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Apple’s star-studded spy movie Argylle just got a release date, but I still have so many questions

Updated Jun 15th, 2023 9:31PM EDT
Argylle on Apple TV+
Image: Apple

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As a fan of spy movies and TV shows like Tehran and Slow Horses on Apple TV+, I was pretty excited when I heard the news that Apple had paid a serious chunk of change to bring Argylle — a lavish, star-studded spy movie — to its streamer. And now, after more than a year of the movie’s status being in limbo, Apple has finally announced a release date for it: Argylle will debut in theaters on February 2, 2024, before streaming globally on Apple TV+.

The cast for the movie, based on a forthcoming book of the same name, is one reason why it’s been such a buzzed-about Apple release. Argylle will feature pop superstar Dua Lipa, as well as The Witcher’s Henry Cavill — plus Sam Rockwell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, John Cena, and Samuel L. Jackson. As for the plot? It’s apparently about a novelist who’d once been a superspy and now suffers from amnesia. And I say “apparently,” because here’s the thing:

There’s a pretty strange mystery surrounding this movie and its source material. Long story short, what the iPhone maker bought is the right to make a $200 million movie out of a novel from 1) a first-time author named Elly Conway with 2) almost no presence of any kind online. And it gets even weirder.

Argylle: The mystery around this Apple TV+

In addition to Apple spending a huge sum of money to adapt something from a super-mysterious, first-time writer — who barely has a digital footprint, beyond 4) an empty Instagram account with no posts and that follows just one person (@authorellyconway) — the book that Argylle is based on won’t even be published sometime in the fall or winter of this year, based on various Amazon book landing pages. In fact, this Apple TV+ deal was reportedly made on the strength of 5) simply a draft manuscript.

That book was actually supposed to be published last September, but that release date got pushed to March 30, according to The Hollywood Reporter (another date that’s come and gone). Last time I checked, an Amazon landing page for a German-language Kindle edition of Argylle listed the publication date, at least for that Kindle edition, as January 10 of this year (yet another date that’s come and gone). That landing page now lists a date in November of this year, while there’s a French Kindle version supposedly set for publication in September.

Beyond the Instagram account above, meanwhile, the only other facts that are readily available online about “Elly Conway” are as follows:

There’s a two-sentence biography available via Argylle’s publisher, Penguin Random House: “Elly Conway is the author of the heavily anticipated debut thriller, Argylle. She lives in the United States and is currently working on the next installment in the series.” That page lists yet another publication date: 9/11/2023.

Conway’s IMDb credits also include one other movie, in addition to Argylle. Her IMDb page, which describes Argylle as currently in post-production, also seems to identify Conway as a “design assistant” for a 2024 movie that’s in pre-production — It’s The Fall Guy, from John Wick director David Leitch and starring Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling. (see for yourself).

What we do know

Naturally, the Internet has some theories. But let’s first recap what we do know for certain about the film.

The film’s director Matthew Vaughn (of the Kingsman movies and X-Men: First Class) praised the draft manuscript when Apple first announced Argylle. “When I read this early draft manuscript I felt it was the most incredible and original spy franchise since Ian Fleming’s books of the ‘50s,” he said at the time. “This is going to reinvent the spy genre.”

At Apple’s Peek Performance event in March of 2022, the company also released a blink-and-you’d-miss-it snippet of footage from Argylle, as part of an Apple TV+ sizzle reel. You’ll find it at around the 3:20 mark in the YouTube video embedded below:

One of the most interesting theories about all this online is that Conway is actually a pseudonym for a creator with an established track record, which feels like a better explanation for why Apple would get behind a project like this, from a first-time writer, in such a big way.

J.K. Rowling being “Elly Conway” is one of the juiciest suppositions that’s been mentioned in light of all this on Twitter and Reddit. It’s a conclusion I certainly can’t fault people for coming to, especially since she’s written under a pseudonym before. Another prevailing theory, though, is that this is all some kind of marketing stunt.

Or, even, that some kind of nepotism is being disguised with this whole charade. That theory calls to mind a Hollywood Reporter investigation, from 2017, into the mystery of “Rebecca Blunt,” the writer of director Steven Soderbergh’s movie Logan Lucky. As it turned out, there is no such person in existence — and the piece pointed to none other than Soderbergh’s wife as the likely writer of Logan Lucky. Hopefully, Apple will clear up the mystery here soon, one way or the other.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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