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About The Production
Finding Aaron Cross: The Legacy Begins

As the filmmakers of the Bourne franchise pondered the next chapter in the series, they faced a conundrum: At the end of The Bourne Ultimatum, the protagonist had been involved in a shootout in London's Waterloo Station and then an even more high-profile car chase gunfight through the streets of New York City. Jason Bourne had gone public in a big way. He was poised to expose the U.S. government for its litany of crimes when he vanished. Producer Frank Marshall explains the hurdle: "The challenge was 'Where are we going to go now?' Jason Bourne knew who he was, didn't want to be in the same business anymore and wanted to go off on his own. We had to create a new set of circumstances for the story to go forward."

Despite the hesitancy, Patrick Crowley, who, alongside Marshall, produced the three previous entries in the series, admits that it was the fans' interest in additional stories that kept the franchise alive. "We touched a nerve with people who would come up to us and say, 'I like those movies so much. I hope you're going to be doing another one,'" offers Crowley. "If you've done three of them and then people want to see a fourth, you've done something right."

In April 2010, several months after Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon opted not to participate in this chapter of the series, producers Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith met with the franchise's narrative architect, Tony Gilroy, and asked him if he might spend some time thinking about how to move forward. Gilroy was intrigued and agreed to see if he could find an exciting way to continue this world that he had helped to create-one that had launched a new kind of spy thriller.

Several weeks later, Gilroy came back to the producers with a concept for how to approach the material. He notes: "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."

Gilroy then began work on a treatment for the project even as he outlined a blueprint for where the story might go after The Bourne Legacy. He began an in-depth research process that would serve as the underpinning for both documents. He looked most particularly at the secretive U.S. government agency known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) that is hard at work trying to figure out how to make better soldiers. DARPA and its intelligence counterpart, IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity), fund many research programs with the objective of enhancing the cognitive and physical performance of American soldiers and spies. Gilroy notes: "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."

Just as in The Bourne Legacy, DARPA and its counterparts are working closely with the pharmaceutical industry, medical researchers, Silicon Valley and others to find ways to make humans into better warriors. Gilroy found that there was a burgeoning post-9/11 marriage of biology and warfare: a top-secret America that has proliferated, funded by the U.S. government and staffed by scientists often working for large corporations. It has, in fact, become so large that it is impossible to fully oversee by any one branch of the U.S. government.

Offers the director: "This was an odd story to research because I was doing more confirmation than prospecting. I kept finding that my imaginative ideas for Outcome and Candent and NRAG were already there and in play. Every hint that we'd laid along the way in the trilogy about Treadstone and its science-medical background fit perfectly into the existing reality. Then it was just a matter of asking what would happen if everything went wrong."

After finishing the treatment for The Bourne Legacy, Gilroy decided he would be interested in making this his next directorial effort. Although he began his career as a screenwriter, Gilroy has become an accomplished director with two features to his credit: 2007's Best Motion Picture nominee Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney, for which Gilroy received OscarĀ® nominations for both directing and writing, and Duplicity, the 2009 romantic caper starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.

The producers and the studio agreed immediately and were enthusiastic about this turn of events. Says Marshall: "One of the best things about the movie was getting to work with Tony as a director. I've been involved with him on the other three movies as the writer, but way back on The Bourne Identity, I knew that someday he was going to direct. He was in the cutting room and making the kind of suggestions and solving the kind of problems in the way that a director would think about them. So, it's not a surprise that he's directing this film but it didn't start out that way."

To collaborate on the screenplay, Gilroy called upon his brother, fellow screenwriter Dan Gilroy, for their first professional teaming in many years and they began work. Notes Dan Gilroy of the collaboration: "Tony and I actually co-wrote several unproduced screenplays when we were first starting. It was an easy fit then and pretty effortless now. Our process is outlining the story together and then leapfrogging scenes or sequences. When we're working, it's seven days a week-long hours. I'm in L.A, and he's in New York, but these days distance doesn't matter. There's no ego involved. Whatever works gets used, and there were no disagreements or arguments. It was a blast. We were both on the same page and committed to tuning every element to the highest possible degree."

The two writers expanded upon the research that Tony Gilroy had done for the treatment, while also developing the intense drama of the story. Continues Dan Gilroy: "We hope Legacy lives up to its title by expanding the mythology in smart, imaginative and absolutely realistic directions. All technology referenced in the film is either in development or in use by the U.S. intel community. The hardest part of the job was creating a character with a need that makes the film personal, and Tony had the core of that before I came on. Aaron Cross has a primal need that creates constant intimacy with the audience. The emotional journey is always in the foreground, which for me is the hallmark of all great action movies."

Marshall was thrilled with the resulting script. He commends: "The genius idea was Tony and Dan's: Expand the world that Bourne lived in and see what else was out there and who is controlling whom. This way, we could build upon the world the audience had discovered via Jason Bourne and then have an opportunity to see new characters and the bigger picture."

Crowley agrees that the writer/director and his brother nailed it. The producer marvels at their crafting of a language specific to this series and how they connected everything in this world: "Tony's obsessed with the intelligence community. He lives and breathes it, asking, 'How would these people think, how would they act, and what are the relationships that you would have in the intelligence community?' It thrilled me that we have a writer who is the soul of the whole series-who shows that he is an amazing director with two well received movies-come on board to direct this one."

In keeping with Gilroy's previous screenplays for the Bourne series, this script diverges dramatically from the plotlines of Ludlum's Cold War-era novels but retains the author's themes of conspiracy and government programs run amok. According to producer Ben Smith, this film offered the chance to build upon what had been established by the series creator, who died in 2001. "What's special about Robert Ludlum's work and about these movies is that they talk about the power of an individual," says Smith. "In these times of massive corporations and governments and multinational interests, the films make us feel that we can make a difference."

Fellow producer Jeffrey Weiner shares Smith's belief that Gilroy was the right filmmaker to take the mantle. He says, "We were thrilled that Tony not only wanted to write The Bourne Legacy, but also wanted to direct. He's one of the few people who's been with the entire series since the beginning. His understanding and feel for this world is invaluable in this process, and I think he's given the people who will go to the movie exactly what they want out of a Bourne experience."

Joining the team as executive producers are Henry Morrison and Jennifer Fox, Gilroy's longtime production partner. Fox reflects on their working relationship and Gilroy's sensibilities at blending action and suspense with piercing drama. She says, "When Tony Gilroy writes, he can see the film in his mind down to the smallest detail, and his ability to focus and capture that vision is a testament to his instincts and to his creative stamina. Also, within Tony's work there is always the essential desire for explanation of human drama. The depth of his complicated characters stem from that search for truth from character to character and scene to scene."

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