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Jeremy Renner's Biggest Challenge Was "Not Getting Hurt": 10 Things Learned About 'The Bourne Legacy'

The Playlist By Ryan Gowland | The Playlist August 10, 2012 at 12:04PM

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."  
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Weisz Renner Bourne Legacy

6. Gilroy likes to write action for a location.
Once the locations were settled on for 'Legacy,' Gilroy could then start writing the action scenes. One of his secrets for writing a successful action sequence was "writing to a location." Gilroy explained: "The secret is saying, 'here is where we are.' Whether it's a street, or whether it's a set, or whether it's Monument Valley or wherever it is. And step by step, rigorously writing a script. Writing into every moment. And not faking anything and not cutting any corners. It's just attention to detail. It's stitch after stitch after stitch. There's no shortcut. It's the same thing as writing behavior. If you want to write a character's behavior, a lot of times you want a shortcut and say, 'God I really want to have him do this,' or 'I want to have him do that.' You really have to get inside every single goddamn one of them and go, 'What would I do if I was this person.' What are the things I might do next?' If I've got a gun and you put somebody in and they're hiding here, and someone's over there and someone's over there, there are certain things that have to happen, and if you use the limitations as your friend, it always comes out on top."

One particular action sequence takes places in Marta's house, which is in the midst of a renovation, and Gilroy said that the scene went through "a dozen drafts" before he was satisfied. "It's the same thing that all these great actors do, every performance that they calibrate along the way, it's the same thing on a macro level with choreography," said Gilroy. "The scene in the house went through a dozen drafts. We finally, by the tenth pass, we were sending back diagrams of what the house looks like, and then we redesigned the house and there's a hole in the floor...and then you rebuild the set to what you need. It's just trying to be as bespoke as possible all the time."

Another one of Gilroy's secrets was to make sure that the audience knew where they were during the action. "When you get to the action, it has to have the maximum testosterone and energy it possibly can," explained Gilroy. "There's a lot of ways to do that. I like knowing where I am in action sequences...A lot of attention went into that: 'How can we keep the energy up and orient people?' All the conversations and all the anxiety, by the third day we were shooting, the residue of that is what carried through for the next 100 days."

Jeremy Renner The Bourne Legacy
7. Renner's biggest challenge was not getting hurt.
It would seem that carrying a well-known franchise might be the biggest hurdle to overcome, but according to Renner, the hardest part of playing Aaron Cross was simply "not getting hurt," which was a challenge since Renner did a lot of his own stunt work. "Pretty much I can't get injured," said Renner. "I wanted to do as much as I could. Because of the responsibility of the authenticity of the three films prior, it would do a great injustice and disservice to this film if I could not perform what was required, and I like those challenges. I like those physical obstacles. And outside of that, it's a job. Page 1 to 120. Tremendous cast and directors and writing, and it was exciting to go to work."

At least physically, Renner said that he didn't get injured beyond a few bumps and bruises. "I hurt my feelings here and there," the actor quipped. "You get banged up a little bit, but if you don't get banged up, you're not working hard enough, in my mind. But I never got injured so much that it stopped me from doing what I had to do."

Jeremy Renner The Bourne Legacy
8. Directing action scenes is not unlike being a six-year-old or having children.
Another major action sequence in 'Legacy' is an extended motorcycle chase sequence where Cross and Marta are pursued on two wheels through the streets of Manila. While Gilroy couldn't exactly remember how long it took to shoot the sequence (though, in a recent featurette, Gilroy says it took months), he said that planning out the sequence was not to different from playing like a six-year-old or like having kids.

"I know that even before we had the script finished, I sat down with Dan Bradley -- who'd done the other films [as a] second unit director and stunt coordinator and much more than all of that -- and I said, 'Look, here's what's coming up, and I need you desperately.' And we started conversations right then. And it goes from the very first preamble conversation of what's the best motorcycle chase that's ever been done and why doesn't anybody do it and why are they all limited in some way and how can we make it better," he explained. "And it goes from there to a script to visiting Manila and plotting out the places where we're going to do it, and then it gets down to Dan Bradley and a bunch of grown men sitting around a table with Matchbox cars going, 'And he's going to go here, and that's going to go here and he's going to spin out!' It's play -- it's six-year-olds playing underneath the Christmas tree all the way to guys with welders and chainsaws in a shop in Manila building the rigs to make it. If you thought about it all at once, you'd never do it."

"It's like having kids," Gilroy continued. "If you knew what you were into, you'd go, 'Forget it, I can't handle it.' But, all of a sudden, you're pregnant. And then the kid is there and you gotta feed him and put clothes on him. It's just one stupid little step after another, and then you get to the end and you go, 'Wow, what did we do?' "

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


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