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How the Bourne Franchise Was Reborn

Warner Bros. Fighting Lawsuit Over Universal's 'Bourne Identity' (Exclusive)
Warner Bros. Fighting Lawsuit Over Universal's 'Bourne Identity' (Exclusive)

It's a difficult task to create a sequel worthy of a critically beloved first film; to make a third film in a series that also measures up is a major studio's Holy Grail. That's a prize Frank Marshall, who produced the Indiana Jones films, knows well, and a task he helped pull off with 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum -- which earned the strongest reviews of all.

Stretching the feat to a successful fourth film proved a bit more difficult.

By now, the story is well-known: Star Matt Damon, unhappy that screenwriter Tony Gilroy had gone off to write and direct Michael Clayton after turning in his script for the third Bourne, The Bourne Ultimatum, said in an interview with GQ that that script was "unreadable," a charge the studio disputed. In 2009, when Paul Greengrass, who helmed the second and third installments, decided not to return for a fourth, Damon told the studio he didn't want to return either without the director. In need of a creative solution, Marshall and his co-producer Pat Crowley turned to Gilroy, who has written and directed the fourth Bourne, The Bourne Legacy, which opens Aug. 10 and stars Jeremy Renner as another operative in the brain-controlling secret agent program, but with a twist: Unlike Bourne, he has no amnesia, or questionable morals.

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The film takes place during the events of the second and third Bourne films, and while those events are the catalyst for this story, it's an adventure all its own, with a brand-new and compelling protagonist in Renner's Aaron Cross. After starring in The Avengers and Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, the man knows how to handle weapons and hand-to-hand combat. Rachel Weisz stars as a doctor from the program, while Edward Norton is introduced as the mastermind behind it all.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Marshall and Crowley, at the New York premiere of The Bourne Legacy about their quasi-reboot/sequel -- and how, according to Marshall, it's unlikely there will be a fifth Indiana Jones film.

The Hollywood Reporter: Five years after, you decided to do a fourth film?

Frank Marshall: We decided to do a fourth film like two weeks after the third one, but it’s taken us five years to do that.

THR: You had planned to do it with Matt; once that didn’t happen, was there ever the thought of not going forward?

Marshall: No, I think we were always looking for a story idea, and that’s when Tony came up with this idea of how to sort of expand the world, and it fit into everything. ... We don’t give up easy.

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THR: Now it’s like the series is reborn; you could do three or four more now.

Marshall: Yeah, in some ways, what is this? A sequel? A reboot? I don’t know what it is -- sort of a same-timer. It expands the world of the last movie, so you’re seeing what Jason Bourne’s effect is having on the world that he lives in and has on these other programs. Now it’s wide open. All possibilities could happen.

THR: This is an entire originally scenario.

Marshall: Well, we’ve been very good partners with the Robert Ludlum estate, and we haven’t been on book since the first movie. We took that idea of the agent waking up in the water, and since it was a Cold War kind of story, we’ve been on our own since the first movie, so this fit right in to everything.

Pat Crowley: The first one, Carlos the Jackal is in there, there’s a lot of stuff we couldn’t ever fit into Bourne Identity. The second one took place in red China, we weren’t really that interested in it, and we never read the third one.

THR: What is the threshold for success for this movie, since it’s a reboot/sequel. How do you judge it as a success?

Marshall: Well, you hope people to go see it. You judge a success by -- I feel, we’ve been very successful in creating a new platform to go forward on. That’s what’s exciting about the movie. It also creates a complete world, with a lot of new characters and a lot of new programs, and we can go any way we want. And I think it fits into the Bourne box. It is a Bourne movie.

Crowley: I think there’s a certain energy to the Bourne movies, and there’s a certain level of complexity at which people, they don’t see it once, they see it twice, because they don’t get it all, and they buy the DVD. When Bourne Ultimatum came out, DVD sales had started to taper off; Bourne Ultimatum DVDs still stayed straight, because people needed to try and figure out everything that was going on. And having Tony Gilroy involved in the fourth one made that same multilayered approach.

Marshall: It’s a very complicated movie. We ask a lot of the audience. It’s all there if you’re paying attention -- that’s what’s cool about it.

THR: What made Jeremy Renner the right choice for the role?

Marshall: Jeremy is the consummate actor, and he’s an action lead. And it’s kind of unexpected because he has this intelligence about him. That’s what we needed; we needed a smart agent that you could believe could do all this physical stuff but also was smart.

Crowley: And also a guy who the audience hasn’t completed their idea of what Jeremy Renner is.

Marshall: He’s still undeveloped, a little bit like Matt was when we started with Matt. People don’t quite know who he is yet. So we’re getting to take advantage of that.

THR: Is there going to be a fifth Indiana Jones movie?

Marshall: No. Not yet. Never say never, but, you know, not yet.

Email: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin

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