THE BOURNE LEGACY
Shooting Across the Globe
Locations and Design
In November 2010, while writing the screenplay, Gilroy journeyed around the
world to visit the locations where his story would be set, just as he did for
the other Bourne films. From the Canadian Rockies to Southeast Asia, he tailored
the action to the specific locales. He reflects: "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."
According to Crowley, who once again accompanied Gilroy on the tour, the
series has been unique in the manner in which it showcases parts of the world
rarely seen in cinema. He notes: "We were one of the very first big movies to
shoot in Berlin, and there had only been a couple of contemporary Hollywood
shows before us in Moscow."
The Bourne Legacy would be no exception. Gilroy chose to broaden the story to
a setting beyond Europe, where much of the previous three films had taken place.
"Pat and I traveled all over Southeast Asia and scouted," Gilroy continues. "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."
As The Bourne Legacy rockets from Washington, D.C. and Manhattan to Alaska
and Southeast Asia, Gilroy retains the spirit of the previous Bourne films. "It
wants to feel like the world we really live in," the director says. "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."
Weiner appreciates the detail the writer/director gives to this story. He
offers: "Some of the locations for this movie are not places people go to every
day. The fact that it is real and gritty and that we are close and in-your-face
gives a perspective that you don't find in the guidebooks."
Helping Gilroy to construct this world were key contributors to the film's
visual style: production designer Kevin Thompson, who crafted Michael Clayton
and Duplicity with Gilroy, and cinematographer Robert Elswit, the Academy
AwardÂ®-winning DP for There Will Be Blood whose previous work also includes
Michael Clayton and Duplicity, as well as The Town and Mission: Impossible-Ghost
Protocol, both with Renner.
Discussing Thompson, Gilroy commends: "Kevin's built up a very, very strong
body of work, and we formed an essential collaboration over the course of
Clayton and Duplicity, but I think Legacy is going to show a lot of people that
there's nothing he can't tackle. Legacy was a huge design project that went from
big-time stage work through location building and then into Manila and all of
its challenges-all of that with the mandate of staying absolutely photo-real at
all times. It was the highest degree of difficulty, and he crushed it."
The director was just as pleased to join Elswit for another project. Gilroy
says: "Working with Robert on these three films has been about the best
collaboration I can imagine. He's the remarkable combination of deep experience,
imaginative freedom and sled-dog endurance. We'd been through the shit together
so many times before this film started, and thank God, because I can't imagine
trying to do something this long and large with someone who wasn't at your side
in every way."
Elswit and 2nd unit director Bradley could shoot all the footage in the
world, but if it wasn't cut together correctly, there would be no scene. Joining
the team as editor was another member of the Gilroy family, John Gilroy, the
director's fellow collaborator on his last two films. Notes John Gilroy of his
working relationship with his brother Tony: "I work with Tony essentially the
same way that I work with other directors. I try to understand their vision of
the film and get on that same wavelength. If I can make their vision my own, I
have a real compass to navigate me through the editing process. With Tony, that
sort of deep understanding between director and editor came very early on and
has stayed with us and grown through all three films. We have very similar
sensibilities, and most of the time we see eye to eye on things."
Tony Gilroy returns: "John is a machine. It's a complex movie, and we shot in
a weird order. The pace is relentless, and we were shooting a great deal of
film. The need to know exactly where you stand and what you owe is essential.
But he's not just cutting and reviewing material as we go; he's building
sequences and road testing scenes that are coming at us with a consistent level
of detail that's shocking sometimes. He's a total filmmaker. I can't imagine
even trying this without him beside me."
War Rooms and "Southern" Mansions: Filming in New York
After two days of filming in Seoul, South Korea, principal photography began
at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York, where all of the movie's stage
work-including D.C. interiors-was shot. Filming began with scenes involving Byer
and his team at the Virginia-based NRAG, the group that designed the
government's program of killer spies. As Bourne's exploits go public, Byer's
experts use every mode of technology available to minimize the damage. Here,
Thompson's crew built the crisis suite, the small amphitheater where Byer's team
holes up for days. Crowley describes the film set as "like 25 people playing
At Kaufman, Thompson built the lab where Marta engages in her pioneering
work. The designer's biggest set, however, was three stories high on Kaufman's
largest stage. Here, he created Marta's home in the Maryland woods, which he
didn't initially plan to build. "We started
by trying to find a real location that would either inspire us or lead us to
what we were looking for," Thompson recalls. "Tony wanted to have a house that
was a bit of a fairy-tale fantasy: a larger-than-life decayed mini-mansion that
Marta invested in when she was in a relationship, a place she hoped to someday
The kickoff to Marta and Aaron's journey, the house is where the two realize
that they must team up. "We found the magical house up in the Hudson Valley
about two and a half hours north of New York City," Thompson recounts. "It was
built in 1815 and had a romantic, picturesque style. Although we looked at 150
houses, this one was by far the one that spoke most to us."
Unfortunately, their prized location, the national historic landmark known as
the Plumb-Bronson House in Hudson, New York, was in need of even more
rehabilitation than Marta's fictional home. "About six weeks from shooting, the
owners association told us that it was going to be impossible to allow us to
shoot there," says Thompson. It turns out that the structure could not support
the equipment and crew necessary for filming.
Thompson's team quickly set about re-creating the interior of the house in
precise matching detail. This included reimagining its parlors and vestibules,
magnificent three-story elliptical staircase, peeling paint and faded wallpaper
on the stage at Kaufman Astoria. While unanticipated, building Marta's house on
a stage did offer several advantages, including greater flexibility and control
with lighting and camera placement for DP Elswit's equipment. "Having the three
floors on the stage provided some great sight lines for action," says Thompson.
"It was a pretty photogenic set."
In the end, the production traveled to Hudson to film the exterior of the
Plumb-Bronson House for a key scene with Aaron, but other scenes outside Marta's
home were filmed at William H. Pouch Scout Camp, a 143-acre site in Staten
Island, New York. Unlike Plumb-Bronson's surroundings in Hudson, the Staten
Island location offered the thick woods that surround Marta's home in Gilroy's
Among the many other New York area locations where the film shot were JFK
Airport, The New York Times printing plant in Flushing, Federal Plaza in Lower
Manhattan, and residential areas of Syosset and Old Westbury in Long Island.
Frigid Waters in Calgary: Capturing the Canadian Wilderness
After 12 weeks of filming in the New York area, the production decamped and
left the city for an environment where the Bourne series had never before
ventured: the untamed wilderness. For two weeks in December 2011, the cast and
crew filmed in Kananaskis Country, a system of parks renowned for its
spectacular scenery, in the Canadian Rocky Mountains west of Calgary. The
dramatic Canadian landscape filled in for the Alaskan Yukon, where Cross finds
himself as the story begins.
"We did a lot of scouting by helicopter," recalls Thompson, whose locations
included remote mountaintops, a frozen lake and a riverbank beside which his
crew could build a log cabin, a heavily wooded area and a waterfall. "We looked
all over Canada and found most everything within a 30-minute radius of
One element of the Canadian shoot remained a wild card: snow. "Our location
manager, who's done a million movies there, said, 'I can't guarantee you that
there's going to be any snow,'" Crowley recalls. "So we had snow machines
standing by, and we were ready to make our own." But the Bourne crew enjoyed
some luck: Plenty of snow arrived just in time for the shoot. "The day after we
left, there was a warm wind called a Chinook that came through and melted all
the snow," he adds. "We didn't hear about it until about a month afterwardâ€¦and
I'm kind of glad we didn't hear about it until then."
The Bourne Legacy opens with an echo of the image that introduced Jason
Bourne to filmgoers in The Bourne Identity: seen from below, a man floats
motionless in water. However, unlike Bourne, who had been left to drown in the
Mediterranean Sea in the first film, Aaron Cross is uninjured. After a brief
moment of stillness, Cross reveals his incredible stamina: He has deliberately
submerged himself in frigid waters in order to retrieve a canister left for him
at the base of a freezing waterfall.
To shoot this scene, the filmmakers did everything they could to keep their
lead actor safe in the cold water. "We were concerned from the very first time
that we saw the location," says Crowley. "Even for just going in to his waist,
we had a helicopter bring a hot tub there. We had a dry room that was heated. We
had an ambulance standing by, and we had three or four people on the set whose
specialty was hypothermia."
The initial plan was to shoot only part of the scene in Canada, with Renner
in a full wet suit and in the cold water only up to his waist. However, just
before rolling, Renner removed the wet suit's top. "He said, 'Are you guys
really ready?'" remembers Crowley. "And we said 'Yup,' and he said, 'Okay, let's
do it.'" As cameras rolled in below-freezing temperatures, a bare-chested Renner
dunked himself into the icy water for a shot of Cross emerging. Fortunately,
Gilroy and his DP got the shot in one take.
Renner was game for the challenge. He recalls: "Cold is cold. If it's 39 or
29, it doesn't matter." He was more unnerved that there was no way to acclimate
himself to the experience without simply going through it. "That's why I was so
stressed about it. How do you prepare? I can prepare for a jump or a stunt. I
can work out or do whatever stretch. But with this, you just go get cold. That's
it. You have to mentally go there." Turns out that the water's bark was worse
than its bite. "Actually it wasn't so bad; it was so bad up to the moment."
That scene in the frigid river was also of special concern to costume
designer Shay Cunliffe, who returns to the Bourne series after having designed
The Bourne Ultimatum. "Shooting in this kind of extremely cold climate becomes a
double job for the costume department," she says. "The costumers who took care
of the actors on the set were responsible for their well-being, quite apart from
the costume being maintained."
In freezing temperatures throughout the entire Alberta shoot, Cunliffe's team
had its work cut out. "They were carrying huge dive coats along with them, and
because of the snowy locations, the costumers were actually dragging them in on
sleds-extra blankets, extra coats," she shares.
In the film's opening sequence, Cross is dressed like a speed climber, posing
as one of the few brave souls who might be found alone in the Alaskan
wilderness. "He's in a brilliant red-orange jacket because climbers going solo
know that they may not make it and they've got to be visible in case a
helicopter needs to find them," explains Cunliffe. "It's the opposite of being
However, after Cross arrives at the appointed spot, a log cabin where another
agent known as #3 is based, his Alaskan mission is brought to a violent end, one
which he barely survives. The tables suddenly turned, Cross is now the target of
the most sophisticated technology and weaponry on Earth. He returns to the
mainland U.S. to find Marta, one of his few contacts in the program who may not
be out to kill him. Their journey of survival ultimately brings them to
Southeast Asia, where the production would travel next.
Unleashed in Southeast Asia: Racing Across the Philippines
During preproduction, Gilroy and Crowley toured Ho Chi Minh City (formerly
Saigon) in Vietnam, Jakarta in Indonesia, and Manila in the Philippines.
Ultimately, Manila's history as a shooting location won over the team. Major
Hollywood features, such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July
and Brokedown Palace, were shot in the Philippines in the '70s, '80s and '90s.
"They had a 25-, 30-year run of making movies there," says Gilroy, "and they
have this huge infrastructure that was built up from all the films made about
The filmmakers called upon LOPE V. JUBAN, JR., president of Philippine Film
Studios, who has worked on most of the films that have come to the Philippines
over the past few decades, to give them a tour of Manila. Not only could Juban-who
came on as a line producer-offer locations that Gilroy was looking for, but his
contacts with government entities would also be vital for a shoot that involved
major stunts on city streets. "Juban said, 'We can talk to the president about
that,' or 'We can talk to the minister of transportation and the police
department about that.' They're all people that he knew," Crowley explains. "I
couldn't have gotten that in Jakarta or in Ho Chi Minh City."
In fact, The Bourne Legacy would be the first Hollywood film in which Manila
plays Manila. "The
Philippines has played almost any country-Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Panama,"
says Juban. "It is only now that we are filming Manila as Manila, which is great
It was important to the locals to show off the progress the country had made
and their big new areas of development. The Philippines also offered the
advantage of a mainly English-speaking local crew. English, the legacy of the
American presence for 50 years before World War II, is widely spoken in the
Filming in Manila began in the San Andres neighborhood, its ramshackle houses
and dark alleyways typical of the city's lower- and middle-class areas. The San
Andres neighborhood has grown organically over the years as locals have kept
constructing additions to existing buildings. The casual visitor will find many
a residential area that resembles a rabbit-warren maze of alleyways that have
been cobbled together.
With its tangled web of utility lines and drying laundry overhead, and
pleasant cooking smells merging with other odors of the city, the labyrinthine
San Andres neighborhood is where Aaron and Marta find a place to hide from their
pursuers: this time, the Philippine authorities.
San Andres was also the setting for a stunt in which Aaron, to save Marta
from capture after she is cornered by the police, makes a daring slide three
stories down a narrow opening between two buildings. Because of very specific
requirements, this set, a narrow three-story structure that the filmmakers
called "the chasm," had to be built by Thompson and his team.
Explains the production designer: "We needed a stretch that was about 100
feet long, only 20 to 24 inches wide and three and one-half stories high for the
drop. 'The chasm' was the highlight for the art department because it
incorporated so many things. It had to aesthetically work for Tony. It had to
work for stunts to drop down. It had to work for the camera department to have
the jib on, and the technocrane arm had to be able to fit inside. We had to
manage all the dressing and the platforming around it. It was a complicated,
multifaceted set to build."
Using the wall of an existing building, Thompson's team built another wall
next to it. Rather than employing scenic artists to "weather" the wall, the crew
bought old siding from locals' homes and installed new walls on their houses in
return. The designer recalls: "We would often say, 'We'll redo the siding on
your house or corrugated rooftop if we can have your old materials.' Some San
Andres locals also received new roofs when the team prepared for the filming of
a major chase sequence. Much to many neighbors' delight, approximately 50 roofs
that were found to have holes or were otherwise deemed unsafe were replaced by
the The Bourne Legacy crew.
The production's metro Manila locales also included the Ninoy Aquino
International Airport; the historic Intramuros district, known for its Spanish
colonial architecture; the Manila Yacht Club; the Marikina covered market; and
the Metropoint MRT train station in Pasay City. The crew also traveled
approximately an hour by plane from Manila to El Nido, located on the stunning
Philippine island of Palawan, for scenes that take place amidst the magnificent
islands of the South China Sea. The dramatic islands, with their limestone
cliffs that emerge directly from the water, are more often associated with the
landscapes of Malaysia and Thailand.
In Palawan, Thompson also found a 100-foot-long wooden-hull fishing boat, the
Sabrina, for a critical scene. The working fishing boat goes out for three
months at a time and houses up to 20 people along with chickens, goats and pigs.
Offers Thompson: "We power-washed the entire thing because it was unbelievably
smelly. Then we took off all the dressing and dressed it from scratch while
keeping much of the character that was there." Despite their best efforts, the
production ended up filming alongside some of the fishing boat's original
tenants: a sizeable rat population.
For several days the crew also filmed part of a chase at Navotas Fish Port,
known as the fishing capital of the Philippines, situated north of the city on
Manila Bay. In the evenings, the location is a working fish market-1,000 feet
long and 200 feet wide-that sells more than 100,000 fish every night. Every
morning during the shoot, the crew had to scrub, steam and dry the market.
Thompson and his team removed hanging tarps, added skylights and supporting
posts, and scrubbed the floor to lessen the overpowering fish smell. This also
served a practical purpose: to make the location safe for the complex stunt work
that was to be performed there.
Next Production Note Section
Home | Theaters | Video | TV
Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.
© 2016 8®, All Rights Reserved.