Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape 'MacGyver' Movie Reboot And New TV Series Pilot On The Way 'MacGyver' Movie Reboot And New TV Series Pilot On The Way Josh Brolin Says He's Starring With Jessica Chastain In A Movie About George Jones & Tammy Wynette Josh Brolin Says He's Starring With Jessica Chastain In A Movie About George Jones & Tammy Wynette Watch: Robert Richardson Explains Why He Took His Name Off 'World War Z' And More In 58-Minute Cinematographer Talk Watch: Robert Richardson Explains Why He Took His Name Off 'World War Z' And More In 58-Minute Cinematographer Talk George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior Stephen King Says Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "Like A Big, Beautiful Cadillac With No Engine Inside It" Stephen King Says Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "Like A Big, Beautiful Cadillac With No Engine Inside It" Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video SAG Award Winners: ‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Ensemble, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba & Brie Larson Also Score Big SAG Award Winners: ‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Ensemble, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba & Brie Larson Also Score Big Review: ‘Jane Got A Gun’ Starring Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton & Ewan McGregor Review: ‘Jane Got A Gun’ Starring Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton & Ewan McGregor The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More

Discuss: Does Universal Need Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass To Return For 'Bourne'?

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist February 20, 2012 at 10:24AM

So far in 2012, Universal has been flexing their box office muscle hard thanks to the success of a couple of no frills action vehicles. Mark Wahlberg's midbudgeted ($25 million not including P&A) "Contraband" is already over $70 million worldwide (most of that from the domestic box office), with a number of foreign territories still to open. Meanwhile, audiences are loving the Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds pic "Safe House," with the movie pushing its way to number one in its second weekend, with the film already outpacing "Contraband" and on track to bag over $100 million at the domestic box office alone. And while the latter pic is pricier ($85 million plus P&A and whatever percentage off the top Denzel gets) the success of these two films illustrate that bare bones, raw knuckle action not only sells, but Universal knows how to sell it. So where does Jason Bourne fit in?
8
Paul Greengrass Matt Damon

So far in 2012, Universal has been flexing their box office muscle hard thanks to the success of a couple of no frills action vehicles. Mark Wahlberg's midbudgeted ($25 million not including P&A) "Contraband" is already over $70 million worldwide (most of that from the domestic box office), with a number of foreign territories still to open. Meanwhile, audiences are loving the Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds pic "Safe House," with the movie pushing its way to number one in its second weekend, with the film already outpacing "Contraband" and on track to bag over $100 million at the domestic box office alone. And while the latter pic is pricier ($85 million plus P&A and whatever percentage off the top Denzel gets) the success of these two films illustrate that bare bones, raw knuckle action not only sells, but Universal knows how to sell it. So where does Jason Bourne fit in?

We don't need to rehash the ugly history, but essentially 'Bourne 4' with Matt Damon returning and Paul Greengrass directing, was killed in late 2009 when the helmer walked from the project (taking the loyal Damon with him) over a variety of creative issues he and the studio couldn't work out. Essentially, Universal had hired Josh Zetumer to write a new script (without consulting Greengrass) after the George Nolfi draft wasn't cutting it. Moreover, the studio was still smarting over the expensive flop that was "Green Zone," a film originally intended as a smaller piece between the bigger budgeted franchise movies. And while the chatter surrounding the upcoming spinoff/parallel "The Bourne Legacy" has been that the door (at least narratively) is being left open for Damon and Greengrass to eventually return, does Universal really need them?

Between "Contraband" and "Safe House," it's arguably the latter that could easily be spun into a new franchise. **PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD** With the picture closing on Tobin Frost's death, and Matt Weston leaking the CIA's dirty secrets to the internet. He turns down a big juicy job at the agency to do the right thing, and an easy sequel would have the CIA tracking him down and/or using him to find another rogue agent (maybe someone cheaper than Denzel). **PLOT SPOILERS END** Essentially, it's not brain surgery to come up with a serviceable storyline for a "Safe House" followup and we won't be surprised if in the coming weeks, we hear word that development starts on a sequel. And lord knows, of anything Ryan Reynolds has tried to turn into a franchise over the past couple years, this is his best bet. But more importantly (at least to the execs) the talent vs. cost on a sequel to "Safe House" is likely far more affordable than a Damon/Greengrass 'Bourne' (and this film, in many ways from the story/structure right down to the use of the same cinematographer Oliver Wood, is cut from the same agent-on-the-run cloth).

Meanwhile, Universal has smartly placed "The Bourne Legacy" teaser trailer in front of "Safe House" to get the early word out they are rebooting the franchise (in a sense). While a budget figure hasn't been released, there is no doubt it will be far cheaper than the reported $75 million and $110 million for "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum" respectively (more on that in a second). If Jeremy Renner as the new Bourne fails to catch on, it's not a problem because Universal has Damon and Greengrass in their backpocket. But if it does become a big hit...where is the incentive to hire them back? And would they want to?

While both 'Supremacy' and 'Ultimatum' were massive hits, that success overshadowed the expensive productions that became notorious for reshoots and Greengrass' method for "finding the movie" or "figuring it all out" during the middle of production. With Universal showing a tremendous belt-tightening over the past year, ending their relationship with Hasbro and putting a stop to handful of potentially risky projects in development including Guillermo Del Toro's "At The Mountains Of Madness" and Greengrass' own mooted "Memphis," returning to a well that has cost them in the past, doesn't seem to fit the business model. And there's one more thing: remember Josh Zetumer? Well last week Universal picked up a script the writer for a new spy franchise. 

Of course, there is a counter argument to all of this: the Matt Damon led Bourne movies have grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide. That's nothing to sneeze at, and you can bet if Renner can't come near Damon's numbers, Universal will be eager to get both the actor and director back in the fold. But if "The Bourne Legacy" is a big hit? They might not be so quick to run the phone. But if 'Legacy' underperforms and they can't get Damon and Greengrass on the same page? Universal has set themselves up with options to bring lean and mean action thrills -- in potentially new, but similar franchises -- to audiences who have clearly said they want more.

This article is related to: Matt Damon, Paul Greengrass, Safe House, The Bourne Legacy, Josh Zetumer


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates