Based on the cult 1960s Cold War spy series conceived by James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, Guy Ritchie's retelling of The Man from U.N.C.L.E is both a nod to the past and a pointer to the future. That's because Ritchie, along with his writing partner and co-producer Lionel Wigram, is on a mission to turn their favourite childhood tales into blockbuster films.
"We're slowly ticking off our wish-list of things we grew up with and loved," he says. "I don't know if it's just a phase we're going through or if we'll eventually end up doing our own stuff again but, for the moment, these are the things we're excited by and think they'd be good to redo."
Consequently, in the past, he and Wigram have revamped Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic, Sherlock Holmes, into two fast-paced, fun-filled romps starring Robert Downey jnr and Jude Law.
Likewise, in the future, they'll be retelling Arthurian legends in Knights of the Round Table: King Arthur, the first instalment of a planned six-film series. But, for the present, Ritchie and Wigram are focusing on reviving the 1960s spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The result is an action-packed caper which pits American C.I.A. agent Napoleon Solo - played by Superman star Henry Cavill - against his Russian KGB adversary Illya Kuryakin, portrayed by Lone Ranger Armie Hammer, until they reluctantly have to team up to counter a global threat.
"I remember, with great nostalgia, watching repeats of The Man from U.N.C.L.E as a kid in the 70s. I loved it," Ritchie explains "I could never get it out of my system because I just had an intuitive response to that show; it rang a bell with me. A few years ago I started to think about how cool it would be to do a remake of it."
It's a feeling Wigram shared - as did veteran producer John Davis. He'd already optioned the film rights to the 60s TV series, back in 1993, but despaired of The Man from U.N.C.L.E ever getting made after a dozen failed attempts to draft a suitable script and big-name directors Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh all turning their backs on the project. But Ritchie and Wigram couldn't resist getting involved.
"What I remember most about the series was its tone - it just struck a note with me. So when the opportunity arose to make the movie, I jumped at the chance," says Ritchie. "As a filmmaker, it's important to feel that committed to a project you're involved in because - unlike an actor who can make four or five films a year - you're investing two years of your life in one thing, so it has to be something you're passionate about."
Another reason why it's perfect timing for a remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E is the growing frostiness between Washington and Moscow.
"It does seem more relevant, because of what is going on in the world right now," acknowledges Ritchie. "In some ways, today's world is reflective of the tensions of the 60s that the movie plays on.
"That's why we wanted to keep it 60s-based, to capture the essence, style and uniqueness of that time," he adds. "But we also wanted to make it immediately accessible to today's audiences and, as in the original, as attractive and fresh as possible - so that it's both period and contemporary."
For leading man Cavill, taking over the role of America's early answer to James Bond makes a nice change from the Man of Steel.
"Going from a superhero to super spy is ... super," he wisecracks, discussing his role as Napoleon Solo, who was originally portrayed with suave swagger by Robert Vaughn. "Actually, after playing such a stoic character, like Superman, it's refreshing playing Napoleon Solo because he's likeable and fun.
"With Superman, as much as I love the character, he's someone you respect and admire as an icon rather than someone you like or relate to."
Cavill admits he was unfamiliar with the original Man from U.N.C.L.E series, but was quickly captivated by the Cold War backdrop, plotlines and the look for the era.
"No-one's as smooth or suave as Napoleon and pretending I am is ridiculous," he insists. "I love his style, the 60s suits he wore and the cars he drives, but I'm not a fashionista or petrol-head, by any means."
Despite his protests, Cavill is perfectly cast as the charming, loveable rogue spy - even if Tom Cruise was originally earmarked to go Solo, before filming commitments for Mission: Impossible, his own former Cold War television series-inspired franchise, forced him to step aside.
"Trying to fill Tom's boots is a dangerous trap to walk into so, rather than worry about how he'd do it, I just concentrated on playing Napoleon the way I thought he should be played - which is probably a very different way from the way Tom would have played him."
Who: Guy Ritchie and Henry Cavill
What: The Man from Uncle
When and where: Opens at cinemas today