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The Bourne Rift, is it the end for Bourne?

BourneUltimatum.jpgWhat is said with Bourne stays with Bourne. That's how it has seemed regarding the breakup of the Bourne franchise anyway, and what we thought was really happening was just another production break-up as talent went their separate ways and no one could agree to letting Paul Greengrass have his shot at his third Bourne film, and the fourth in the series, nor could Matt Damon agree to doing the film without Greengrass.

Stalemate was reached, and what could have been seen as a negotiating tool was soon forgotten about as the talent all went their separate ways. However it doesn't appear that things are that simple, nor that people have forgotten so easily.

Recently Matt Damon had a little outburst at The Bourne Legacy and more importantly Tony Gilroy, the writer and director of the aforementioned film which takes the Bourne franchise away from Matt Damon's character and onto a new team, one with Jeremy Renner fighting for his own identity against the brainwashing assassin project.

However, and it's worth saying this right here, Damon does regret his outburst and was frustrated at the time after spending time on the set of Neill Blomkamp's film Elysium and finding he was right next door to the offices of The Bourne Legacy, as he tells The Hollywood Reporter.

I could imagine for someone who has been in the trilogy of the franchise to date, apparently loves the character and working with the director on the project, and has voiced his desire to return to the character, it must be hard to step out to work every day and see someone else doing what you hoped to be doing.

In effect the franchise has been taken from him and handed to someone else, and if it works with Jeremy Renner, who is becoming a bit of an action star himself, it looks like Damon could say goodbye to Bourne forever.

So when GQ interviewed him, and I caught the article through The Hollywood Reporter, and he said the following about the script for The Bourne Ultimatum:

"It's really the studio's fault for putting themselves in that position...I don't blame Tony for taking a boatload of money and handing in what he handed in. It's just that it was unreadable. This is a career-ender. I mean, I could put this thing up on eBay and it would be game over for that dude. It's terrible. It's really embarrassing. He was having a go, basically, and he took his money and left."

However it was before the interview was even printed that Matt Damon realised what he had said in the moment and sought to correct it, presumably only ending up with this addition:

"If I didn't respect him and appreciate his talent, then I really wouldn't have cared...My feelings were hurt. That's all. And that's exactly why I shouldn't have said anything. This is between me and him. So saying anything publicly is f---ing stupid and unprofessional and just kind of douchey of me."

People are people, even film stars, and we all say things we regret and get caught up in the moment, I can imagine it's a minefield navigating the media every day.

Yet his comments aren't far off the mark because The Hollywood Reporter recover the events that happened for the third film and it does seem as though the studio hired Tony Gilroy to deliver one draft so he could return to his own film Michael Clayton. A first draft is a first draft.

So the script wasn't good and Paul Greengrass engaged Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi to help build the script into something he wanted to film, and therefore Damon wanted to star in, and that was The Bourne Ultimatum.

However it seems to go back a little further than that. Looking at the article the first Bourne film, The Bourne Identity which you'll remember was directed by Doug Liman, was apparently a bit of a production mess and it was Frank Marshall and Tony Gilroy who brought it all back together. From there Gilroy has written every script and is one of the key people next to Damon who has been in it since the beginning.

When Paul Greengrass came on board for the second film, The Bourne Supremacy, tensions began growing between he and Gilroy with the article quoting a source who said they had clashing styles, while Gilroy liked to deliver a script that had done all the work, Greengrass liked to evolve it on set and had done so successfully many a time.

Apparently Gilroy wouldn't have worked on The Bourne Ultimatum if Greengrass had been given the time to develop a script, something we know caused troubles with the production of Green Zone (Filmstalker review). However he didn't have the time, the studio and Robert Ludlum's estate were on a timeline and so the studio went to Gilroy and asked him to deliver a script, a script the studio claim they were thrilled with.

That film did well, but come Greengrass and Damon on their own with Green Zone and, well, it didn't do so well.

So the studio went to Greengrass, he tried to come up with a script, it didn't work in the timeline that was once again imposed, and with Greengrass not committed to the project and Damon saying Greengrass or no one, it was then that the Ludlum estate approached Gilroy who had an idea for a script that wouldn't mean pushing Damon out of the franchise forever, and so along came The Bourne Legacy.

According to The Hollywood Reporter article no one told Damon about this, which if you think about it decency might have suggested but there was no need to if Greengrass was off, Damon was off, and Gilroy was on.

Still, we're getting that third film, and Damon isn't negative of the idea, indeed he says so, realising that if this film doesn't work it could harm the whole franchise and his chance to return some time in the future, a hope which in itself could help keep the franchise going.

So he made a mistake with a reporter, he and Tony Gilroy can sort out their differences face to face and move forward like real people, remember they are real people too and we all make mistakes.

However this isn't the problem, looking back over what has happened there are some clear points to think about:

  • Tony Gilroy has worked on every single Bourne script
  • Paul Greengrass, in the eyes of the studio and Ludlum estate, failed to come up with a script for two Bourne films and reverted to Gilroy
  • Damon is tied with Greengrass, at least for now, and will not do a Bourne film without him
  • Gilroy has written a script and directing a film which allows the studio to continue with the franchise away from Damon without having to replace him and giving them the option to return

Look at those statements and I think you can agree where the studio are going to go from now on. I wouldn't be surprised that they wait for Damon to agree to make a Bourne film without Greengrass and in the meantime they keep making films with Jeremy Renner and the new Bourne story with Tony Gilroy at the helm. That is, unless Legacy fails.



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