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Casting the Action-Thriller

For Gilroy, finding the ideal performers to give life to the screenplay was the most crucial element in putting together the film. "Everything else can be pushed and fixed or wrangled in some way," he says. "Acting is magic. I learned that a long time ago."

To play the part of Aaron Cross, the filmmakers turned to Oscar® nominee Jeremy Renner, a performer as comfortable with drama as he is with action. "The reason Jeremy's such an amazing actor is that he is a complicated guy," underscores Gilroy. "He's sweet and he's hard, and he lets himself draw on all of that, all the time." The director says that he's a longtime admirer of Renner's work: "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."

Any concerns that the filmmakers might have had about Renner's ability to transform into an action star were instantly assuaged. In fact, the director calls his leading man a "movie athlete." Gilroy says: "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."

"Jeremy is an actor of such intensity and intelligence," adds Smith. "We've seen in his performances that he comes out of the screen, grabs you by the throat and takes you on an incredible journey."

After his Academy Award®-nominated roles in both The Hurt Locker and The Town, Renner went on to make his mark as an action hero in the blockbuster Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol and this summer's global juggernaut The Avengers. He says that he was a fan of the Bourne series and of one man's performance in particular: "What Matt Damon did, and what the previous directors have done, was great. For those who love the franchise, I'm not replacing Matt, nor would I want to. It would never have been interesting if I was taking over and playing the same character. Matt is always the face of Jason Bourne and always should be. I liked this script because it was a very interesting way of continuing the story while honoring what came before."

The performer elaborates on Gilroy's underlying premise that, although Cross travels in a world that is parallel to Bourne's, Cross is not aware of Bourne. Renner reflects: "They don't know each other, so this has a whole new spin on why these supersoldier spies are the way they are now. I hope I can bring a fresh perspective to it."

Renner goes on to share that The Bourne Legacy retains the realistic tone of the earlier films. "It doesn't veer into the CGI world or massive explosions," he says. "It stays authentic. It was important for me to want to find humanity within this character." He found his filmmakers were just as interested in these concepts. "What matters is that there is believability in everything we do in the film. No matter what the stunt is or the setup, it's all based in reality, truth and the potential of science. As an actor, that's easy to grab onto."

Unlike Bourne, Cross is well aware of who he is and where he came from: a soldier wounded in the Middle East several years ago. Once he escapes from the Yukon, Cross journeys back to the U.S. in order to find one of his few contacts in Outcome, and the only person who can help him stay alive, Dr. Marta Shearing.

Says Crowley about an issue that has perplexed the team since the beginning of the first film: One of the biggest challenges we've had is how to deal with a leading lady in the movie. With the pace and intensity of the films, it's difficult to take the time to properly develop a relationship, plus getting hooked up with Jason Bourne is usually the kiss of death. Because we have a fresh start, we can introduce a woman into the story without it feeling contrived."

The role of Marta required not only a talented actress, but also one who would be willing to take on the special demands that the part required. Explains 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."

Much to the filmmakers' delight, Academy Award® winner Rachel Weisz, known for her powerful performances in such films as The Constant Gardener, The Lovely Bones and The Whistleblower, was eager for the challenges that lie ahead and the results were more than they had hoped for. Gilroy recalls: "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."

Marta is a workaholic, utterly devoted to her groundbreaking research as a biochemist at a top-secret lab in Maryland. Reflects Weisz: "She's at the cutting edge of science, and she thinks she's contributing to her country. But at the same time, she does secretly know that what she's doing has great moral ambiguity to it." Marta's choice to ignore the potential consequences of her trials on patients intrigued the actress. "I would be less interested in her if she were just doing something good and saving the world. What she's doing is a little dubious."

Marta's mundane life is turned upside down and she becomes a target when Outcome is rapidly shut down and she is perceived as simply residual cleanup. Aaron-a man whom she has examined multiple times in four years but doesn't know well-appears in time to save her, and the two quickly form a relationship out of necessity. "Marta is hesitant to go with him, but she doesn't have any other alternative," Weisz explains. "The people who represent law and order in her country just tried to kill her. She is a regular woman who happens to be good at science, but not good at evading the police authorities of the globe."

Weisz was intrigued by the backstories that the Gilroys had created for these two characters. "They're incredibly driven in very different ways," adds Weisz. "Marta and Aaron come from completely different backgrounds, and they end up relying on one another for different reasons. That's a really fascinating way to create a story."

While filming in New York and in Southeast Asia, Weisz discovered that she and Renner had similar approaches to their work. "We're very different people, and we come from different backgrounds but we have a similar way of working," the actress observes. "Jeremy's very free and loose and pretty wild, and wonderful to work with. I've loved every minute opposite him." Weisz also sees a bit of a rebel in her director: "Tony has a very rock 'n' roll spirit, which is 'Let's find chaos and abandon, and let's go,' which is great for acting. He's an unusual combination in a writer/director, and I'm happy to be in his band."

To play the role of ret. Col. Ric Byer, the ruthless head of NRAG-the organization behind the secret program of agents that began with Treadstone, evolved into Blackbriar, and now operates Outcome, among several others-the filmmakers cast Oscar® nominee Edward Norton. When Outcome is in danger of being exposed to public scrutiny, Byer cuts his losses by deciding to shut it down and move on.

Fox explains how the Byer character illustrates Gilroy's nuanced approach to characterization: "Tony explores how individuals within organizations give themselves license to behave in unscrupulous ways: Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, both Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti in Duplicity, and now Edward Norton and his team in Legacy. They're powerful antagonists because they hold their conviction and rationale about the greater good they believe to be serving. The familiar movie trope of the individual against the machine is made much more complicated, messy and real because he dramatizes the reality behind individual motivations."

Gilroy expands upon why the selection of this antagonist was so important: "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."

Norton describes his interest in joining a film with a story rooted inside the chambers of government-funded intelligence: "I see a theme running through all of Tony's films that I think is timely and smart. He's been digging into the way that corporations have permeated our culture and threaten to compromise us from different angles. I liked that in this film he was exploring the way that power is exercised in the nexus between corporations and government...questioning who's working for who."

The performer appreciated that Gilroy colored his characters in moral gradations. Though Byer is hell-bent on erasing Outcome, his motives (in his mind) are sound ones. Shares Norton: "All of the characters in this film are painted in shades of gray. Tony hasn't woven a web of heroes and villains. Everybody's made certain compromises and certain rationalizations in and around what they character certainly, but Rachel's too and even Jeremy's. He's digging into how people have their best ideals and impulses co-opted by a system in many different ways. I like that kind of complexity."

Marshall was impressed by Norton's ability to straddle the line between a man of his country and a cold-blooded executioner who sees the emergence of Bourne as an infection that must be contained. The producer commends: "Edward kills it. He's just a spectacular actor and is terrific at playing the 'villain' in the piece. But Byer is not simply a villain. He's just the guy who's after Aaron Cross. Though we've had several of these types along the way, Edward is a particularly tough one."

To cast the roles of Byer's staff-the scientists, intelligence and surveillance experts who hunt down Aaron and Marta from their hub in Washington, D.C.-Gilroy delved into the world of New York theater. "Tony's a New York guy," shares Crowley. "He knows both theater and New York film very well. It's exciting to draw from that pool of people."

Tony Award winner DONNA MURPHY (of Broadway's Passion and The King and I), was cast as Byer's dedicated second-in-command, Dita, the "nun" to Byer's "priest." "She's his wingman, or wingwoman," Murphy explains. "She's got a background with the CIA; she's an extremely good scientist. The biggest part of her job is to be so tuned in on Byer that when he needs something, she's three steps ahead."

Other performers who were brought aboard to play key members of Byer's team include Obie Award winner MICHAEL CHERNUS as Ingram, and COREY STOLL, recently nominated for a Drama Desk Award for off-Broadway's Intimate Apparel and who made a memorable appearance as Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris, as Vendel.

As Aaron and Marta prove elusive, news of a government subcommittee investigating Blackbriar adds to the tense atmosphere in the crisis suite where Byer and his staff are holed up. Likely most disturbed by the program becoming public is Terry Ward, the head of a company with intimate ties to Outcome. Ward is played by New York theater actor Dennis Boutsikaris, the Obie Award winner for Sight Unseen. Boutsikaris describes Ward's relationship with Byer as contentious, with Ward ultimately outgunned. "Ward wants to think that he's Byer's superior, and he clearly is not," the actor shares. "Ward wants to be a leader without any leadership qualities."

At Gilroy's suggestion, Boutsikaris had his hair cut and trademark beard shaved in order to play the corporate suit. "We talked on the phone, and Tony told me that the hair and everything had to go," Boutsikaris remembers. "The whole feeling was how slick he wanted to make my character."

As tension escalates in the war room, Ward also clashes with the imposing ret. Adm. Turso. The military commander who oversees Outcome is played by veteran actor Stacy Keach, who describes his character as "a patriot and a man whose authority is there." Turso speaks to his team in an intricate language that is quite specific to the work. Reflects Keach: "Tony is an extraordinary talent because he creates his own language. The Bourne franchise has one of its own. It's intelligent, human and very personal. The trick with this kind of dialogue is to make it conversational and just sort of throw it away without making it too melodramatic."

Keach acknowledges that the scenes with Turso, Byer and the NRAG team were especially engaging. "The great thing about this franchise is the amazing balance between action, adventure, intrigue and suspense," he says. "You have two very different environments: the outside environment where you follow Cross and his exploits over the world, and then you have the crisis room or the surveillance environment. As an audience member, that combination keeps you on the edge of your seat because you are seeing something at the same time the people in the movie are watching it."

Rounding out the cast members who are new to the Bourne franchise are Oscar Isaac and LOUIS OZAWA CHANGCHIEN. Isaac describes Outcome #3's early interactions with Cross as "like a Western." He shares: "My character has been living in a cabin for a month by himself with zero communication with the outside world…other than the occasional drop by of one of these guys." When Cross arrives at #3's remote base several days early, #3 is suspicious; similarly, Cross doesn't trust his counterpart. "They're like these dogs that are circling and sniffing each other," suggests Isaac. They're not necessarily posturing so much as they are uncertain. It's dangerous."

It turns out that #3 isn't the only one that Cross (aka #5) should be concerned about. Byer hedged his bets that Outcome would not be the endgame. He has another program in motion, and it is known as LARX.

Changchien, who, in the role of LARX #3, an operative based in Bangkok, had to be comfortable with speed and with great heights. "I think of LARX as the decathlete of spies," laughs Changchien, a theater actor who recently starred in Predators. In order to prepare for the role, Changchien traveled from his native New York to L.A., where he rehearsed with 2nd unit director Dan Bradley's team for several weeks. In this boot camp, Changchien learned the fundamentals of parkour-how to move around obstacles with speed and efficiency-practiced jumps from great heights and completed an intensive course in stunt driving. That would come in handy as his character chases Marta and Aaron through the narrow, crowded streets of Manila.

Fans will also be treated to cameos from several characters from earlier Bourne films, including series favorites Albert Finney as Dr. Albert Hirsch, Joan Allen as Pam Landy, David Strathairn as Noah Vosen and Scott Glenn as Ezra Kramer.

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