“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” not only shares the spy genre with “Mission: Impossible 5,” it once had the same leading man. But Tom Cruise dropped out of the Warner Bros. picture two years ago, and before that George Clooney was attached with Steven Soderbergh.
At the Monday night premiere of “U.N.C.L.E.” at New York’s Ziegfeld Theatre, director Guy Ritchie explained why he finally offered the role of American spy Napoleon Solo (introduced in the 1964 TV series) to Henry Cavill. “I met Henry over a couple other projects,” Ritchie says. “I thought I could bring out something in him we hadn’t seen before.”
Cavill recently finished reprising his role as Superman in another WB blockbuster: “Batman v. Superman,” scheduled for a 2016 release. He said he hasn’t seen the film yet, but had high marks for his co-star Ben Affleck. “I would describe him as a great Batman.”
He revealed that when he originally auditioned for “U.N.C.L.E.,” it was for the part of Russian spy Illya Kuryakin (now played by Armie Hammer). “And then Tom dropped out, and they thought these two guys would work together, myself and Armie,” said Cavill, adding that he did most of his own stunts on the film that shot for two months in England and Italy. “All the underwater stuff. Some of the driving stuff. There’s one fight we couldn’t do ourselves.”
Hammer knew he needed to perfect a Russian accent for his audition and spent two days cramming. “It was strictly YouTube,” he said. “If you type in Russian, there are so many videos of Russians speaking English or broken English. You hear the vowels and consonants that are ubiquitous. Thank God for the Internet. How else would you get porn?”
As for Alicia Vikander, who plays the female lead Gaby, her audition was on Skype from Australia, where she was shooting another film. “I was on an island, and there were a lot of boats behind me because I was at a harbor,” Vikander said. “Guy just pointed out, and we talked about boats and a silly cat that ran behind me. I tried to switch the conversation to the film. He said, ‘I want to see if you’re cool or not.’” She got the part.
The after-party was held at Bowery Hotel. “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” opens on Friday.