THE BOURNE LEGACY
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
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
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
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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