Tom Cruise: The Latest Possible ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E.’

Movie Talk

What do you do when you just can't seem to get a big-screen adaptation of a '60s television series about secret agents off the ground? Perhaps make a deal with the star of an existing big-screen adaptation of a '60s television series about secret agents.

Warner Bros. just won't give up on their film version of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," and their latest move in this long-running cinematic mission is to approach "Jack Reacher" star Tom Cruise to accept the lead role assignment. Cruise is, of course, no stranger to movies based on '60s-era spy shows, having played Ethan Hunt in four "Mission: Impossible" films to date.

"The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is based on the American television series that ran on NBC for four seasons from 1965-1968. The show chronicled the adventures of Napoleon Solo (American, played by Robert Vaughn) and Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin (uh, Russian, played by Scottish actor David McCallum), two operatives who work for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, a global organization dedicated to slamming evil. Every week they would use their wits, wisdom and, of course, a bunch of cool gadgets in battling the dastardly forces of THRUSH (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity).

The immensely popular series spawned a spin-off series, "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.," no less than eight feature films (most of which incorporated unaired footage from the TV show), a board game, a comic book series, action figures, model kits, lunch boxes and several tie-in novels.

The feature film adaptation was first announced in 2010 with both Matthew Vaughn and David Dobkin attached to direct at one point, though it really gained steam when it was set to become a reunion project for director Steven Soderbergh and star George Clooney, frequent collaborators who hadn't (and still haven't) worked together since 2007's "Ocean's Thirteen." Clooney had to drop out due to a recurring back injury suffered while shooting "Syriana," after which Bradley Cooper, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Alexander Skarsgard, Ewan McGregor, Robert Pattinson, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Pine and Ryan Reynolds (so, you know, pretty much every male in Hollywood over the age of 25) were all considered for the lead role.

Soderbergh dropped out in late 2011 after a dispute over the film's budget, which Warner Bros. wanted to keep at $60 million -- a decidedly low figure for a film with period sets and international locales. The project then went to one of WB's favored directors, Guy Ritchie, though things pretty much stalled from there -- until now.

Tom Cruise is in early talks to play the role of Napoleon Solo, which could launch a brand-new franchise for the star as he looks to possibly hand over the reins of "Mission: Impossible" sooner rather than later. "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." isn't the only potential new series for Cruise, as there's rumor that Paramount is going forward with a "Jack Reacher" sequel upon the film's international success ($216 million worldwide and counting).

No word on who might be up for the role of Solo's partner Illya, though the last person mentioned as a possible candidate was "Zero Dark Thirty" star Joel Edgerton. As that was back in November 2011, there's a good possibility that he's no longer in the running.

Tom Cruise will next be seen in "TRON: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski's latest sci-fi opus, "Oblivion," opening April 19.