Well, it's basically official now if you hadn't already guessed. Matt Damon will not be returning for what is being called, "The Bourne Legacy," Tony Gilroy's first directorial effort in the franchise after writing the first three films. You might have seen this one coming (well, Gilroy had already insisted) unless you were an eternal optimist. It is called, "The Bourne Legacy" after all and we shouldn't have to school-marm you into what that explicitly implies.
Deadline says that Damon learned of Gilroy's participation via their site, but that's not entirely true. We heard wind of Gilroy's potential participation in February 2010, but it was too early to report. Damon was well aware that Gilroy could be a potential director contender back then, but it was still in the early gestation stage.
The good news is that the script Gilroy is writing with his brother Dan has apparently made Universal and insiders breathe a sigh of relief. What that means is that the 'Bourne' mythos is likely left intact and the script they have penned doesn't close any chapters on the character Jason Bourne. So, if and when Damon (and Paul Greengrass?) decide they want to come back that option is apparently open and for the taking.
As we've assumed for sometime -- especially when we were told it was not a sequel or a prequel — Gilroy's script will tell different Treadstone-related stories that essentially don't have anything to do with Jason Bourne himself. Evidently this time they will center on the parent company behind Treadstone, the covert government operation that turned Bourne and many others into super-soldiers and brainwashed killers. Deadline says the protagonist of 'Bourne Legacy' will simply be another agent like Bourne — think Clive Owen in "The Bourne Identity," Karl Urban in "The Bourne Supremacy" or Édgar Ramírez in "The Bourne Ultimatum"— again pretty much what we expected. Whether every agent suffers issues with amnesia is another issue all together and we'd assume, Gilroy would try something different as been there, done that.
"Matt was completely not an option, and personally I couldn't imagine trying to replace him," Gilroy told Deadline about the star not returning to the fold. And the writer/director went on to divulge the genesis of how he came back on board. "[The studio and I] made a deal that was basically, 'If you want to put me on for a couple of weeks to figure this out and go exploring in the hills, I can't tell you what I'll find but I'll tell you where I'll dig. And then I hit a vein, and ended up delivering way more than I thought. I came up with the whole thing and if it wasn't a swinging idea, I wouldn't have signed on to direct. It feels good, fresh, but quite honestly, a Bourne kind of movie. I brought in my brother Dan, we started off together as a team. I'm not going to get into the plot, but you saw the other three films, you know everything that happened, and it's not a dream sequence. What I can say is, you thought that was the whole world, but it was a small piece of what was going on. 'Ultimatum' exploded at the end with people arrested. We deal with that as a reality, it has ramifications that echo out into the larger world. And of course, Jason Bourne is still alive and out there in the world. I don't want to go beyond that, because the last thing I need is for every blogger to be second guessing."
The rest of Deadline's story confirms a lot of what we told you when we broke the news in late 2009 that Paul Greengrass had quit the franchise. A few weeks later we put together a list of potential 'Bourne' directing candidates and Gilroy was on the top of our list. We called him "the soul and conscience of the character Jason Bourne" and obviously folks like producer Frank Marshall and Universal felt the same. Evidently the goal is to have the film ready for August 2012 which is definitely doable at this point. Let the casting speculation begin?