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Tony Gilroy Responds To Matt Damon's 'Ultimatum' Diss & More From Empire's Feature On 'The Bourne Legacy'

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist June 28, 2012 at 3:02PM

In a summer where more has been more when it comes to movie marketing (to the extent where a 25-minute cut of "The Amazing Spider-Man" has been assembled from clips and trailers alone), there's one film that's managed to keep things pretty much under wraps: "The Bourne Legacy." A continuation of Universal's blockbuster spy franchise, which sees Tony Gilroy -- writer on the first three films -- take over directorial duties having subsequently proved his chops (and how...) on the Oscar-nominated "Michael Clayton," the picture also stars Jeremy Renner taking over lead duties as Aaron Cross, another top-flight agent, albeit a very different character.

Bourne Legacy, Weisz, Renner
The new film opens up the world much further, with the possibility that even more Treadstone-type programs could pop up in future films.
Gilroy's approach turned out to delve further into the machinations of the CIA and their secret Treadstone and Blackbriar programs, coming up with parallel schemes, one of which -- Operation Outcome -- is the focus of "The Bourne Legacy." As Gilroy says, "If you think of the first three Bourne films as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, then we're showing you Elsinore. So you thought you were seeing something that you weren't. What if there were a larger story? What if Treadstone weren't the only black-ops programme? I think that's a really promising idea." And Outcome isn't the only one introduced in the new film; others come up too, which may figure further into later sequels. Frank Marshall says "You see there are several different programmes in the movie with different skill sets. All possibilities are open."

Edward Norton, Jeremy Renner, The Bourne Legacy
Don't call Edward Norton's character the villain.
One of the things that have set the original films apart is the complexity of the quote-unquote bad guys: almost all of the antagonists, from Chris Cooper in the original to Edgar Ramirez in the third, have their moments of sympathy -- they're not simply maniacs, but are fighting for a cause or following orders. And while Edward Norton's character, Ret. Colonel Ric Byer, described as "a puppet master," and the man tasked with tying up the loose ends of the secret ops, was said to be "a villain" in early trade reports, expect him to have more texture than that. Norton (in a rare blockbuster excursion) tells the magazine, "Tony hated it when people started publishing that I was the villain. Tony works in shades of grey and moral fog. It's too reductive to say 'villain.' I think he works in a more sophisticated way than that." Indeed, Gilroy sees a character as another manifestation of a theme that's run throughout the series. "One of the things that's always been fun about the Bourne series is that it's always been an expression of the fact that even when you think you're on the inside you can still be just a cog in a machine," he explained. "Then people start to realize that they've been co-opted and they begin to push back."

Jeremy Renner isn't worried about being in too many franchises.
After the success of "The Hurt Locker," Jeremy Renner suddenly became one of Hollywood's most in-demand leading men, signing on to several potential franchises in quick succession: "The Avengers," "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" and "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters." Indeed, he was so busy that he initially wasn't thought to be a possibility for Bourne, with Joel Edgerton, Luke Evans, Anthony Mackie, Garrett Hedlund and Oscar Isaac among those who tested for the part. But as Gilroy says, "Jeremy wasn't on any of those 'available' lists until we got to the third wave. All of a sudden his name popped up, so Frank Marshall and I popped over to Berlin, where he was making 'Hansel & Gretel,' and we had dinner with him and showed him the script." Renner signed on, a little wary of carrying the series on his shoulders, but now he doesn't seem to be concerned about franchise-fatigue and clearly is just trying to enjoy the ride. "I stumbled across some really great pieces of cinema. I got really lucky," he said. "If we get to do another one of these, right on. If Tom wants me for another 'Mission,' I'm happy to do it... If 'Avengers 2' happens, awesome. If it doesn't, awesome. I'm not going to worry about what comes next. I'll just worry about talking to you right now. I could be dead by the time 'Avengers 2' comes around. Who knows? I don't want to be, but you know what I'm saying."

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

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