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Exclusive: George Clooney Eyeing Lead In Steven Soderbergh’s ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’

Exclusive: George Clooney Eyeing Lead In Steven Soderbergh's 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'

While In Early Stages, Picture Is Being Envisioned As “Back To Roots” ’60s-Set Film

2011 is shaping up to be a banner year for director Steven Soderbergh and therefore likely a big one for Warner Bros. too. The prolific filmmaker is planning on releasing his latest spy-based action thriller “Haywirenext spring, he’s currently shooting the virus thriller “Contagion” for an already-planned October 21, 2011 release date (Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow are just a few of the A-list names, but no, it won’t be in 3D), and he’s just announced his latest project, the big screen version of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” for the aforementioned WB.

But it’s even getting even better. Sources very close to the director tell us an A-lister is already in talks with Soderbergh to star in the picture and that star would be none other than “Ocean’s 11-13” actor, George Clooney.

Clooney and Soderbergh are obviously not strangers as the actor has starred in six of the director’s films, including “Solaris,” “The Good German” and “Out Of Sight.” Their now-defunct co-owned film production company, Section Eight also produced “Syriana” as well as the Clooney-directed films “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and “Good Night, And Good Luck” (Section Eight was also planning once on making “Est,” the story of Werner Erhard, founder of the “personal growth” seminars known as est during the 1970s before they shuttered, and Clooney was going to co-produce; that plan was scrapped long ago).

We’re also told that as awesome as this sounds, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” is still very much in its early stages. However, WB chief Jeff Robinov has signed off on Soderbergh’s original take on the material, which would not modernize the film and keep it set in the director’s beloved 1960s (one just needs to take a look at “The Limey” for how much affection the lenser has for this era of filmmaking).

Another plan is to start from scratch which would mean throwing out all the old existing scripts (various iterations penned by Max Borenstein and David Campbell Wilson once for David Dobkin, now a producer on the project and Doug Liman who eventually passed). So Scott Z. Burns, who wrote Soderbergh’s “The Informant,” “Contagion,” and recently turned in his draft of “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” for David Fincher, would essentially start from a blank page and the idea is to “take back ‘U.N.C.L.E’ to its roots.” We’re also told the Clooney/Soderbergh plan is being seen as their “last film together,” presumably because the helmer is still thinking about the early retirement he’s been envisioning for a few months now.

As recently echoed by Matt Damon, we’re told Soderbergh still intends to shoot “Liberace” in the summer or early fall with Michael Douglas and “The Informant” star. Michael Douglas is apparently doing well and has finished his cancer treatment. The filmmaker is currently in Chicago shooting “Contagion” which will also star Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, and more recent additions like Demetri Martin, Bryan Cranston and Elliott Gould.

So the plan, currently, is to squeeze “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” in as a late 2011 shoot, but with “Liberace” shooting mid-to-late year and Clooney still having to put post-production touches on his next directorial effort “Ides of March,” it’s conceivable that 2012 may be more realistic. Though it certainly wouldn’t be the first time the filmmaker has shot multiple films within one calendar year.

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