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The Men from U.N.C.L.E. Henry and Armie

Aug 10, 2015

By: Lynn Barker

You know handsome actors Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill. Armie was the prince in the Snow White movie Mirror Mirror and played The Lone Ranger. Henry is Superman in Man of Steel and the upcoming Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice.

Henry as Solo (the shades make the man)Henry as Solo (the shades make the man)Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The two teamed up to play 1960’s spies Napoleon Solo (Henry) and Ilya Kuryakin (Armie) in the funny action film The Man from U.N.C.L.E based on a popular 1960’s TV series. Both admit they really had to work on their accents. Henry is British and played an American and Armie is an American playing a Russian! Both mention working to put their heads into the 1960’s Cold War environment when the U.S. and Russia were arch enemies and we worried about being blown up in a nuclear war all the time!

Armie walks into the interview room.

  • Henry: I always expect you to be blonde (after he was in the movie)
  • Armie: Puberty really wrecked my hair. I was a towhead blonde as a kid.

Q: This TV series was running before you guys were born so when you took on the roles was there anything you felt you had to pay more attention to?

  • Armie: Yes and no. Anytime you approach a property that has been done before or has a dedicated fanbase, people who really enjoy it or remember it nostalgically, you want to be careful and tread lightly because you want to make those people happy. We are packing this film so that if you don’t have that past of watching it as a kid, you can still go to this movie and understand what’s going on and appreciate the characters.

Armie as Ilya looking suaveArmie as Ilya looking suaveCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Armie, you had to find a happy medium with the Russian accent so you didn’t sound like you were doing a parody of one.

  • Armie: Yeah. I think what I was trying to do with the accent was try to sound as authentic as possible. If you go back and watch American film, especially from the ‘60’s, ‘60’s and ‘80’s, every Russian is an arch (villain) character. They are Boris from “Rocky and Bullwinkle”. They are like (in thick Russian accent) “Natasha!” That’s not really how Russians speak. They were a bad guy so they thought they should sound like a bad guy. That wasn’t what I was aiming for.

Armie as Ilya undercoverArmie as Ilya undercoverCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Henry, did you have any accent problem playing Napoleon Solo?

  • Henry: The hardest thing for me was the accent because when we started (director) Guy (Ritchie) said “Okay, I want you to sound a bit like (classic movie star) Clark Gable but not Clark Gable”. I said “Okay, cool”. Mid-Atlantic (USA) but there has got to be a date to it as well, not modern Mid-Atlantic. So I sat with our dialogue coach and he ran me through some Clark Gable stuff. We worked on it. We kind of got it down, and then we started shooting. Guy kept saying “That word sounds wrong. It sounds weird. Come and listen. It just sounds too English” or “That word sounds too American”.

Q: Wow, you really had to work on it.

  • Henry: We had to try and finesse it in a different way. Finally he just walked out and said “Look, it just sounds like you are a Brit who is doing an American accent. (laughter) I know you can do one and people who have seen other movies you’ve been in know you can do one but people who haven’t are just going to think you are bad. We need to make it more American”. So, it became an effected American accent which was Trans-Atlantic and dated. That’s what we settled with.

Henry as Solo with '60's fashioned Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki)Henry as Solo with '60's fashioned Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki)Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: What about the action scenes? There is a lot of physicality in the movie, especially in your fight.  It can be graceful and gritty. How was that as actors?

  • Henry: Despite our fight looking very rough, it was very short. It didn’t take long to shoot and it wasn’t very complicated. It didn’t require as much in the way of fitness either but Armie had to run for three days straight chasing that bloody car.
  • Armie: I’ve had better days.
  • Henry: I think the real physicality came with Armie.
  • Armie: And I’m not the one who is that physically fit. Henry is Superman sitting in the car relaxing and I’m out there sweating “Oh God, you got the wrong guy!”

Ilya (Armie) ready for actionIlya (Armie) ready for actionCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Did either of you make up your own backstory as to where these guys came from etc.?

  • Armie: It’s kind of a boring actor story but Ilya was basically raised in the heart of Soviet Russia. His father was in the military but did something politically dishonorable and was sent off to the Gulags (remote prisons) like millions of Soviets at the time. So Ilya was dealing with the shame of that and also, he was a physical specimen chosen from a young age and put in training at schools where they were breeding him to become a super spy. It’s a school where you mess up and they whip ya.

Q: Wow, harsh!

  • Armie: That’s why he doesn’t have any other ambitions other than to be the best spy he can be. He isn’t worried about going home to eat a beautiful plate of risotto with truffles or line his pockets during a mission. He is just there to do the mission. That’s why there is an even more fun rub between the two of our characters.

Armie and Henry with director Guy RitchieArmie and Henry with director Guy RitchieCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: The atmosphere of the Cold War is strange for you (with nuclear war hanging over the heads of 1960’s people). This is more of a period movie for you.

  • Henry: But even today, there is still the idea of constant threat. The great thing about the ‘60’s and even today as well, despite this underlying threat at all times, people are still doing about their lives in the ‘60’s and really, really enjoyed it. Right now, in Britain, there is the threat of terrorism nonstop and especially in America so we can appreciate how it may have felt. I mean it’s not quite the same as nuclear apocalypse but maybe we can be a bit more in tune with it.

Q: Did you watch any episodes of the original TV series?

  • Armie: I did watch the original series. I didn’t necessarily do it to learn any parts because David McCallum played the part of Ilya Kuryakin and he did a great job but it was a specific role at a specific time for a very specific show which was very different from the movie we’re making now (even if) the bones are similar and the characters are the same, it’s a very different show than our movie so there wasn’t really anything I could pull off of it. More of less it was to give myself the historical context and understand why we’re making this movie.

Armie as Ilya to the rescueArmie as Ilya to the rescueCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: You’ve both been in some big blockbuster movies, if you were in the future, looking back at your careers, what would you hope to see?

  • Henry: I think just a great range of different movies which make a lot of money and are respected.
  • Armie: And just keep working.
  • Henry: Yeah, and just have consistent work. I mean Armie now has a full-fledged family (wife Elizabeth Chambers and baby girl).
  • Armie: Diapers are expensive.

Q: Napoleon Solo is a very suave character, a suave and smug character. Henry, how did you portray the character so audiences were invested in him?

  • Henry: Good question. Often Guy would walk in and say “Funny, but it seems a little smug. I don’t like it”. You have to trust your director on that because you never know how it’s coming across and you’d say “Oh right. I’ll bring it back” or he’d say “We would probably find it funny if you look at Ilya in a particular way and then turn your back on him but the audience isn’t going to like you for it because what Ilya has just done previously, his experience with the audience, makes you look like a d**k”. So, just trust in your director.
  • Armie: It’s funny to watch people being put in uncomfortable situations they don’t know how to deal with and that’s pretty much Ilya’s life.

Henry and Army in bkg. with director Guy RitcheHenry and Army in bkg. with director Guy RitcheCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Playing it straight and not slapstick must have been difficult.

  • Armie: You had to find the truth in the situation or it could get very slapsticky and you would be the goofy Russian guy who is all thumbs and doesn’t know how to talk to this person. Play it like it’s not funny.

Q: Henry, you’ve played a tortured, moody guy (Superman) and in this one you are more casual. Do you enjoy that?

  • Henry: Absolutely. I enjoy being an actor. You get to play these different roles then see yourself in imaginary characters. It’s fun. I wouldn’t want to play the same character over and over again forever. You have to mix it up and break it up. Otherwise it gets boring. Napoleon is fun to play and as much as Superman’s a very stoic character, it’s very cool to be Superman. He’s got super powers and can do cool stuff. It’s fun to switch and change.

Henry (Solo) vs. the baddiesHenry (Solo) vs. the baddiesCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: This is a great cast. What was it like on set? What were the relationships like?

  • Henry: Most enjoyable movie I’ve worked on. We all walked away as friends and we’ll all come to see each other again as friends. I don’t think anyone got in any disagreements or tiffs. It was just relaxed.
  • Armie: Which is rare for a bunch of actors.
  • Henry: We’re such emotional drama queens.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. PosterThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. PosterCourtesy of Warner Bros.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is in theaters August 14th!

** Rated PG-13**