Bourne Legacy: Interview with Gilrory
Twelve years ago, audiences were introduced to Jason Bourne when he was pulled unconscious from the Mediterranean. Over the course of three films, they followed his journey to survive and discover his identity. “The Bourne Legacy” pulls back the curtain to expose a darker layer of intrigue, a deeper mythology, and a new hero who must battle to stay alive when his program suddenly becomes a liability.
“The Bourne Legacy” is exactly that—the legacy— the aftermath—of what’s come before. Bourne’s public exposure at the end of “The Bourne Ultimatum” sparks a bonfire that threatens to burn down decades of research and development into the building of better spies and warriors. Audiences will discover that there are actually a variety of intelligence programs that the CIA’s Treadstone was but one of the early developments and that Bourne’s actions are creating a tremendous anxiety that other programs may be exposed. The film stars Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Oscar Isaac, Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, and Scott Glenn.
Gilroy: The thing that separated “Bourne” most clearly from the action films of the moment was the depth and complexity of the character’s problem. The idea of an assassin “coming to” with no recollection of his dark past and paying the price for recovering his memory by realizing that he’s not the person he wants to be was an incredibly compelling motor. In the hands of an actor like Matt Damon, there was no limit on how honest and detailed those ideas could be expressed. It was fun to think of ways to stage the “Legacy” story, but until there was a new character with a new problem that felt as powerful, there wasn’t going to be a script. When that last piece fell into place—when Aaron Cross came into focus—when the thing that he needed became as clear and soulful to me as what we’d gone after with Bourne, that’s when everyone decided it made sense to move forward.
Push it to the Limit
Gilroy: There’s no drug testing in war. There’s a very real appetite to have soldiers with increased energy, higher pain thresholds and less need for sleep. The warrior who heals, learns and processes information faster is the dream of every commanding officer. We’re in a place now where the science has begun to make real that dream in a very unpredictable and terrifying way.
Jeremy Renner in the Lead Role
Gilroy: The reason Jeremy’s such an amazing actor is that he is a complicated. He’s sweet and he’s hard, and he lets himself draw on all of that, all the time… I must’ve watched “The Hurt Locker” 18 times. In every scene, he is molecularly involved with the physical aspect of what’s happening at the moment. This integrity that he has, this feet-on-the-ground awareness and this surprising, explosive intelligence, made Jeremy the perfect cousin for Bourne. Jeremy came to us at a really high learning curve. When they took him out to the track the first time, the reports were: “Oh my God. Wow. He can do this and this…and this…and this. We don’t have to double this!” Jeremy’s so good that he actually was at the level where the insurance company got nervous.
Rachel Weisz as Marta
Gilroy: Marta is an accomplished research scientist with some real emotional chaos in her private life. She’s been ignoring some pretty heavy moral contradictions in her work for Outcome, and when things explode she’s launched into about as hardcore an odyssey as any character I’ve ever written. And by the end of the film she’s not just surviving, she’s kicking ass. It’s a demanding role…. The bar for credibility is very high in this franchise, and she gave us more than we ever dreamed of. I knew how good she was, but I was still astonished by what she brought to the film. She pretty much surpassed my expectations every day.
Gilroy: We were casting the mastermind of the entire franchise. We knew we’d be saying to the audience that this is the guy that’s been sitting beside you in the theater for the last 12 years watching the CIA screw everything up for him. We needed a world-class actor; we needed weight. We needed someone with the kind of intelligence that’s in the room before the scene starts, and above all I needed an actor I could collaborate with to make sure that Ric Byer’s worldview wasn’t painted entirely black. He believes he’s one of the very few people who can bear the moral weight of the darkness necessary to keep his country safe
Gilroy: The great ride for the past 12 years has been getting on a plane and taking these incredibly specific and unusual tours of places that no one else would ever see because you’re looking at them from a “Bourne” point of view. [We] traveled all over Southeast Asia and scouted. And then I wrote into the specific, real locations. That’s how we’ve always done it. There isn’t an action sequence in any of these films that hasn’t been written into the place itself. It wants to feel like the world we really live in. We go to exotic places, but we don’t glamorize them. It’s a realistic approach to action, and it will be familiar in all those ways.
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