Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel”) stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) as Illya Kuryakin in director Guy Ritchie’s action adventure “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” a fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series.
Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” centers on CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E” also stars Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”) and Elizabeth Debicki (“The Great Gatsby”), with Jared Harris (“Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows”), and Hugh Grant as Waverly.
The screenplay was written by Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, who previously collaborated on re-imagining the classic detective Sherlock Holmes in two hit films. The story is by Jeff Kleeman & David Campbell Wilson and Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, based on the television series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
John Davis (“Chronicle”), Steve Clark-Hall (“RocknRolla,” the “Sherlock Holmes” films), Lionel Wigram, and Guy Ritchie produced the film, with David Dobkin serving as executive producer.
Ritchie’s behind-the-scenes creative team included two-time Oscar-nominated director of photography John Mathieson (“The Phantom of the Opera,” “Gladiator”), production designer Oliver Scholl (“Jumper,” “Edge of Tomorrow”), editor James Herbert (the “Sherlock Holmes” films, “Edge of Tomorrow”), Oscar-nominated costume designer Joanna Johnston (“Lincoln”), and composer Daniel Pemberton (“The Counselor”).
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” will be shown in IMAX in select theaters.
A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation, a Ritchie/Wigram Production, a Davis Entertainment Production, a Guy Ritchie Film, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
SAVING THE WORLD NEVER GOES OUT OF STYLE
Guy Ritchie’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a fast-moving, action-packed, sexy and stylish international adventure, shot through with humor, that is as much about the rocky relationship between two sparring superspies – Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin – as it is about the job they have to do.
“It’s a zone I find fascinating, the way men interact with each other,” says Ritchie, who directed, produced, and co-wrote “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” screenplay, based on the hit 1960s TV series of the same name. “Even going back to ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,’ I’m drawn to that male-to-male dynamic as kind of a genre unto itself.”
Dynamic would be the word for it, as the first time elite CIA operative Solo meets his formidable KGB counterpart, Kuryakin, they are trying to kill each other. Each has been sent to extract the same vital German asset from behind the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War, and taking out the competition in the process would just be icing on the cake.
Days later, after being informed by their respective handlers that they will now be working together on the case, killing each other is unfortunately – albeit temporarily – off the table, leaving the sworn rivals to vent their national and professional antagonism in a bare-knuckled, bust-up-the-furniture, “getting to know you” fight designed to convey in no uncertain terms that they might be stuck with this deal, but they don’t have to like it.
So in some respects, it’s a buddy movie…apart from the fact that “they kick the living daylights out of each other as soon as they meet,” says Henry Cavill, who stars as Solo, the suave and often self-serving American agent.
Starring as Kuryakin, Armie Hammer offers the volatile but more conventional Russian’s point of view: “Kuryakin is the ultimate soldier, always in line and giving his best. Then he’s thrust into a position that he hates and there’s nothing he can do about it. This guy he’s working with, this Napoleon Solo, he’s so unorthodox. He doesn’t follow the rules. He doesn’t even seem to know there are rules.”
“What we found so irresistible,” says Ritchie, “was taking these polar-opposite agents and forcing them together so that they start out trying to annihilate each other and end up cooperating, but maybe still not entirely trusting each other. The story is largely the evolution of their collaboration. The fact that one represents capitalist America and the other represents communist Russia, and these two super powers have to team up to neutralize a threat with global stakes, is a great premise that you can have a lot of fun with, and that’s really the spine of the story.”
Producer and co-screenwriter Lionel Wigram is reunited with Ritchie following a successful partnership on the equally genre-blurring “Sherlock Holmes” films. “One of the ways we put our own spin on it was by making it an origin story about how U.N.C.L.E. was formed,” he says. “In the series, U.N.C.L.E. already existed. So in the midst of the Cold War you had the CIA and KGB secretly teaming for the greater good at a time when East-West relations were at their absolute worst. How did such an alliance come about?”
The film opens in 1963. The U.S. and the Soviet Union are locked in a tense, high-stakes game of chicken over nuclear arms supremacy, and the wartime research of former Nazi scientists is still at a premium on the not-so-open market. A 12-foot concrete wall divides post-World War II Berlin and it’s here, in its long shadows, that Solo and Kuryakin first size each other up in a breakneck, winner-take-all street chase.
Their prize is Gaby Teller, a whip-smart East German auto mechanic played by Alicia Vikander, who is also the estranged daughter of Dr. Udo Teller, once Hitler’s favorite rocket scientist. Doc Teller has lately gone missing, launching both world powers into a race to find him before his very specific and very dangerous knowledge is channeled into weaponry that could obliterate whole countries. And Gaby may be the only bait that can flush him out.
Opting to retain the initial property’s Cold War context, with all its cultural and political touchstones, Ritchie says, “It’s a tip of the hat to the series. We wanted to capture the essence and uniqueness of that time while making it immediately accessible to today’s audiences, and as original, attractive and fresh as possible.” The resulting tenor “is both period and contemporary, which feels like a very natural process to me.”
As film fans will attest, that’s another hallmark of the director’s work. In much the same way the “Sherlock Holmes” films took audiences into Victorian London without losing the edge that made them so sharp and current, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” distills everything that made the 1960s cool – from its art, fashion and music, to its attitudes and perspectives – into a spot-on but understated vibe that is both retro and undeniably 21st century.
“That’s the Guy Ritchie magic,” Wigram remarks. “He strikes a certain note which, somehow, makes everything feel ‘of today.’”
“What I remember most about the series was its tone,” Ritchie reflects. “And when the opportunity arose for me to make the movie, that’s what inspired me. The idea of ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ just rang a bell for me. I had an intuitive response to it.”
In some ways, the 1960s depicted in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a rare and enticing moment in time that only really existed on screen.
“For us, the ‘60s were the coolest decade and ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ was a part of that,” Wigram continues. “We were always keen on doing a spy story. We loved the early Bond movies, which really made an imprint on our young minds, and then the Italian and French films of the time, like ‘L’Avventura’ and ‘La Dolce Vita,’ that had a particular flavor we found so stylish and interesting. Whether it’s the clothes, the cars, the movies, or the design, the ‘60s really marked the beginning of the modern age.”
It’s their shared influences, combined with a passion for cinema and a simpatico sense of humor, that make Ritchie and Wigram such a tight writing team. “It’s great having a producing partner who can write, because writing is fundamental to filmmaking and the story is an organic, living, ongoing process,” Ritchie acknowledges.
“We both love the idea of taking a classic genre and putting a twist on it,” Wigram adds. “And Guy is constantly trying to do something new with the action, to give audiences something they haven’t quite seen before.”
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” stands entirely by itself. But for those familiar with its genetic line, including Ritchie, Wigram, and fellow producers John Davis and Steve Clark-Hall, there is a bonus in sharing their affection for an archetype that enthralled mid-1960s television viewers and spy-game aficionados on both sides of the Atlantic.
“When I was growing up, they were the coolest guys with the coolest gadgets and weapons,” recalls Davis, raised in the U.S. “It was a secret international force working behind the scenes to keep the planet safe, like the United Nations of the spy world, and I loved it.”
Typifying the young British fan of the time, Hugh Grant, who stars as the enigmatic Waverly, confesses, “I had a ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ model car. I believe you pressed the top off and it shot guns out of the sides. I might still have it.”
One reason that tales of espionage and secret agendas continue to thrill and entertain, generation upon generation, might be the cyclic nature of history and politics. “Without getting too deep,” Clark-Hall suggests, “with the Snowden case and the massive amount of recent revelations about the sort of spying that still goes on, I think it’s something that people are intrinsically fascinated by – the nature of relationships and the opportunity for betrayal, the complex alliances nations find themselves in, and not being sure who to trust. In some ways today’s world is reflective of the tensions of the ‘60s that the movie plays on.”
Additionally, Jeff Kleeman and David Campbell Wilson, who share story credit with Ritchie and Wigram, cite the enduring allure of “daring lone agents who take on powerful forces and display grace under pressure. What really sets spy films apart are their heroes, who time and again are forced to rely upon their true secret weapons: ingenuity, resourcefulness and wit.”
The key, for Ritchie, in bringing all of this energy together – apart from the barbed banter and unshakable cool of his charismatic leads – is what he calls “the balance of real danger, drama and action with a lightness of touch. It’s the juxtaposition of different moods that I find most creative and stimulating,” he says, noting that he makes the kinds of movies that would attract him as a viewer and a vital ingredient of that is the kind of humor that tends to percolate to the surface almost effortlessly. “Not that it should all be funny. I’m looking for the whole gamut of emotions. We start off writing more serious scenes, but what often happens on the day of filming is that the scenes start not taking themselves quite so seriously and the humor invariably finds its way in.
“We had a great cast all around, led by Henry and Armie, and Alicia as Gaby,” he continues. “The guys have brilliant chemistry and Alicia is truly something special. And they really had to work for it. It wasn’t a soft job, not mentally or physically. Filming is collaboration and I want actors to own what they say. Granted, a director has the advantage of seeing the bigger picture and the actors have to trust that, but I’m always interested in the best idea in the room. As long as it doesn’t hold us back, and it seldom does, I’m up for everyone being creative.”
“It’s a great feeling knowing that, together, you’ve gone beyond what was originally on the page,” says Vikander. “You get to know your character better because you’re not only thinking about what they say, but about what they might say.”
Cavill, for whom working with Ritchie was the number one reason he signed onto the project, concurs. “His movies are fantastic and his filmmaking style is unique. There’s no over-rehearsing, so you can get in there and do it, and it feels very fresh and new when you shoot.”
“It really keeps you sharp. You have to do your homework and show up ready for anything because things can change,” adds Hammer, who likewise jumped at the chance to work with the acclaimed director. “I think he intentionally keeps the atmosphere light because you get the best work when everyone is free and everything is flowing. It’s an open, inviting, creative space and that’s what Guy tries to cultivate on the set.”
TRY NOT TO KILL YOUR PARTNER ON THE FIRST DAY
Though committed to the premise and the politically charged setting of the series, Ritchie used that merely as a jumping off point when it came to developing the Solo and Kuryakin characters and their potential back-stories for the big screen – from the broad strokes to the intimate details – in a way that was previously unexplored. Since the series picked up at an unspecified mid-point in the partnership, the filmmakers and the actors had the freedom to imagine the process by which these two disparate personalities reached their personal détente.
Hammer, who had never seen the show, delved into some of the classic episodes for a point of reference, while Cavill, who was equally unfamiliar with it, took the opposite approach. But each sought to make these characters entirely their own.
As Cavill understands the quintessentially smooth Solo, “He’s not career CIA; in fact, he’s kind of anti-establishment. He acquired his skill set dealing art and antiques on the black market after sneaking his way into post-war European high society, and was so good that no one could catch him for years. It’s something he took a great deal of pride in. But eventually he was given up by a jealous girlfriend, and the CIA, seeing the value of a man like him, offered an ultimatum: go to jail or work for us. So he ended up becoming an agent, very successfully but somewhat reluctantly. It’s better than being in jail and he can still wear natty suits.”
By contrast, Kuryakin’s rise at the KGB was the result of years of dedication, training and single-minded effort. “He’s a classic spy,” says Hammer of the youngest agent in the organization to have attained such elite status. “He grew up in the system and rose through the ranks and he’s very by-the-book. His lifelong goal was to be a KGB operative and that’s the most important thing to him.”
It’s hard to know what irritates Kuryakin most about the new colleague he calls The Cowboy: what he perceives as the American’s cavalier attitude, his accidental credentials or his sense of entitlement. “But there is definitely friction,” Hammer confirms. “At the same time, as much as Illya looks at him as an amateur who doesn’t know what he’s doing, this Solo guy just broke into a secure facility with what looks like a paper clip, so that’s pretty impressive…”
For his part, Solo finds the Russian unrefined and unpredictable, “but in some ways they’re two sides of the same coin,” Cavill observes. “The differences in their personalities and methods are vast, but they’re on the same spectrum. And even though they’re in this because Solo and Kuryakin have no choice, they are always mindful that they have a mission and there are lives at stake, not to mention the destruction of the world, so they have to try to make their skills work together. It could end up that the team is greater than the sum of its parts.”
What they are concealing from each other is that, while their respective bosses appear to be cooperating on this one-off, the end game for each agent takes a sharp turn. Solo’s directive is to deliver Teller and/or his research to CIA headquarters in Langley, while Kuryakin’s orders lead similarly to Moscow, and neither can let anything – including their partnership – get in his way.
First, however, there are more immediate concerns. Their working relationship requires a cover, and that’s where newly sprung East Berliner Gaby Teller becomes a more hands-on participant. In order to locate her father, presumably held captive in Rome by a criminal cabal, including Gaby’s odious Uncle Rudi, she is pressed into a ruse in which Kuryakin will pose as a Russian architect and she as his loving fiancée. In Rome on holiday while her faux husband-to-be studies structural design, Gaby will reach out to Rudi for her father’s whereabouts, in view of her upcoming nuptials. Solo, meanwhile, will work a parallel angle, pretending not to know the happy couple while remaining close.
“We were fans of Alicia’s from ‘A Royal Affair,’” says Wigram, “and of course she’s gone on to so many other successes since then. “We wanted a European actress for the role, someone who could play German and had that fantastic mixture of youth and naiveté with real intelligence and strength.”
Making the transition from unpretentious garage mechanic to couture-draped arm candy isn’t easy for the straight-talking, down-to-earth young woman. “But if it will keep her this side of the Berlin Wall for the rest of her life, Gaby is game for just about anything,” says Vikander.
“I loved the fact that they made her a cool, tomboyish girl with a lot of character,” she continues. “Gaby was brought up in a man’s world and so she’s quite feisty and she knows how to stand her ground. If anything, she has a tough time relaxing and pretending she wants to be just a pretty housewife, and I think it’s partly her desire to assert her independence that causes sparks to fly between her and Illya.”
Gaby creates sparks between Kuryakin and Solo, too, but only insofar as it gives them more to clash over, starting with a comical scene in which they try to one-up each other with their designer savvy while helping Gaby select her mod wardrobe…perhaps causing her to wonder if navigating Armageddon might be the easiest part of this mission.
But there is serious work ahead, as the trio quickly adopt their undercover personas and prepare to take on their dangerous adversaries. Uncle Rudi, a diehard Nazi, is in league with the über-wealthy but morally bankrupt power couple Alexander and Victoria Vinciguerra. Together, they are attempting to coerce his brother-in-law, Udo Teller, into revealing his revolutionary method of uranium enrichment. It’s a process that will make atomic bombs far quicker and easier to assemble, and sell to the highest bidder.
Elizabeth Debicki plays Victoria, an ambitious, stunning, ice blonde from hardscrabble beginnings who married a wealthy Italian playboy long on looks but little else. “He isn’t exactly the brains of the operation,” Debicki admits. “He likes fast cars and women, and that’s fine with Victoria because she can sit behind the desk and run the show, which is what she’s always wanted. She’s a self-created, enterprising woman and quite a social climber.”
Says Wigram, “Elizabeth was phenomenal in ‘The Great Gatsby’; she really stood out in a fantastic cast and so when her name came up, Guy and I felt it was an inspired and obvious choice. She did a reading that was sensational, plus, her look reminded us of a young Catherine Deneuve, which was perfect for that period.”
Debicki, an Australian portraying a woman from Liverpool but with a deliberate clipped RP [Standard English] accent, notes, “So few of us are playing our nationalities.” Indeed, Cavill, a Brit, plays American; Hammer, an American, plays Russian; and Vikander, a Swede, plays German, all of which just added to the international air of the production, in concert with the various locations in England and Italy where they filmed.
One exception was the actor cast as Victoria’s husband, Alexander. Making his starring English-language feature debut as the handsome race car driver is Italian Luca Calvani. Calling him “a new discovery for worldwide audiences, Wigram comments, “Luca is the epitome of what we had in mind. He gives Alexander just the right air of sinister glamour that makes him credible and, at the same time, so much fun.”
“Alexander believes he’s found the perfect trophy wife, which is funny because he ends up being the trophy husband in a way, as the financier of Victoria’s evil schemes,” says Calvani. “But his ego is such that he thinks he is somewhat still in charge.”
“They’re both fantastic roles,” says Debicki. “The Vinciguerras are fabulously dressed, fabulously evil people, and they have a very open marriage. Very sixties.”
Meanwhile, as all this intrigue unfolds, higher-ups are keeping watch from their respective vantage points. One is Napoleon Solo’s CIA boss, Sanders, played by Jared Harris, happily reuniting with Ritchie and Wigram following his turn as the legendary villain Moriarty in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.”
In a nod to cinephiles everywhere, the character is named after classic star George Sanders, who portrayed “The Saint” and was a spy in many other movies.
Says Harris, “Sanders is having a bit of a hard time with this independent, somewhat insolent agent who is also, of course, tremendously talented. Perhaps consequently, he’s sort of bad-tempered and grumpy. He lives in a gray world but deals in absolutes and he sees things in terms of ‘It’s the United States, first and foremost.’”
Fresh off four seasons of the AMC period drama “Mad Men,” Harris was already steeped in all things ‘60s. Welcoming the chance to revisit another facet of the era, he says, “It was a good script, tight, and with a sense of humor.”
Hugh Grant, cast as the debonair and unflappable Waverly, the only other familiar character from the series apart from Solo and Kuryakin, also warmed to the script. With characteristic humor, he says, “I’ve always liked Guy’s films and thought they were quite hip, and I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything even remotely hip, so that was part of the appeal. Plus, I have an uncle who was a spy and I’ve always been fascinated by that world, so I thought there might be a little fun to be had. We were never allowed to mention the fact that he was a spy – he was just officially in the Navy – but we all knew.”
Waverly displays the most unassuming attitude and introduces himself with a handshake and a single name, despite the fact that he turns out to be a significant power broker – the breadth of which isn’t fully realized until much later.
“I imagine he’s a rather smooth but probably quite scary top British spy,” the actor speculates. “Like a lot of them, he likely comes from a naval background. I believe he’s done his share of fighting and quite enjoyed it, but now he’s a man in very nice suits outsmarting the people behind the Iron Curtain and perhaps outsmarting the American CIA as well, because there was always that rivalry and there’s a touch of that, too, in the film.”
Rounding out the main cast, Siberian-born Misha Kuznetsov is Sanders’ cagey KGB counterpart, Oleg; German actor Christian Berkel is Udo Teller, a brilliant mind caught in a situation from which even he cannot calculate an escape; and Sylvester Groth is Rudi, an inveterate Nazi as devoted to his cause as he is to his twisted hobbies. In an interesting link to the film, Groth was born in East Germany and ultimately defected to the West.
MAKING THE SCENE
Locations play a significant role in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” helping set the tone and authenticity. “We were pleased on ‘Sherlock Holmes’ that our recreation of 19th Century London transported audiences, and we’ve tried to do the same here with our depictions of Berlin and Rome, which were inspired by so many films of the time,” Wigram explains. “Rome typifies the style of the ‘60s and Berlin is, of course, the focal point of all those Cold War movies.”
Additionally, says Ritchie, “Certain iconic images like the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie are essential components for a story like this to be true to its genre and its time.”
The Berlin sets exude a cool, stark palette overall, in comparison to the more lush, bright and sensuous colors and textures of the film’s Italian locales.
Overall, “Guy wanted the look and feel of the ‘60s to be present, but not obvious or clichéd, with hints of the Cold War. Getting that balance was key,” says production designer Oliver Scholl. That sense guided not only his choices but those of the entire creative team.
Supervising location manager Sue Quinn scoured the length and breadth of Europe for sites that met Ritchie’s vision of “a glamorous look and a ‘60s feel but with an edge,” she relates. “We started in Rome, with all its fantastic 1930s architecture from the Mussolini era, which looks so great on film. But Rome is bursting with tourists and a logistical challenge, so we went to Naples and the surrounding area to expand our palette.”
The Rome locations included the famed Spanish Steps, Teatro Marcello, Piazza Venezia and the Grand Plaza Hotel, where Solo, Kuryakin and Gaby stay while cozying up to the Vinciguerras. In Naples, the team used the underground tunnels at the Fonderia Iron Works for the dungeons of the Vinciguerra island compound, which could be the ideal spot to hide a nuclear physicist with his own underground lab, while the Castle Baja in the Bay of Naples, believed to have been built for the Emperor Nero, provided its impressive exteriors.
“Architecture is not as fast to react to trends as are clothes or products, so the architectural spectrum of our sets is much bigger,” states Scholl, who used a range of structures that would have existed at the time. “The period is invoked in such myriad details as storefronts, graphics, awnings, posters, window displays, doors, furnishings and hardware.”
The UK stood in for East Germany, offering both practical locations and sets built at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, including the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, recreated on the studio back lot. Portions of Greenwich Naval College in Southeast London and the Chatham Docks in Kent, heavily augmented with CG, figured in the opening chase alongside the Berlin Wall, allowing the design team to secure the look they were seeking along with the flexibility and convenience of shooting in a controlled environment. The historic Goodwood Circuit racetrack in West Sussex was also repurposed into an Italian venue where Alexander Vinciguerra can show off his fleet.
Studio soundstages housed a range of sets, including the interiors of the Rome hotel, Victoria’s sleek, angular, Italian neo-fascist-styled company headquarters, and the underground laboratory where a captive Udo Teller is pressed into service.
The single most complex setting from a design standpoint, as well as stunts and effects, was the climactic chase off Vinciguerra island, which was collaged from several individual locations: Hankley Common, a rural area in Surrey; the Miseno tunnels and Baia Castle in Naples; roads outside of Rome; and Aberystwyth, on the west coast of Wales.
Renowned cinematographer John Mathieson worked closely with Ritchie throughout, creating a lighting scheme Wigram calls “both reminiscent of the time and having a modern energy. The way he lined up his shots, the atmosphere he created…he’s done an absolutely brilliant job.”
THINGS COULD GET A LITTLE MESSY
Action is an integral part of the “U.N.C.L.E.” storyline and it’s something on which Ritchie does not compromise. “The actors have worked exceptionally hard,” he states. “They’ve all been very involved, physically. It’s often a volatile arena: you’re shooting guns, you’re flying all around the place. You have to be an athlete because, on a tough day, you are cracking on for eight hours.”
The action sequences in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” required the collaboration of stunt coordinator Paul Jennings and special effects supervisor Dominic Tuohy, following the director’s brief to bring something new to the screen.
“We also wanted to make the action scenes reveal more about the characters,” says Jennings, who was in charge of training the cast for an onslaught of fist fights, gun battles, motorcycle chases, car chases and explosions, among a long list of stunts. “Guy likes visceral filmmaking. He thinks outside the box and gives you the freedom to do the same. You have to be daring and go with your gut on a Guy Ritchie film. Even if things don’t quite work the first time, he doesn’t mind; he’s pleased you gave it a go.”
In this case, both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer were more than willing to give it a go, plunging in with total commitment and eager to do as many of their own stunts as possible.
“Not to take anything away from our excellent stunt crew, who took some nasty tumbles and accomplished some incredible things,” Cavill is quick to add. “But Armie and I are both very physical actors and love to get involved. There are some major action sequences that, when I first heard about them, I assumed would be CG, which we ended up doing largely in camera.”
Shootout in Berlin
The story starts off with a bang – accompanied by breaking glass and burning rubber – as the newly acquainted Gaby and Solo, in a vintage Wartburg sedan, try to elude Kuryakin’s Trabant through the dark streets of East Berlin to meet Solo’s contact on the other side.
“Guy envisioned it as a ballet,” says Tuohy. “We modified both vehicles for a blind driver, meaning the Wartburg had a driving position mounted on the roof and the Trabant had one low down in front, which enabled stunt drivers to maneuver them at full speed with the actors inside, keeping them fully involved. And we had a tracking vehicle traveling with them.
“We wanted to keep the two cars close while making tight turns around corners,” he continues, “so we adapted one of them to be extremely light and made a rig that attached them to each other. Then, in a green screen environment, we built a hydraulic turntable so we could put the two cars together and move them backwards and forwards, as if they were gaining on one another, and also let them move independently or rotate them on a 360-degree spin.”
The production employed practical effects as much as possible. Offering one example, Tuohy says, “The stunt driving positions we built onto the vehicles were framed out, as they would have done pre-CG, so the camera captures what the audience will see in frame, rather than filming the whole rig and having CG paint it out later.”
At the same time, visual effects, supervised by Richard Bain, proved invaluable in other applications, such as helping transform the streets of the Greenwich Royal Naval Academy and the Chatham Docks, where the chase was filmed, into East Berlin.
“Greenwich is one of our most valued archives, and to stage a chase there is special onto itself,” Tuohy adds. “Its streets are unique and irreplaceable and that created a challenge in protecting that environment. Where you see sections of pavement, it’s not real. We put down areas of flooring so that, if we drove over it, it wouldn’t damage what was underneath.”
The Harbor Cruise
“One of the things Guy wanted to do was land a truck on top of a boat, and play the comedic beats of the truck sinking the boat with Solo sitting in the cab,” says Tuohy.
This was part of a larger scene in which the two agents have to evade a boatload of assassins following a nighttime prowl in the Vinciguerra factory. Stunt coordinator Jennings says, “In the harbor chase, Armie had to do a lot of piloting. We took him out in the boat for a test and he was a natural, which gave us the freedom to film him steering the boat. It’s great when you can slot an actor into a situation like that and know they can deal with it.”
For Tuohy’s team, the logistics proved more complex. “When you drive something off a height to land on a boat, it wants to push the boat away,” he explains. So, a lightweight truck was designed to engage with a rig that would land it on the exact spot.
The next problem was that the boat, large and made of fiberglass, required a displacement of about 30 tons to sink it – which they didn’t have. They also didn’t have the time to wait for it to sink. Instead, they used pyrotechnic charges to break the seals holding the boat together, allowing water to rush in. Meanwhile a hydraulic ram beneath it pulled the whole thing under in about 10 seconds, allowing Cavill to land both the heroics and the humor of the scene in one take.
Off-Roading at the Vinciguerra Estate
The climactic pursuit takes place on the Vinciguerras’ island, where everything that matters is suddenly and dynamically in play, where people seize whatever method of transport is handy, and where every fresh twist alters the balance of power.
The hero vehicles include a 1960s motorcycle, a modified Land Rover that takes a swim, and a growling, custom-built four-wheel drive ATV that Ritchie aptly calls “a beast.”
“Of course a Rock Crawler wasn’t quite period correct, but I wasn’t going to let that stand in the way, so we built our own,” he says. The vehicle does precisely what its name suggests, powering up nearly 90-degree hills before aquaplaning more than 300 feet across a lake. “I’m not quite sure what to do with it now. It’s seven feet wide.”
The director was looking for unique and punishing terrain, which resulted in a sequence seamlessly fused from multiple locations. Jennings recounts, “We start in Italy, go through a tunnel and up a mountainside, still in Italy, and then cut to a shot in Wales, then to Hankley Commons, and mix in some of Northshire. We were all over the place, but, in the end, I think we achieved something really different.”
At the controls of the Rock Crawler, Solo displays his quick thinking as the action unfolds. Knowing Alexander Vinciguerra’s Land Rover can easily outpace him on the road, he forges his own path through scrub, hills, forest, mud and grit to cut him off.
Kuryakin, meanwhile, takes a different road in the concurrently running action sequences, astride a 1960s motorcycle that he rides until it becomes un-rideable. That’s when the resourceful agent has to find another use for it.
Preparing for the scene, Hammer was not overly concerned. An avid rider since getting his first dirt bike as a child, he considered himself competent enough. But assistant stunt coordinator Lee Morrison didn’t initially see it the same way. Hammer recalls, “We showed up at a big grass field and Lee said, ‘Okay, I’m going to do a little assessment to see how you ride. Go up there, do a turn, come back, do a figure-eight and then go through those cones and stop.’ I figured, ‘No problem, this is going to be easy.’ So I ran through it all and came back, and he said, ‘What the hell was that? Is that how you sit? Is that how you hold your elbows?’ So he taught me the proper form and honestly elevated my motorcycle riding, which was great for me – especially on that vintage bike, that didn’t have 50 years of advancements so it was heavy and cumbersome.”
Heavy and cumbersome, granted, but it bears the weight of Hollywood history. The motorcycle rode by Hammer was a limited edition Métisse Desert Racer built by the renowned Métisse workshop in Oxfordshire to be an exact replica of the Mark III model designed by actor Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins in the 1960s.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” also counts among its vintage vehicles a 1960 Hiller UH12E4 helicopter that previously had a starring role in another spy movie – a fact that can momentarily revert even veteran filmmakers into James Bond fanboys, as Wigram delightedly proclaims, “We have Pussy Galore’s helicopter from ‘Goldfinger’ in our film. I can’t tell you how exciting that is!” It also harks back to the series in that Bond creator Ian Fleming is known to have contributed some thoughts to the television project in its early conceptual stages.
Clothes Make the Man… and Woman
The work of award-winning costume designer Joanna Johnston harmonized with the tones selected by production designer Scholl and his sets. “In Berlin, the overriding visual was concrete. Everything was cold, hard, and quite dismal,” she says. “We have a bit of freshness coming through with the introduction of prints and patterns when the story crosses over to West Berlin but the palette is still cold. Then, in Italy, the colors are warm and it’s all very sophisticated.”
How the era broke culturally from the immediate post-war drabness of the 1950s was what inspired Johnston, who researched the period via fashion magazines of the time. “It was all about color,” she expands. “It was a very radical and adventurous time across all disciplines, from art to fashion and music. What really struck me was the freedom of design of the time; it shines through the photography, the models, the styling, everything.”
In sync with Ritchie, the designer strove to avoid the kind of cliché extremes that can mar a period piece, opting for something “more subtle and original, but still glossy and slick, like those films you remember where everyone looked good no matter what they were doing.”
Hammer credits his wardrobe for helping him establish Kuryakin’s persona. “It didn’t feel like costuming,” he affirms. “It felt just like clothes because it was never over the top.” Indeed, Kuryakin was the more understated of the two agents, partly, Hammer jokes, because, “he was on a Soviet budget.”
Johnston kept the Russian agent’s wardrobe low-key and casual-sexy overall, saying, “His look was comprised of separates, suede and corduroy jackets, slacks and, of course, the turtleneck sweaters, which was the only element I had to keep from the TV show because it’s the first thing everyone I talked to mentioned.”
Solo was another matter entirely. “Solo has reinvented himself, in a way, so I thought a more considered approach would be appropriate,” she says. “He has fine tailoring from Saville Row and handmade shoes, and looks like the proper gentleman. I used Timothy Everest, a well known British tailor, to make all of Henry’s suits. He’s all about the vanity and projection of his appearance – so expensive, good-looking and chic.”
Cavill couldn’t agree more. “They were made of the most wonderful fabric and as soon as I put them on, I felt like Napoleon Solo,” he says.
Designing for the lead actresses added yet another dimension to the palette. Alicia Vikander’s character, Gaby, though introduced as a tomboy in functional overalls, quickly shifts into couture with ease. Her breezy style Johnston describes as “fresh, young, simple and clean, but with the feeling that she could do anything at any time.”
“I came in for a few fittings, which is a great way to get into character, and Joanna let me be a part of the process,” Vikander recalls. “She brought in mood boards with pictures and ideas, and it’s easy to let your imagination and fantasies take over. I saw one amazing dress with an open back that I liked and, the next time I came in, there it was.”
In Elizabeth Debicki’s chilling Victoria, Johnston saw a trace of Solo. “In her individual way, Victoria is sort of a match for him with the consideration and application, her projection of image. She likes a lot of drama in her look. She’s a snake, and she wants to snare people into her lair.”
Debicki happily collaborated with the designer on Victoria’s striking black-and-white signature look, highly polished and graphic. “Victoria’s clothes represent the best of ‘60s fashion. She’s quite a fan of bling and belts and, because she’s so wealthy, we felt there needn’t be any limit. Plus, being the villain means you can do whatever you please,” she says.
LEADING THE CHARGE
“The score was a very important, fundamental part of the film,” says Ritchie. “I think sometimes, in certain scenes, the music should lead the charge and the action is subservient to that. We worked for the first time with a talented young composer, Daniel Pemberton, and I’m quite happy with the way it turned out.”
For Pemberton, it was an experience unlike any other. “Guy’s main thing was that he wanted everything to be simple and memorable,” he relates. “He wanted every single piece of music to be unique and feel like a strong stand-alone track, while still accomplishing the things a movie score needs to do in terms of highlighting and enhancing the action. So it was incredibly challenging, but also fantastic and very exciting for me because I got to really, really push it and be incredibly bold in a way that, as a composer, you don’t normally have the opportunity to do.”
This is perhaps best illustrated in the climactic raid on the Vinciguerra compound, an extended, action-fueled sequence where so much is happening simultaneously that Ritchie offers some of it in a kaleidoscopic split-screen, propelled throughout by the score. Says Pemberton, “There is often no dialogue, or very minimal dialogue. I remember, at the time, it was me, Guy and his editor, James Herbert, trying to work out how to make it different from what audiences will have heard before, and we got the idea of trying this anarchic, almost poly-rhythmic percussion piece that echoes the intensity of the attack. It descends into chaos, out of control, but somehow pulls itself together, rising and falling with the action. It’s one of the passages I’m most proud of.”
In keeping with the film’s tonal integrity, Pemberton sought to capture a sound that combined the crispness and sophistication of today with a distinctly ‘60s flavor. The first step was the venue: “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” score was recorded in Studio 2 at Abbey Road, where even the most casual music fan likely knows, the Beatles recorded their albums.
Thematically, he says, “we went for a different, minimal approach that meant musically using less but writing and producing in a way that still has the impact of a big orchestral score.”
Technically, the Abbey Road facility proved a treasure trove of the kinds of period equipment needed to achieve the specific sound he was after. “We used every single bit of kit that has been kicking around there since the ‘60s that we could get our hands on,” he says, with all the enthusiasm of an archeologist on a successful dig. “We used tape machines, old desks, even the building’s echo chamber, which is how they created echoes before digital or even analog equipment. You’d send a microphone into a tiled room and there’d be a loudspeaker in there, and you would play the sound and record the echo in the room. We sourced some great period instruments, from vintage harpsichords to old basses and guitars, and worked with Sam Okell, their in-house 1960s genius who knows every bit of that gear from years of mixing and engineering Beatles re-masters.
“It was all part of the process of creating a distinctive sound,” he concludes. “Maybe the best way of describing it is, to sound new, we had to travel through time.”
Echoing the composer’s sentiments, Wigram says, “It’s nice to be able to recreate that time using today’s technology – the best of both worlds, essentially. Guy and I love period movies because we feel it allows us to create an experience where you can have a heightened sensibility and still suspend the audiences’ disbelief. You can go a bit larger than life because there’s always a sense of reality attached.”
“As a director, you face a number of creative considerations when you approach a project,” says Ritchie, harking back to the moment when the ideas for a big-scale “U.N.C.L.E” feature first came together for him. “The relationships, the dynamic, the narrative – they’re all exciting questions. With this, there was the added challenge of bringing a classic concept and period to life in a contemporary and entertaining way, and we all had a lot of fun seeing what we could do with it.”
ABOUT THE CAST
HENRY CAVILL (Napoleon Solo) is best known for his role as Superman in the 2013 international blockbuster “Man of Steel,” directed by Zack Snyder. Cavill will reunite with Snyder to reprise his Superman role in the much-anticipated “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” scheduled for release in March 2016.
Cavill was born in the Channel Islands. He made his feature film debut in Kevin Reynolds’ “The Count of Monte Cristo.” He went on to star in Reynolds’ romance “Tristan + Isolde,” with James Franco and Sophia Myles, and in Matthew Vaughn’s fantasy adventure “Stardust,” alongside Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro.
Cavill then starred in director Woody Allen’s comedy “Whatever Works,” and later in the mythological action film “Immortals,” directed by Tarsem Singh, which earned over $220 million worldwide.
On television, Cavill starred in the Emmy Award-winning Showtime series “The Tudors” for four seasons.
ARMIE HAMMER (Illya Kuryakin) earned a 2012 SAG Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Clyde Tolson in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar Hoover biopic “J. Edgar,” with a script by Dustin Lance Black. Hammer starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. “J. Edgar” was also honored at the 2011 AFI Awards for Film of the Year.
His performance as the Winklevoss twins in the award-winning film “The Social Network” garnered him critical praise and positioned him as one of Hollywood’s breakouts of 2010. Hammer was nominated Most Promising Performer by the Chicago Film Critics Association, and awarded Best Supporting Actor by the Toronto Film Critics Association. The film received a SAG nomination for Best Ensemble, as well as a Best Picture Golden Globe. It was also recognized by both Los Angeles and New York Film Critics, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, National Board of Review and named one of the AFI’s Top 10 Films of the Year.
Hammer was last seen starring as the title character in “The Lone Ranger,” alongside Johnny Depp, directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. In “Mirror, Mirror,” a film by Tarsem Singh, he starred as Prince Alcott, opposite Julia Roberts and Lily Collins.
Hammer recently wrapped production on “Mine,” produced by The Safran Company. He is currently filming “The Birth of a Nation,” about former slave Nat Turner, who leads a liberation movement in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virginia. He will then switch centuries to co-star alongside Luke Evans, Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy in “Free Fire,” set in 1978 Boston, where a meeting between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.
ALICIA VIKANDER (Gaby) has garnered international recognition since bursting onto the scene in her film debut, “Pure.” Vikander won Sweden’s prestigious Guldbagge Award for Best Actress in 2011 for her performance as Katarina in the 2010 Swedish drama.
2015 will see her in no less than eight films, and her upcoming projects include a starring role in the next installment of the “Bourne” action franchise, opposite Matt Damon. She has also just been announced as an ambassador for the French fashion house Louis Vuitton.
She was most recently seen in “Testament of Youth,” the adaptation of Vera Brittain’s memoirs, opposite Kit Harrington and directed by James Kent; Julius Avery’s “Son of a Gun”; and “Seventh Son,” alongside Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. Vikander also starred in the lead female role opposite Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson in Alex Garland’s directorial debut, “Ex Machina,” released in the UK in January in the US in April. It has been storming the U.S. box office and enjoying critical acclaim across the board.
Vikander recently wrapped “The Danish Girl,” starring opposite Eddie Redmayne, inspired by the true story of Danish artists Einar Wegener and his wife, Gerda. The film is set for release in the U.S. in November and in the UK in January 2016. She will also be seen starring in Derek Cianfrance’s “The Light Between Oceans,” based on the M.L Stedman novel, opposite Michael Fassbender; and the 17th Century romance “Tulip Fever,” alongside Jack O’Connell, Dane DeHaan and Christoph Waltz, directed by Justin Chadwick.
In 2013, Vikander appeared as Anke, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl, in director Bill Condon’s “The Fifth Estate,” about the formation of Wikileaks. In October that year, she starred in the Swedish film “Hotell,” reuniting with director Lisa Langseth. Her other film credits include Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina,” alongside Keira Knightley and Jude Law; Ella Lemhagen’s “The Crown Jewels,” which appeared in side competition at the Berlin Film Festival; and “A Royal Affair,” nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
In 2012, she was highlighted by the European Film Awards as one of their Shooting Stars and, in 2013, was nominated for a BAFTA Award in the Rising Star category.
ELIZABETH DEBICKI (Victoria) made her international film debut in 2013, starring as Jordan Baker in Baz Luhrmann’s hit romantic drama “The Great Gatsby,” based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton. Debicki’s performance earned a Best Supporting Actress Award from the Australian Film Institute, as well as nominations from The Australian Film Critics Association, Film Critics Circle of Australia and the UK’s Empire Awards.
Debicki’s other recent credits include a starring role in Justin Kurzel’s independent feature “Macbeth,” with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Upcoming, she will star in the Australian drama series “The Kettering Incident,” the AMC / BBC action series “The Night Manager,” directed by Susanne Bier, and director Baltasar Kormákur’s thriller “Everest,” with Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Josh Brolin and Sam Worthington, set for a September 2105 release.
A 2010 graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne, Debicki made her professional stage debut in 2011, starring in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of “The Gift.” in June 2013, she starred alongside Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in The Sydney Theatre Company’s production of “The Maids,” which received wide critical praise and went on to premiere in the U.S. at The Lincoln Centre Festival in New York City.
JARED HARRIS (Sanders) is a classically trained stage actor and former member of London’s famed Royal Shakespeare Company. Harris’ extensive film career includes Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-nominated biopic “Lincoln,” in which he played iconic Civil War hero General Grant opposite Daniel Day Lewis; his portrayal of the villain Moriarty in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” opposite Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Noomi Rapace; his appearance alongside Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in David Fincher’s Academy Award-nominated “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; and a riveting portrayal of Andy Warhol in the acclaimed indie “I Shot Andy Warhol.”
In 2015, Harris completed principal photography on two independent films: director Sean Penn’s “The Last Face,” with Charlize Theron, Jean Reno and Javier Bardem, and an untitled film by acclaimed filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, with Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart.
He was most recently seen in Gil Kenan’s contemporized “Poltergeist” remake.
In 2014, marking his foray into children’s cinema, Harris’ voice was heard as Lord Portley-Rind in the Academy Award-nominated “The Boxtrolls,” a 3D stop-motion and CG hybrid animated feature. Prior to this, he starred in John Pogue’s horror film “The Quiet Ones,” Paul W.S. Anderson’s action drama “Pompeii,” and the young adult fantasy adaptation “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.”
Harris has been equally busy this past year both behind and in front of the television camera. He stepped behind the camera for the first time to direct the eleventh episode, “Time and Life,” of the final season of AMC’s award-winning hit drama “Mad Men.” Harris had previously starred in the show for two seasons as a 1960’s ad executive, Lane Pryce, earning his first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Harris will next appear in “The Expanse,” a limited series for Syfy.
This fall, Harris will portray King George in the Netflix series “The Crown,” from Peter Morgan and Stephen Daldry and inspired by the play “The Audience,” which centers on the weekly audiences given by Queen Elizabeth II, to prime ministers from 1952 to the present day.
Harris made his film debut in 1989's “The Rachel Papers,” which was also the directorial debut of his brother, Damian. He has since gone on to appear in over fifty films in a wide array of roles, including the sleazy Russian cab driver Vladimir, in Todd Solondz's “Happiness,” for which the cast received the 1999 National Board of Review Acting Ensemble Award. His additional credits include Michael Mann’s “The Last of the Mohicans”; “Sylvia”; Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man”; Jonathan Nossiter’s “Sunday,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival; “Igby Goes Down”; “Mr. Deeds”; Michael Radford’s “B. Monkey”; Wayne Wang’s “Smoke”; and John Carpenter’s “The Ward,” among others.
Harris has accumulated an impressive list of television credits in both England and the U.S., including highly acclaimed performances as Henry VIII for the BBC production of “The Other Boleyn Girl,” John Lennon in the 2000 television drama and original VH1 film “Two of Us,” and the starring role in BBC’s dramatization of Simon Mann’s failed attempt to overthrow the oil rich African nation Equatorial Guinea in “Coup!” His additional BBC credits include the miniseries “To the Ends of the Earth” and “The Shadow in the North.” Stateside, Harris has been seen in recurring roles in both “The Riches” and the cult hit “Fringe,” and has guest-starred on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Without a Trace.”
Harris has appeared with some of the most renowned theater companies in both London and New York. His first job at the Royal Shakespeare Company was in Mark Rylance’s “Hamlet,” considered to be the defining interpretation of his generation. He made his American stage debut as Hotspur in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s “Henry IV,” Parts 1 & 2, and went on to perform with the company in “‘Tis Pity She's a Whore” and “King Lear.” His stage credits also include the New Group's Obie Award-winning production of Mike Leigh’s “Ecstasy”; the New Jersey Shakespeare Company's experimental production of “Hamlet,” in the title role; the Almeida Theatre’s production of Tennessee Williams’ bittersweet comedy “A Period of Adjustment”; and the Vineyard Theater’s production of “More Lies About Jerzy.”
Harris was born in London, and is the son of Irish actor Richard Harris. He attended North Carolina’s Duke University, where he majored in drama and literature and, after graduation, studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
HUGH GRANT (Waverly) is an award-winning actor who has received acclaim for his work in a wide range of films, which have grossed more than $2.5 billion combined, worldwide.
Most recently, Grant starred in Marc Lawrence’s romantic comedy “The Rewrite,” and had multiple roles in the ambitious drama “Cloud Atlas,” from directors Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis. He also lent his voice to the lead role of The Pirate Captain in the animated film “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” and starred in “Did You Hear about the Morgans?”
Grant is currently in production on director Stephen Frears’ comedy drama “Florence Foster Jenkins,” in which he stars opposite Meryl Streep.
His other credits include “Music and Lyrics”; “American Dreamz”; “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and its sequel, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason”; the ensemble comedy hit “Love Actually”; and “Two Weeks’ Notice.” He won a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA for his performance in “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and was nominated for Golden Globes for his performances in “Notting Hill” and “About a Boy.”
Among his many other feature film credits are “An Awfully Big Adventure,” “The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Mickey Blue Eyes,” “Small Time Crooks,” and “Extreme Measures,” which he also produced.
In addition to his Golden Globe and BAFTA honors, Grant has been awarded The Peter Sellers Award for Comedy, Best Actor at The Venice international Film Festival and an Honorary César Award.
Grant is on the board of the Hacked Off campaign.
LUCA CALVANI (Alexander), perhaps best known to American audiences for his series regular roles in the long-running daytime dramas “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “As the World Turns,” is breaking into the English-language film world in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
Calvani has an extensive list of credits in his native Italy, including the film “Men vs. Women (Maschi contro femmine)” and the miniseries “Una buona stagione.” His television credits include “Sposami,” “Don Matteo,” “Il commissario Manara” and “Tutti pazzi per amore.”
His American debut was the hit HBO series “Sex and the City,” and he has also appeared in films such as the Tom Tykwer thriller “The International,” with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts; Woody Allen’s comedy “To Rome with Love”; the romantic comedy “When in Rome,” with Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel; and “The Good Guy,” alongside Alexis Bledel. Up next, Calvani is set to star in Piotr Smigasiewicz’s independent crime thriller, “Framed.”
Calvani was born in Tuscany, Italy. He studied textile engineering in Milan and New York. While in school, he started modeling for some of the top brands, including Giorgio Armani. Calvani is trilingual – speaking both French and English in addition to Italian. He currently lives in Tuscany.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
GUY RITCHIE (Director/Producer/Screenplay/Story) most recently directed the acclaimed blockbusters “Sherlock Holmes” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” starring Robert Downey Jr. as the famed detective and Jude Law as his trusted colleague. Ritchie brought a fresh perspective to the legendary detective, based on an original story/comic book by Lionel Wigram, inspired by the classic tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The films were produced by Joel Silver, Wigram, Susan Downey and Dan Lin.
Ritchie and Wigram solidified their partnership with the launch of the production company Ritchie/Wigram, in 2011. The company’s first feature is “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
Ritchie is currently directing an original King Arthur epic, a sweeping fantasy action adventure starring Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law and Eric Bana, from a screenplay by Joby Harold, Ritchie and Lionel Wigram. Ritchie is also producing the film, alongside “Sherlock Holmes” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” producers Wigram and Steve Clark-Hall, Akiva Goldsman, Joby Harold, and Tory Tunnell. The film is slated for release on July 22, 2016.
Ritchie began his career in Britain’s film industry in 1993 as a runner on Wardour Street, working his way up to a director of music videos and commercials. In 1995, he wrote and directed his first short film, “The Hard Case,” about four cockney guys raising money to enter a card game, which formed the basis for his first feature film.
Ritchie made his writing and directing feature film debut with “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.” Made on a modest budget of $1 million and breathing new life into its genre, the film premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, became one of the UK’s biggest hits and remains a favorite. Spotlighting Ritchie’s knack for casting and discovering talent, the film launched the careers of several actors, including Jason Statham. The London Film Critics Circle named Ritchie the British Screenwriter of the Year for the film, which also received a BAFTA Award nomination for Best British Film.
This was followed by the 2000 hit “Snatch,” written and directed by Ritchie, and winning the Empire Award for Best British Director. Set in the London criminal underworld, it featured the ensemble cast of Jason Statham, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Benicio del Toro and Brad Pitt.
In addition to his feature work, Ritchie’s diverse directing credits include the short film starring David Beckham, for his H&M line; the short film “Star,” featured in Series 1 of the popular BMW series “The Hire”; and the short film for Nike, “Take It to the Next Level,” which follows the rise and fame of an up-and-coming Dutch footballer. Featuring the industry’s best players, the promo was an ambitious undertaking for Ritchie going on to win a Gold Lion at the 2008 Cannes International Advertising Festival.
JOHN DAVIS (Producer), Chairman of Los Angeles-based Davis Entertainment, is one of Hollywood’s most prolific producers, having been a producer on more than 95 feature films and movies for television that have earned more than $4.8 billion worldwide. Davis Entertainment, established in 1986, has enjoyed a long-standing first-look production deal at 20th Century Fox, but produces projects for all studios and mini-majors.
Some of the company’s action-adventure-thrillers include the acclaimed hit “Chronicle”; the sci-fi hit “I, Robot,” starring Will Smith; the blockbuster “The Firm,” starring Tom Cruise; “Courage Under Fire,” starring Denzel Washington; “Waterworld,” starring Kevin Costner; “Predator,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; “Behind Enemy Lines,” starring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman; “Predator 2; Flight of the Phoenix,” starring Dennis Quaid; the John Woo action film “Paycheck,” starring Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman; and “Alien vs. Predator,” combining the two classic creatures; among many others.
Davis’ family films include the Jim Carrey starrer “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”; “Norbit,” starring Eddie Murphy and marking their fourth film together; “Garfield” and “Garfield 2”; the $100 million-plus hit Eddie Murphy comedy “Daddy Day Care”; the two hugely successful “Dr. Dolittle” films, starring Murphy; the Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau trilogy “Out to Sea,” “Grumpy Old Men” and “Grumpier Old Men”; “Fat Albert,” written by Bill Cosby; “Marmaduke,” based on the comic strip of the same name; and the Jack Black adventure comedy “Gulliver’s Travels,” which earned $200 million worldwide.
Among his numerous upcoming feature projects are “Victor Frankenstein,” starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe; the animated feature “Ferdinand the Bull,” with Carlos Saldanha directing; the actioner “Protection”; Shane Black’s “Predator”; and David O. Russell’s “Joy,” starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro.
Other Davis productions include “When a Stranger Calls,” a remake of the 1979 horror classic which took the top spot its opening week; and “Heartbreakers,” starring Sigourney Weaver, Gene Hackman and Jennifer Love Hewitt, which also opened as the country’s #1 film.
A hallmark of Davis’ success is his ability to attract the industry’s most successful actors, directors, writers and other creative talent. He has produced a number of successful, multi-title franchises, including the “Predator,” “Grumpy Old Men,” “Dr. Dolittle” and “Garfield” films, making him well-known for his ability to brand entertainment, extending his titles beyond the theatrical applications. Davis’ career is further distinguished as his films are routinely produced for responsible budgets and thus earn domestic and international box office success, such as “Garfield,” which was produced modestly and earned nearly $200 million worldwide.
Davis has a canny knack for securing rights to projects long but unsuccessfully sought after by others, including the “Garfield” films, “Fat Albert,” “The Sims,” “Marmaduke,” the rights to the Ringling Bros. circus story, “Dr. Dolittle,” “Flight of the Phoenix,” and the two Grisham novels, The Firm and The Chamber. Davis also continues to produce DVD premiere titles born out of his successful “Garfield” and “Dr. Dolittle” franchises as well as numerous other titles.
Davis Entertainment Television has produced 20 telefilms, including the NBC movies “The Jesse Ventura Story” and “Little Richard,” and the ABC movie “Miracle at Midnight,” starring Sam Waterston. His television department has series and made-for-television movies set up with all of the major television networks and cable broadcasters. Davis also produced the hit NBC mini-series “Asteroid”; “Volcano: Fire on the Mountain,” for ABC; NBC’s highly rated movie of Truman Capote’s short story “One Christmas,” starring Katharine Hepburn; and the popular CBS movie “This Can’t Be Love,” starring Hepburn and Anthony Quinn. He is an executive producer on the acclaimed NBC crime series “The Blacklist,” starring James Spader, now in its third season. He will also serve as an executive producer on the new NBC drama series “The Player,” and the new comedy series for ABC, “Dr. Ken,” starring Ken Jeong.
Davis was born and raised near Denver, Colorado. His obsession with film began as a youth when his father purchased the neighborhood movie theater, where he sold popcorn and subsequently viewed up to 300 films a year. Davis graduated from Bowdoin College, attended Amherst College and received an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School. His successful business ventures include setting up and running TV Stations and Wetzel’s Pretzels, which Davis was instrumental in expanding and sold in 2007, and his new pizza company, Blaze.
STEVE CLARK-HALL (Producer) previously served as a co-producer on Guy Ritchie’s worldwide hit “Sherlock Holmes,” and executive producer on its sequel, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” He first collaborated with Ritchie as a producer on “Revolver,” and later produced the director’s acclaimed action comedy “RocknRolla.”
Clark-Hall began his career at the BBC, leaving in 1972 to set up his own production company, Skyline Films. One of the early suppliers of programming to Britain’s Channel Four, Skyline produced over 300 hours of television programs before moving into feature film production in the early 1990s.
Among his most recent projects, Clark-Hall executive produced director Ravi Kumar’s historical drama “Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain” and director Andy Goddard’s biographical drama “Set Fire to the Stars,” about Dylan Thomas. He also served as a producer on the 2013 NBC horror series “Dracula.”
Clark-Hall’s credits include the films “Separate Lies,” directed by Julian Fellowes and starring Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson and Rupert Everett; Kenneth Branagh’s “The Magic Flute”; “Love and Other Disasters,” starring Orlando Bloom, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brittany Murphy; and “Body Armour,” starring Chazz Palminteri. In addition, he produced the Channel Four telefilm “Britz,” directed by Peter Kosminsky, which won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Drama.
Clark-Hall also co-produced “Man to Man,” starring Joseph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas; and the true story “Calendar Girls,” starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. His additional film producing credits include “Saving Grace,” starring Brenda Blethyn; William Boyd’s “The Trench,” starring Daniel Craig; “Still Crazy,” starring Stephen Rea and Bill Nighy, which earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical; Alan Rickman’s “The Winter Guest,” starring Emma Thompson; “Love and Death on Long Island,” starring John Hurt; Gillies Mackinnon’s “Small Faces”; and Derek Jarman’s “Edward II.”
LIONEL WIGRAM (Producer/Screenplay/Story) marks his third collaboration with director Guy Ritchie, and the first venture of their joint production company Ritchie/Wigram Films, with “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” They are currently working on their fourth film together, an original King Arthur epic on which Wigram serves as a producer and writer, scheduled for release in July 2016.
Wigram is also a producer on “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” based on the book by J.K. Rowling, to be released in November 2016. Wigram was instrumental in realizing the creative possibility of adapting the book as a film.
Previously, Wigram was a producer and co-wrote the story for Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes,” conceiving the world's greatest detective for today's audience. He was also a producer on the sequel, “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.”
During his tenure at Warner Bros. Pictures, Wigram was responsible for acquiring J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books for the Studio and was involved with the blockbuster franchise from the very beginning, overseeing all eight films in the series – first as a production executive and then as an independent producer.
Wigram also served as executive producer of “August Rush” and “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole.”
As a studio executive, Wigram also championed such films as “Three Kings,” “Charlotte Gray” and “The Big Tease.”
Prior to joining Warner Bros, Wigram spent ten years working in the independent world, both as an executive and as a producer. He ran Renny Harlin's Company and worked for Shep Gordon and Carolyn Pfeiffer at Alive Films. Wigram's first job in Hollywood was as a runner for producer Elliott Kastner. He worked his way up, eventually producing several low-budget films for Kastner in partnership with Cassian Elwes.
Wigram grew up in England. He was educated at Eton College and Oxford University where he was a co-founder of the Oxford Film Foundation.
JEFF KLEEMAN (Story) graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in English. He curated exhibits at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ran a story department at Carolco. In 1987, Kleeman joined Paramount Pictures and was a development and production executive on “Internal Affairs,” “The Hunt for Red October,” “Shirley Valentine” and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.” He was also responsible for the development of “Deep Cover.”
In 1991, Kleeman became Vice President of Production for Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope, where he worked on “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” initiated Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow,” was associate producer on “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” co-producer on “Kidnapped,” and executive producer on “Haunted” and “The Titanic.”
Kleeman joined MGM/UA in 1993, where he was Executive Vice President of Production. He was responsible for overseeing the revitalization of the James Bond franchise, beginning with “GoldenEye,” then “Tomorrow Never Dies” and “The World Is Not Enough.” He oversaw the development and production of “Rob Roy,” “Hackers” and “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and was responsible for the acquisition of “Leaving Las Vegas.” While at MGM/UA, Kleeman also developed “Cold Mountain,” “Heartbreakers” and “The Pink Panther.”
In 1999, Kleeman left MGM/UA to work with Robert Redford, developing strategies for Redford’s future Sundance Entertainment Ventures. He also served on the Board of Directors of The Sundance Channel.
In 2005, Kleeman co-created and was show-runner for “Misconceptions,” a multi-camera sitcom for The WB. In 2006, he wrote a single-camera comedy, “Roll with It,” for Fox Television and, in 2007, wrote a one-hour drama pilot, “Sleeping Beauty,” for ABC, Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick. He also returned to MGM/UA as Executive Vice President of Motion Picture Production.
In September 2008, Kleeman joined David Dobkin as President of Big Kid Pictures. In 2010, he wrote a one-hour pilot for Warner Bros. Television, based on the film “Time After Time.” He also executive produced “The Change-Up.” Kleeman was executive producer on the single-camera half-hour series “Friends with Benefits,” which aired on NBC in 2011.
Kleeman also served as an executive producer on the acclaimed feature drama “The Judge,” which Dobkin directed, and, most recently, the reboot of the classic comedy “Vacation,” starring Ed Helms.
In August 2012, Kleeman became President of Ellen Degeneres’s company, A Very Good Production. Their current roster includes the series “Green Eggs and Ham” on Netflix; “Ellen’s Design Challenge,” on HGTV; “One Big Happy,” “First Dates” and “Little Big Shots” on NBC; “Repeat After Me” on ABC; and “Hello/Goodbye” on Travel Channel.
His upcoming projects include producing, with Degeneres, the feature film adaptation of Hugo Award-winning author Naomi Novik’s latest novel, the fantasy Uprooted.
Kleeman is a member of the USC Cinema School faculty, where he teaches graduate courses on film development, production and the studio system. He has lectured at Yale, UCLA and Northwestern, and at several film conferences, as well as taught Film Independent’s Screenwriter’s Lab. Kleeman has chaired Film Independent’s Spirit Awards Nominating Committee. He has served on the board of directors of The Sundance Channel, IFP West and The Los Angeles Film Festival Advisory Committee, and served as a judge for the International Thriller Writers Best Screenplay Award. Kleeman currently chairs the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Screening Committee. He is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The Writers Guild of America, The Producers Guild of America, The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and The British Academy of Film & Television.
DAVID CAMPBELL WILSON (Story) is the writer of “Supernova” and “The Perfect Weapon.” Wilson has worked on films with directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, John McTiernan, and Walter Hill.
DAVID DOBKIN (Executive Producer) revived the hard-R-rated comedy genre when he directed the 2005 summer blockbuster “Wedding Crashers,” starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. The romantic comedy about two buddies who sneak into weddings to pick up women grossed more than $285 million worldwide at the box office. Last year, Dobkin directed and produced the drama “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall and Billy Bob Thornton. Duvall received both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
Dobkin made his feature directing debut with the 1998 dark comedy “Clay Pigeons,” which marked his first collaboration with Vaughn. The film also starred Joaquin Phoenix and Janeane Garofalo. Dobkin then proved his ability to combine action and comedy in the hit film “Shanghai Knights,” with Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan.
Most recently, Dobkin produced the new comedy “Vacation,” with Ed Helms, Chris Hemsworth and Leslie Mann, under his Big Kid Pictures banner.
In addition to his feature film success, Dobkin is an award-winning commercial and music video director. He was awarded a Bronze Lion at the Cannes Film Festival for his Sony PlayStation spot, “Bell.” Dobkin has directed music videos for such artists as Tupac Shakur, Elton John, John Lee Hooker, Sonic Youth, and Blues Traveler, to name only a few. He won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Dance Video for Coolio’s “1, 2, 3, 4.” He also directed the smash hit music video for Maroon 5’s “Sugar,” which went viral and as of now, has over 375 million views.
A native of Washington, D.C., Dobkin graduated with honors from New York University’s (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts in 1991, with a BFA in film and television. He began his career six years earlier as an assistant to the production manager on John Schlesinger’s “The Believers.” While pursuing his film studies at NYU, he worked in development for Warner Bros. His NYU thesis film, “52nd St. Serenade,” won several national and international awards, including a 1992 CINE Golden Eagle Award and a Gold Award at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
JOHN MATHIESON (Director of Photography) is one of a group of filmmakers who emerged out of the music video industry of the late ‘80s and ‘90s. He came up through the traditional camera ranks and worked as a camera assistant to Gabriel Beristáin for several years. Mathieson was first recognized in 1998 for his work on the music video “Peek-A-Boo,” by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Mathieson honed his craft through the 1990s shooting numerous television commercials and music videos for artists including Madonna, Prince and Massive Attack. He collaborated with John Maybury, director of Sinead O’Connor’s music video “Nothing Compares 2 U,” going on to photograph Maybury’s award-winning film “Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon,” in 1998.
In the mid ‘90s, Mathieson photographed two feature films for director Karim Dridi, for which he later received the Legion of Honor’s Chevalier by the French government. He came to the attention of Tony Scott while shooting television commercials for the London-based company RSA Films. After working as visual effects cinematographer on “Enemy of the State” for Tony Scott in 1998, Mathieson photographed the film “Plunkett & Macleane” in 1999 for Jake Scott. Having seen Mathieson’s work on “Plunkett,” Ridley Scott invited him to work on his next project, beginning a regular collaboration between the two. Mathieson has photographed four films for Ridley Scott: “Gladiator,” “Hannibal,” “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Robin Hood.”
In 2001, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on “Gladiator” and won the BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography in the same year. His second Oscar nomination came in 2004 for “The Phantom of the Opera,” directed by Joel Schumacher. Mathieson’s other feature film credits include Marc Evans’ “Trauma,” Stephen Woolley’s “Stoned,” “K-Pax,” “Brighton Rock,” “Burke and Hare,” “X-Men: First Class,” Mike Newell’s “Great Expectations” and “47 Ronin.”
Mathieson most recently wrapped work on director Joe Wright’s action adventure “Pan,” set to open on July 24, 2015. He is currently re-teaming with Guy Ritchie on the director’s next feature project, an original King Arthur epic, currently in production toward a July 2016 release.
Mathieson is a member of the British Society of Cinematographers.
OLIVER SCHOLL (Production Designer) is a film production designer most noted for “Independence Day,” “Godzilla” and “The Time Machine.” His production design for Doug Liman’s “Jumper” led to Scholl designing the director’s most recent feature project, the 2014 action thriller “Edge of Tomorrow.”
Scholl is currently at work on director David Ayers’ action adventure “Suicide Squad,” set for an August 2016 release.
Scholl was born in Germany and studied industrial design at Pforzheim University. An avid reader of science fiction novels and aerospace books, his interest in the intersection of art and technology began in his teens and continues to inform his work today. At the age of 15, Scholl’s first of many illustrations was published in the German science fiction series Perry Rhodan.
Conceptual design work for filmmaker Roland Emmerich led to Scholl’s transition into the motion picture industry and his relocation to Los Angeles in 1991. He began working as a conceptual designer or illustrator on such feature films as “Stargate,” “Batman Forever,” “Mission to Mars” and “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”
In addition to development work on films, TV series, theme parks, video games, music videos and commercials, Scholl continues to create artwork for science fiction publications. His favorite aspect of production design is exploring the visual opportunities environments can offer to make a story come alive.
JAMES HERBERT (Editor) has worked with director Guy Ritchie on a variety of projects, most recently including the global blockbusters “Sherlock Holmes” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” Their previous collaborations include the features “RocknRolla” and “Revolver,” the documentary “The Ego Has Landed,” and the ABC television pilot “Suspects.”
Herbert most recently served as editor on director Doug Liman’s action thriller “Edge of Tomorrow.” His additional film credits include “Gangster Squad”; the independent features “The Sweeney,” for director Nick Love; “Echelon Conspiracy”; “Lesbian Vampire Killers”; the remake of the 1974 cult classic horror film “It’s Alive”; the thriller “Devil’s Harvest”; the comedy “Dirty Sanchez: The Movie”; and Paul Verhoeven’s internationally acclaimed World War II drama “Black Book.”
As an assistant editor, Herbert’s credits include “Sahara,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz; Wolfgang Petersen’s “Troy,” starring Brad Pitt; “Peter Pan,” directed by P.J. Hogan; Jan de Bont’s “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” starring Angelina Jolie; the James Bond film “Die Another Day”; and Tony Scott’s “Spy Game,” starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.
DANIEL PEMBERTON (Composer) is an Ivor Novello-winning and multi BAFTA Award-nominated composer. Previously best known for his highly acclaimed work in British television, Pemberton has scored countless Emmy and BAFTA Award-winning dramas and documentaries, such as “Complicit,” “Peep Show,” “The Game,” “Upstairs Downstairs,” “Dirk Gently,” “Prey,” “Space Dive,” “Occupation,” “Desperate Romantics” and “Hiroshima.” His debut feature film score was for the period supernatural thriller “The Awakening,” in 2011, which caught the ear of Ridley Scott. Scott, heavily impressed by the standout work and what he called the composer's 10,000 hours in the garage, hired him to score his 2013 feature, “The Counselor.”
Pemberton collaborated again with Scott on the director’s first foray into television, “The Vatican,” in 2014. This work, alongside his scores to other features such as “Blood,” in 2012, “In Fear,” 2013, and “Cuban Fury,” 2014, led Pemberton to be named Discovery of The Year at the prestigious World Soundtrack Awards in 2014.
Working across a wide range of musical mediums, Pemberton has embraced everything from large scale orchestral and choral works to innovative electronic sound design, live salsa bands to post-rock guitar line-ups. His eclectic versatility, as well as a desire to create unique and iconic scores for every project, resulted in the composer being chosen by Guy Ritchie to take on the music for “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
Pemberton is currently working with Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle on the eagerly awaited biopic “Steve Jobs,” starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet.
JOANNA JOHNSTON (Costume Designer) earned Academy Award and BAFTA Award nominations for her work on Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed biographical drama “Lincoln.” Her work on that film also earned her nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Costume Designers Guild. As a costume designer, Johnston has enjoyed a long association with Spielberg, on such films as “Saving Private Ryan,” “Munich,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “War of the Worlds” and “War Horse.” She first worked with him while assisting Academy Award-winning costume designer Anthony Powell on “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”
Earlier in her career, Johnston also assisted Powell on such films as “Evil under the Sun” and Roman Polanski’s “Tess.” Her assistant designer credits include working with Milena Canonero on “Out of Africa,” for which Canonero was nominated for an Oscar. She also assisted Tom Rand on his Oscar-nominated work on “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” and on “The Shooting Party.”
Johnston has also collaborated frequently with filmmaker Robert Zemeckis on features including “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “Back to the Future Part 2,” “Back to the Future Part 3,” “Death Becomes Her,” “Contact,” “Castaway,” “The Polar Express” and the Academy Award-winning “Forrest Gump.” She worked with director Bryan Singer on the action adventure “Jack the Giant Slayer” and the historic thriller “Valkyrie.” Her other feature credits include M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable”; Paul and Chris Weitz’s “About a Boy,” for which she earned a Costume Designers Award nomination; and Richard Curtis’ “Love Actually.”