Stephen Soderbergh Leaves The Man From UNCLE, Starts Sniffing Out New Gigs

After eighteen months of development, Stephen Soderbergh has decided not to direct Warner Bros. do-over of The Man From UNCLE. The director and studio have apparently come to a parting of the ways over casting and the budget.

Apparently Soderbergh was keen on either Michael Fassbender or Joel Kinnaman for the lead role, at least since George Clooney stepped down with back problems. Warner Bros. would not okay either Fassbender or Kinnaman for UNCLE, but did then cast them in other high profile projects – something The Playlist says “never sat well” with Soderbergh.

As is so often the way, the studio’s desire for a big-name lead threw sleepers on the tracks:

Just as WB were beginning to cotton to the idea of Fassbender as the lead, casting talks were thrown for a loop when Johnny Depp read the script and became interested in the Russian ‘U.N.C.L.E’ spy role of Illya Kuryakin, after the Lone Ranger had fallen into budgetary problems at Disney. Several weeks were eaten up when Jerry Bruckheimer fought to keep the ‘Ranger’ alive and yet Warner Bros. believed they could actually get Depp in the film, securing the kind of name-brand actor they always wanted.

Several films have hit the skids waiting for Johnny Depp down the years. That’s power – though I expect power he doesn’t want to wield.

We could still be on for two Soderbergh projects before his imminent and oft-discussed “retirement.” He’s reportedly been looking at scripts for the past couple of weeks, sniffing around for something to shoot in the spring before getting back to the plan and closing this career chapter with his Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra, come the Summer.

I don’t know that I’ll miss The Man From UNCLE per se, but going a Soderbergh film down isn’t exactly cause for celebration.