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The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and several of his affected relatives

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Fans of the 1960s television series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” were buoyed when, several months ago, a long-gestating big-screen version of the show gained some momentum at Warner Bros.

To update the playfully droll Cold War program about a Russian and an American agent who work together to fight an evil agency, the studio had brought on a new writer (an up-and-comer named Max Borenstein) and, according to numerous reports, also had a director on board (David Dobkin, best known as the filmmaker behind “Wedding Crashers” and, at one point in its development, the director of “Cop Out”).

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Now, “U.N.C.L.E.” is picking up more speed -- of a sort. Borenstein has turned in his script (which is said to be a commercial action thriller with some comedic touches, but not the other way around) and the studio likes it and wants to move forward, according to sources. But Dobkin, it turns out, will only produce, not direct, which has led the studio to intensify its search for a director.

The company recently went out to Doug Liman to direct “U.N.C.L.E.,” with the idea that the director of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” would be a good candidate to take on another action thriller with lighthearted moments, as the new U.N.C.L.E. reads. Warner Bros. has long been high on Liman, who already has a packed schedule at the studio -- he’s on the company’s new “Three Musketeers” movie (probably on the backburner) and the hot graphic novel adaptation “All You Need Is Kill” (very much on the frontburner). But sources say that the studio and producers liked him just the same for “U.N.C.L.E.” and that Liman, in turn, was intrigued by the idea -- but decided he probably wouldn’t take the gig.So now the studio needs a director again. Given that there are several filmmakers in the Liman mold -- directors who can handle big scenes with a comedic touch -- you wouldn’t necessarily think it would be hard to find a worthy candidate. And given how interested they are in making this one, it may not be that long before they hire him. After the sputtering of lighthearted action movies such as “Killers” and “Knight and Day,” though, that person may just want to stay out of romantic territory.

-- Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

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