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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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Having washed his hands of the entire affair and launched a very successful directing career, bringing Tony Gilroy back into the ‘Bourne’ fold wasn’t initially tenable. There had been drama. There had been endless aggravation and fences had to be mended before conversations could really take shape. Producer Ben Smith and his Captivate partner Jeffrey Weiner, also the executor of the Ludlum estate, coaxed an initially reluctant Gilroy into a meeting in New York one morning after the director had “previously rebuffed inquiries from others on the subject before,” Smith said. The duo scored a small coup when Gilroy hesitantly agreed to give it a “thought” and nothing more. It was all they could ask for.

But before Gilroy fully came on board, he says a “lot of crazy ideas were being thrown around" by the studio and producers. He describes reboots, ‘Bond’-like recasting and prequels -- all ideas that were toyed with -- as deeply cynical. "You can't replace Matt Damon with Sam Worthington or whomever, or do a prequel,” he says. “We had to keep reminding everybody who is getting frustrated that we couldn't do anything cynical. You have to approach it like a really soulful, authentic thing."

"You can't replace Matt Damon with Sam Worthington or whomever, or do a prequel.You have to approach it like a really soulful, authentic thing."

Weeks later after some digging, Gilroy called the Captivate producers up (who produced the picture in association with Patrick Crowley and Frank Marshall of Marshall/Kennedy) and said, much to their elation, “I have an idea.” They never dreamt he would write the thing, let alone eventually direct it. Gilroy describes these meetings as exploratory and mercenary to a certain extent, equating it to a fun math problem one tries to solve with zero pressure. But then he hit a vein. And soon he hit an artery. Then came genuine excitement.

“You hit something and you go, ‘Oh my god, there's a fire inside here that's really cool,’ ” Gilroy says about hitting the eureka moment that eventually spawned the larger ‘Legacy’ narrative and more importantly the character who could anchor it, Aaron Cross. “This has all the elements that could interest me for, you know, two years of my life.”

Gilroy’s idea was risky. Matt Damon wasn’t coming back anytime soon, and they’d have to re-platform their franchise with a new star. But the idea was so juicy and rich, the producers and Universal were soon on board. “It didn't take a lot of convincing for everybody to be like ‘Let's just double down and be ambitious,' ” he says. “Not in a cocky way, but if we fail let's fail for really doing something, really blowing off the doors.”

“The Bourne Legacy” does just that. It’s high-octane chess and while familiar in tenor, the picture pushes the envelope of what you’ve come to expect from the ‘Bourne’ story. “Enchancement” -- a chromosome modifier spelled out in recent trailers -- is a four-letter word in some circles of the fan-based ‘Bourne’ universe, but Gilroy believe those who are most vocal about these issues are going to be most pleased when they realize how it connects to the series’ core themes of bending an agents will to do their bidding without question; the perfect soldier. Jason Bourne, after all, had also originally volunteered for Operation Treadstone and soon his identity had been subsumed beyond his own recognition.

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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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