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

Photo of Rodrigo Perez By Rodrigo Perez | The Playlist July 20, 2012 at 12:08PM

Tony Gilroy has a mini-armada at his disposal. In June of 2012, in an unassuming block of offices in midtown Manhattan, the writer/director is sequestered with a team of editors orchestrating the next installment of Universal’s lucrative ‘Bourne’ franchise, which grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide theatrically and a surfeit more from DVD and omnipresent cable appearances. But Gilroy -- who was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay in 2007 for "Michael Clayton," and is the author of all three original ‘Bourne’ scripts -- isn’t simply mounting a reboot or a reimagining, or conducting a linear sequel. Instead, the filmmaker is attempting to pull off a feat rarely attempted with Hollywood tentpoles: a parallel circumnavigation of the familiar ‘Bourne’ narrative told through the eyes of another agent.
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Jeremy Renner, The Bourne Legacy

Gilroy is well-aware the window for the dramatic middle ground films that are his bread and butter -- the “Michael Clayton” films of the world -- are shrinking. In fact he says that period ended around the time of "Duplicity" was released in 2009. He says it’s over and it’s not coming back, but griping about it is like complaining about the weather. The filmmaker says all good drama has dispersed en masse to the land of TV. While he seems open to exploring that one day, the director says he gained a large appetite for “big time filmmaking,” creating "big time shots" and fantastic scenes during ‘Clayton’ and “Duplicity.” Gilroy says after his debut he was offered a lot of action pictures and to be puzzled by him directing ‘Bourne’ is an underestimation. But, if you want to work where he aspires to stay, in what he refers to as "the big game" of feature films with a real budget, one has to find material that engages both the filmmaker and the audience. " 'Bourne' hit that sweet spot for me," he says.

Tony Gilroy declines to engage in questions about Matt Damon, the star of the ‘Bourne’ series who made disparaging remarks about Gilroy’s ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ script earlier this year. But suffice it to say the filmmaker still seems shocked, surprised and hurt for someone he clearly has admiration for. "I don't understand that at all. I don't know where it came from. I think Matt is one of the greatest actors of his generation,” Gilroy told Empire magazine recently.

"If this works, it will be with a real cosmology and real mythology going forward."

But Gilroy doesn’t seem to be preoccupied with that dramaturgy at the moment and is more keen on moving “The Bourne Legacy” into the future. He’s already thinking sequels, but is acutely aware audiences have to embrace this pilot franchise film first. He has a vision that he’s mapping out and hints at it in this new film: if there was Treadstone/BlackBriar and now there's Outcome, who's to say there aren't further programs out there? And who's to say the puppet masters of this film aren't pawns in an ever larger scheme?

“If this works, it will be with a real cosmology and real mythology going forward,” he says. “It will very nicely clear some fields to the horizon that are legitimate, interesting things to play with that aren't cheesy."

Still, the question remains: will Damon ever return to the fold? One can envision a future film where Jason Bourne is watching the events of 'Legacy' unfold from wherever he's currently hiding. Will he pop back on the grid like he did in "The Bourne Supremacy" after months of being underground? Or even better, will there be a Damon/Renner crossover movie?

"It's wide open," Gilroy says with a faint trace of hope on his face. "I don't know."

“The Bourne Legacy” hits theaters on August 10th.

Bourne Legacy, Jeremy Renner skip crop

This article is related to: The Bourne Legacy, Tony Gilroy, Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Features, Interviews, Interview


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