This week will finally see the answer to one of Hollywood's great questions: will audiences watch a 'Bourne' movie without Matt Damon? The answer will be provided by Tony Gilroy's "The Bourne Legacy," the first of what could be a potential franchise starring Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, a similar agent to Jason Bourne, but a product of the Department of Defense's Operation Outcome, a different training program from the CIA's Treadstone. Gilroy is no stranger to the 'Bourne' franchise, having been a writer or co-writer on all three installments, but once Damon and "Bourne Supremacy" and "Bourne Ultimatum" director Paul Greengrass decided against returning, he was tasked with creating what producer Frank Marshall called a "same-time-quel."
We recently sat in during the "The Bourne Legacy" press conference in Beverly Hills, California, attended by writer/director Tony Gilroy and co-writer (and brother) Dan Gilroy, Marshall and fellow producer Patrick Crowley, as well as cast members Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton. Here's what we learned about the action sequence, the story and the production that took them around the world.
Well, sort of, anyway. 'Legacy' pulls back the curtain on the pharmaceutical nature of the Treadstone and Outcome training programs, which are apparently fictionalized versions of real programs. In Universal's press notes, attention is given to Gilroy's research process, which focused on government projects like DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) that are looking for ways to improve the modern soldier. "There's no drug testing in war," said Gilroy in the notes. "There's a very real appetite to have soldiers with increased energy, higher pain thresholds, and less need for sleep."
During the press conference, Crowley backed up Gilroy's claims and revealed that there is a ring of truth to the training programs in the 'Bourne' films. "I remember talking with Tony, even back in 'Supremacy' [days]. Tony has this intense obsession with the American intelligence community to which he literally said, 'You know, there's Treadstone, but there's a whole bunch of others,'" said Crowley. "And the research that he's done, there are a while lot of parallel agencies. The Department of Defense has got one, National Security's got one, each one of the services has something, so it actually is the way that these organizations are structured."
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Gilroy admitted that directing 'Legacy' was not something he "ever, ever, ever" thought he would do, but yearned to "do a big movie." Once Universal asked Gilroy to come up with a story for another 'Bourne,' the director admitted that the process was much like playing a game.
"You know, they tried for a long time - a lot of smart people tried to figure out how to go forward after 'Ultimatum' because it wrapped up so beautifully," Gilroy admitted. "Such a nice package. I was never a part of that. I'm not sure I could have figured out anything else to do with that. By the time everybody had left, and the party was sort of over, they started a second round of 'What do we do post-Bourne?' The first conversation was really like a game. It was really, like, how can we go forward...'You could say that there was a much larger conspiracy. You could say that that was only a small piece of this thing.' So that's a sexy idea. Everybody gets involved in that; everybody likes that idea. 'God, you know what else you could do? You could have 'Ultimatum' play in the background of the first 12-15 minutes of the movie. There could be a phone call from the other movie to our movie!' Everybody gets very excited. And even Danny [Gilroy] got excited. But it's not the real deal, you know there's no movie -- all that's very sexy, it's like a beautiful shell. I didn't get really interested, even in writing a script on it much less directing it, until the character dropped in the slot, when the character came through and we suddenly realized there was a character that had as fundamental an issue, as fundamental a problem, as much meat on the bone as there was for Jason Bourne...that's when it really got interesting. That's when Danny and I started talking to each other 19 times on the phone instead of once a day."
Dan Gilroy concurred. "The mythology of the first franchise sort of allowed itself to be expanded upon. It was interesting to sort of shift the angle on it and say, 'This was going on simultaneously' and there was enough real estate and open space that you could fill in a pretty interesting backdrop and future for the franchise."
Tony added: "It was to fun to put them together and see if everything worked. And for the people that are the super-freak fans, there's a lot of dissecting enjoyment."