Update: Deadline reveals a few more names in contention: Joel Edgerton, Josh Hartnett, Paul Dano, Michael Pitt, Oscar Isaac, Michael Fassbender, Luke Evans, Alex Pettyfer and Benjamin Walker. So basically, everybody.
We're surprised it took this long but let it begin: the casting process has begun for the next installment in the Jason Bourne franchise, the names are big and these actors will likely not be the only ones mentioned before a lead is settled upon.
Variety reports that Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, Garrett Hedlund, Taylor Kitsch and Kellan Lutz are among the actors in the mix for Tony Gilroy's continuation of the franchise. Gilroy has never had an easy relationship with the 'Bourne' franchise, but he was paid handsomely to pen the scripts for each installment, but became increasingly frustrated with what ended up on screen (tellingly, he reportedly agreed to write "Bourne Ultimatum" under the conditions that he would never have to speak to Paul Greengrass, would only pen one draft -- indeed, three writers are credited -- get paid, and wash his hands of the entire affair). But he's finally set to make Bourne the way he always wanted, landing in the director's chair last fall.
Gilroy has apparently been meeting with several actors over the past week, to find the right fit for whoever will take on the role in the ongoing saga; but remember, it won't be the role of Jason Bourne. The door will be left open for Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) to return, so instead this installment of the series will likely focus on another agent enlisted in the clandestine Operation Treadstone.
With an August 2012 release date already tentatively scheduled, and a spring production start slated, the pressure is on to find the lead role -- a part that is certainly highly sought after. As Variety hints, and as we have heard separately in the last few weeks, Gilroy has been having trouble and has become somewhat frustrated in locking down his male lead. Gilroy is insisting on screen-testing all the candidates -- a move that might alienate the more established thespians -- while the director and studio both have their own ideas as to who should take on the juicy lead role. As you can tell from the names mentioned it's a mix of A-list -- Gyllenhaal and Maguire -- mixed with up-and-comers Hedlund ("Tron: Legacy"), Kitsch ("Battleship") and Lutz ("Twilight").
Filling in the shoes left behind by Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon is no small task and unlike any of the tentpoles set for 2012 -- except for maybe "Superman" -- the decision will be highly scrutinized. But Gilroy is an intelligent fellow with a sharp sensibility and his insistence on screen-testing and making sure the actor is the right fit gives us faith. A decision will probably come down soon, but until then, let the speculation run rampant and before the hate begins on these choices just remember: Matt Damon was considered a ludicrous choice until he proved himself in "The Bourne Identity" so anything can happen.