken even more time to become a reality.
"This movie's been in development for 20 years, since I first started at Warner Bros.," he said. "I was happy that we were able to crack the plot in a way and the story in a way that made the studio and various people want to make it."
And he's thrilled with the final cast.
"We had some very interesting explorations with other actors for it. I think ultimately we ended up with the right cast," he said. "It's the weirdest thing that I find, with all the movies I've ever worked on, you go through different people and you talk to different people and you explore but ultimately you end up with the right people, and that's definitely the case with this one. We're very, very happy."
Hammer, who was already attached when Cruise dropped out of the Solo role that Cavill took on, put a positive spin on that change, calling it "exciting."
"Never a dull moment," Hammer said. "One day I'm doing a movie with Tom Cruise and then he's out and I'm like, 'Oh, that's a bummer.' And then it's like, 'Henry Cavill's doing it. Oh, great! Even better.'"
Ritchie, meanwhile, said he didn't concern himself with the film's history.
"When I first inherited the script, the script had 30 different people's names on it," the director told THR. "We just threw it all out and started again. … So I didn't really get bogged down in [the project's] inherited baggage. That never really got in the way."
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. hits theaters on Friday.