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Exclusive: Tony Gilroy Pulls The Curtain Back On The Secretive 'The Bourne Legacy'

by Rodrigo Perez
July 20, 2012 12:08 PM
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Bourne Legacy, Ed Norton, skip crop

But composing ‘Bourne’ was never very simple. Not for a fourth iteration and not even during its nascent beginnings. At the risk of sounding redundant, “The Bourne Identity” was plagued by set problems, delays and setbacks, and the events of 9/11 further affected the approach studios and filmmakers made toward any geopolitically-flavored film. Director Doug Liman -- who brought the Robert Ludlum-penned books to Universal in the first place -- was effectively barred from helming any further sequels and everyone involved assumed the film would be a turkey.

“Oh man, nobody was more surprised than me. It's a very long and quite honestly, a story people have avoided talking about for a long time,” Gilroy said about “The Bourne Identity” drama. “It really was a very dire situation, the key participants in the film were the people who were most shocked at its success.”

Gilroy said after principal photography on the film was completed, he and the producers on the film had to spend an additional year repairing and deconstructing the movie with reshoots and re-editing. An entire post-9/11, friendly fail-safe ending was shot and then discarded (it’s on the DVD extras). He calls the experience extremely educational in the manner in which a movie is malleable. “It's not a way to make a movie,” he stressed. “I learned a lot about what I would never do.”

"It's not a way to make a movie. I learned a lot about what I would never do.”

Gilroy’s antipathy towards Paul Greengrass is no secret. Suffice to say they butted heads during the makings of “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.” When Greengrass deconstructed Gilroy’s screenplay in ‘Ultimatum’ (as he did with ‘Supremacy’) and painted himself into a corner on set, unlike ‘Identity’ -- where Gilroy would fax in changes and rewrites that very day -- the screenwriter was nowhere to be found. Part of his own ultimatum for writing the 'Ultimatum' screenplay was not babysitting the script outside of a master draft (instead screenwriters Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi were called in as fixers).

Nearly $1 billion dollars later, the ‘Bourne’ trilogy had wrapped and arguably concluded itself with satisfying finality. Jason Bourne discovered he was originally born as David Webb in Indiana. He was a patriot who volunteered for the Treadstone program, and he no longer suffered from selective retrograde amnesia. He was free. As far as Damon and Greengrass were concerned, the themes of identity and amnesia were pounded into the ground. Two aborted “Bourne 4” screenplays later, the direction with where to take the next film eluded everyone; and the drafts penned were never to the liking of Greengrass and Damon. In the fall of 2009, two years after “The Bourne Ultimatum” was released, Greengrass walked away from the series (something The Playlist reported first) and with loyalties intact, effectively took Damon with him; the actor refusing to star in a ‘Bourne’ picture without his director.

While both filmmaker and star would not rule out a return to the series one day, they acknowledged, until a good idea surfaced, they would let the series lie as it was. “There were no traditional good ways to go,” Gilroy said. “They were sort of out of road.” And Gilroy was long gone by then too, having already chalked up an impressive seven Oscar nominations for his directorial debut “Michael Clayton,” and released his sophomore effort, the corporate espionage picture, “Duplicity.”

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  • snazzy | July 22, 2012 10:36 AMReply

    Ask Tony Gilroy if he wrote any of the finished product of the Bourne Ultimatum. I cannot stand the guy and he was the one that got Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon off the new film.

  • precisely so | July 22, 2012 5:58 AMReply

    Gilroy didn't write Ultimatum - it was written by George Nolfi and Scott Z Burns after he walked off the picture. But he must have liked their idea of inserting a phone call from another movie - since he admits right upfront he stole it for this movie. Why do you guys never call him on this stuff?

  • Duh | July 22, 2012 10:25 AM

    Yeah, he did. He wrote 1 draft and it was a condition of working on the film --since he didn't want to -- that he wrote one draft and one draft only. When there were problems later on, two writers were called in to work on it. Even Matt Damon said he wrote a draft (one that Damon dissed earlier this year).

    That's very public record stuff. How do you not know that before opening your mouth?

  • Arnold | July 21, 2012 9:53 AMReply

    Thx for this news, i ve been waiting for this news for a long time :)

  • JJ's uncle | July 21, 2012 7:27 AMReply

    Don't worry, Gilroy. As you yourself imply, Americans love crap. It should do great!

  • kerry | July 20, 2012 5:08 PMReply

    the more and more information i get about this movie the more i feel confident it will be good

  • shutthefuckupdonnie | July 20, 2012 1:27 PMReply

    i like gilroy i think he's a good director and i think he'll do a good job with this

  • ronin | July 20, 2012 12:55 PMReply

    i know there are skeptics out there but i think this has a shot to be really good, i mean great cast , great director i think it will be good

  • cameran | July 20, 2012 12:45 PMReply

    i really like gilroy, i think michael clayton was definitly one of the best films of the last decade, i can't wait to see this

  • kingslayer | July 20, 2012 12:40 PMReply

    wow i didn't know corey stoll was in this, now i'm even more excited

  • Matt | July 20, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    Come on, guys, it's ROBERT Elswit, not ROGER.

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