EXCLUSIVE: Tom Cruise has exited as the lead in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the remake of the classic TV series that Guy Ritchie will direct for Warner Bros. Cruise was scheduled to star in the film with Armie Hammer, but he has stepped out of the picture to focus on producing and starring in Mission: Impossible 5. Paramount and Skydance are now planning to begin shooting the latest installment of that franchise before year’s end. Warner Bros has a script they like, and a top director who’s expecting to direct U.N.C.L.E. in the fall. The timing proved too difficult and so Cruise stepped out to focus on M:I5.
Warner Bros will now go hard looking for the lead of this movie, which is inspired by the original TV series ran from 1964-68, with Robert Vaughan and David McCallum playing Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, two agents of the United Network Command for Law Enforcement. With gadgets and their wits and charm, they fought the evil forces of Thrush. Hammer, who’ll be seen shortly alongside Johnny Depp in the Gore Verbinski-directed The Lone Ranger, is still firmly in the film.
This is another temporary setback for a potential franchise that Warner Bros has long been high on, going back to when the studio had Steven Soderbergh ready to direct George Clooney in the lead. The actor dropped out because he needed surgery on his neck and back, and he wasn’t up for a physical role. After Soderbergh departed, the studio turned the project over to Ritchie and his producing partner Lionel Wigram, who is producing with John Davis. Hammer would play a version of the role originated by McCallum.
While it might seem that Cruise could squeeze in the film before moving to M:I5, that’s not the way he has worked on the Paramount franchise. In the last film, Ghost Protocol, he was heavily involved in planning and performing death defying stunts that included running along the glass exterior of a skyscraper in Abu Dhabi, about 124 floors high. He’ll want to do something to top that, so while the script is being written by Drew Pearce for Cruise’s Jack Reacher helmer Christopher McQuarrie to direct, this is an accelerated process and it will become the focus of the rest of the year for Cruise. The actor remains on good terms with Warner Bros, recently completing the Doug Liman-directed science fiction film All You Need Is Kill, which will be released June 6, 2014.