It's confirmed, but no surprise. Writer-director Tony Gilroy has offered Jeremy Renner the lead in his Bourne franchise continuation. But he'd be playing a different assassin, who went through the same training program as Matt Damon's Bourne. (Which leaves open the possibility of Damon's eventual return.)
Luke Evans, Taylor Kitsch, Garret Hedlund, Joel Edgerton, Shia LaBeouf and James McAvoy were all considered. A dangerous, canny actor, Renner is the best choice. (In a few years, Luke Evans could get the Bond franchise when Daniel Craig has had his fill.)
Renner's a busy guy--with other major franchises on tap. He plays Tom Cruise's protégé in Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (December 16). He's also been said to be taking over that franchise when Cruise retires his Ethan Hunt character. Renner is Hawkeye in Thor (April 27, 2011) and The Avengers (May 4, 2012), and has Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters with co-star Gemma Arterton and director Tommy Wirkola in production. Renner discusses his projects in our interview.
More details on Bourne below:
Last October, when Gilroy confirmed that the Bourne franchise would move ahead without Damon, he clarified to Hollywood Elsewhere: “This is not a reboot or a recast or a prequel. No one’s replacing Matt Damon…There will be a whole new hero, a whole new chapter…this is a stand-alone project” that happens to be using the title of Robert Ludlum’s book, “but will not use the story.” He also explained how his project diverges from Robert Ludlam’s fourth book, and hinted at Damon’s Jason Bourne character returning for a later installment. A few weeks after this news broke, Damon gave his two cents on the franchise, which he refused to continue without The Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass.
Says Gilroy, “The easiest way to think of it is an expansion or a reveal…Jason Bourne will not be in this film, but he’s very much alive. What happened in the first three films is the trigger for what happens. I’m building a legend and an environment and a wider conspiracy…the world we’re making enhances and advances and invites Jason Bourne’s return [down the road]…Everything you saw in the first three films actually happened, and everyone who got into them will be rewarded for paying attention. We’re going to show you the bigger picture, the bigger canvas. When you see where we’re going and see what we’re doing it’ll be pretty obvious.”
Unlike Gilroy’s project, the fourth book in Robert Ludlum’s series, written by Eric Van Lustbader (with permission from Ludlum’s estate) does center on Jason Bourne. Gilroy has couched the story to exclude Bourne since Damon made it clear that he wouldn’t be returning without director Paul Greengrass. Bourne gives Gilroy, who worked with a small budget on Michael Clayton and a larger budget on Duplicity, an opportunity to expand his canvas with an established brand. He sold Universal on his concept, and the studio wants to continue the franchise, which earned a total $944 million for the first three films worldwide. But it is quite risky to ditch lynchpin Damon and the audience’s loyalty to Bourne.
We also approve of Renner's long overdue new IMDb headshot, above.