Because of all the myriad problems during the production, almost everyone invovled assume 'Identity' was going to turn out to be an expensive bomb. "The word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey," Damon said in a recent GQ interview. "It's very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it's good." Others agree. "Oh yeah, oh man, nobody was more surprised then me," Tony Gilroy said about how the film was ultimately salvaged and became a success in a recent interview with The Playlist (more of which you'll see closer to the release of "The Bourne Legacy"). And as near-legendary as its problems were, apparently not all of the story has been told. "It's a story that people have avoided talking about for a long time," Gilroy told us.
Liman, known to be super rebellious and not taking no as an answer from studios, was upfront about the issues in a 2008 interview. "Universal hated me,” he said. “I had an archenemy in the studio. They were trying to shut me down. The producers were bad guys.” Liman came from the independent world, and was even hired on that basis, Universal hoping that he'd bring something fresh to the genre: studio chairman Stacey Snider told the Wall Street Journal at the time that "I was intrigued by the pairing of an independent-minded filmmaker with a familiar studio genre. Look, I'm a moviegoer and I'm bored. I'm getting tired of movies that all look the same." But an extremely costly production, where Liman would flip-flop on decisions, change his mind and constantly redo scenes created a rift between Universal and the director so deep, that at points during filming, all communication was cut off and Damon had to step in as a communique emmisary. “I would be his surrogate because at least I could be heard,” Damon told Vulture in 2008, but things got so bad that when Liman would ask to reshoot a scene, producers would immediately say no.
At one point when the rebellious Liman was told he wasn't allowed to reshoot a scene, he went rogue and shot it anyhow. “That was the huge epic screaming fight, the biggest screaming fight on the set ever,” Liman said in 2008. The fight was so bad Liman apparently explored the option of auctioning off his director’s credit on eBay.
But by his own admission, Liman was "flippant" and difficult with the studio from the get go, fighting them tooth and nail on the project. Universal's suggestion that they shoot in Montreal for Paris led to the director's reaction of "What are they talking about? Because they speak French in Montreal, it's going to look like Paris? Nothing looks like Paris." And once on set, he hired a French crew that didn't speak English, and insisted on operating the camera himself. Liman and Gilroy fell out on set (though the writer considers it the best of the initial trilogy) over the director's processes, Gilroy later telling the New Yorker "He didn’t have any sense of story, or cause and effect," while Liman for his part referred to the scribe as "arrogant."
The reshoots took place over 10 days in two different countries, extensively reworking the last act of the film, although Julia Stiles' unavailability meant that her old scenes had to been incorporated into the rest. The turmoil meant that Liman wasn't asked back for the second installment, although he'd go on to make equally fraught-with-production-problem blockbusters "Mr. And Mrs. Smith" and "Jumper." Even though Bourne was saved -- from would-be turd to $213 million worldwide -- none of it would appease Universal who now owned the rights and kicked him to the curb, banning him from other sequels. “I lost my baby,” he said (Liman now has a mostly meaningless "executive producer" credit on the 'Bourne' films, but bringing him back into the fold would be nothing short of a miracle).
To this day rumors persist that Liman was fired after production was done and Frank Marshall and the editors finished up the film. Tellingly, Marshall, Gilroy, Damon and several other production members appear in various elements of the bountiful "The Bourne Identity" DVD extras and features, but Liman is nowhere to be seen or found.