Cruise has opted instead to reprise his role in the continuingly successful Mission: Impossible series. A fifth film in the long-running saga, which is also based on an espionage-themed TV show from the 1960s, is being planned following the $694m box office success of Brad Bird's fourth instalment. Shooting schedules for the two projects are said to have clashed.
George Clooney was initially in line to play American spy Napoleon Solo, the lead role in The Man from UNCLE, in a version that would have been directed by Steven Soderbergh. Studio Warner Bros is also said to have considered Channing Tatum, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, and Joel Kinnaman, star of US TV series The Killing.
The Social Network's Armie Hammer remains on board to play Russian agent Illya Kuryakin, the other member of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement to feature regularly in the original TV show, which ran from 1964 to 1968. Swedish actress Alicia Vikander is in talks for the female lead. Warner will now hope to attract another A-list star to replace Cruise.
Ritchie is hot property in Hollywood after directing two Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ingenious sleuth.
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