After what has been a long and difficult search for the leading stars of the planned film adaptation of the ’60s TV show, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Steven Soderbergh has decided to bow out from the project, The Playlist report, leaving the director’s chair now open.

Soderbergh and his fellow Contagion writer, Scott Z. Burns, had been working with Warner Bros. on the project since early last year. But after George Clooney, who had been set to star as the American lead, had to withdraw because of back problems stopping him from doing the stunts necessary for the film, the casting quickly became a problem.

Numerous big names have been talked about for the leads since Clooney’s exit, including Matt Damon, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Joel Edgerton, and most recently Channing Tatum (with whom Soderbergh has been working with on Magic Mike), but nothing seems to have stuck.

This week, the studio gave Soderbergh their budget proposal for the film around the $60m., which the director felt wouldn’t be enough given the scope of the film, set in the ’60s, across four continents, with the plan to have it be the first in a potential franchise. Thus, with the intended March production date getting closer, he decided that it would be better for him to simply move on, which I think is fair enough.

Back in March, Soderbergh announced his intentions to retire from filmmaking after making two more films, which at the time were The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and his Liberace biopic, Behind The Candelabra, after his upcoming Haywire and Magic Mike, along with the recently released Contagion. With the latter Liberace film set to be shot next summer, which Soderbergh is both committed to making (and its brilliant cast includes Matt Damon and Michael Douglas in the leads) and committed to making his last film (at least for the time being), moving on from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. sounds like a solid move for him, granting him some time to fill the slot left in his calendar with another movie in its place.

Contagion has been pretty widely successful, more than doubling its $60m. budget, and Haywire, due out here on 20th January, is set to be another awesome film from the Oscar-winning director (you can catch the most recent trailer here). Since Soderbergh is planning at least a temporary withdrawal from directing, it makes sense to only focus on projects he really wants to be making, and if The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has stopped being that for him, then moving on to find something else in its place sounds good in my books. I’m hoping it won’t be long until we hear what his plans are for early next year, because I’m eager to get behind any and all Soderbergh projects whilst we still can. As always, more news as and when we get it.