Producers Frank Marshall and Pat Crowley were thrilled with the script that writer/director Tony Gilroy and his brother, Dan Gilroy, wrote for “Bourne Legacy” and how they expanded the world that Jason Bourne lived in, building upon what audiences had discovered in the first three films and then offering them an opportunity to see new characters and explore a deeper mythology. Crowley marveled at their crafting of a language specific to this series, how they connected everything in this world, and pulled back the curtain to expose a darker layer of intrigue. They were also pleased to have Tony Gilroy, the narrative architect behind the Bourne film series, come on board to direct.
MoviesOnline sat down at a press conference with Marshall and Crowley to talk about introducing a new hero in a larger universe who must battle to stay alive when his program suddenly becomes a liability. They told us why Jeremy Renner was the right person to carry on the franchise, what the challenges and advantages were of shooting in the Philippines, why music was a crucial element in the film, and why the concept of pharmaceuticals designed to create super soldiers is less science fiction that most people realize.
Q: How do you deal with the challenges of going from Matt Damon to Jeremy Renner, replacing the star of your franchise with a completely different character, and selling that idea and the idea of a larger universe to the audience?
Frank Marshall: It’s really about letting the audience get comfortable with the world we’re creating which is why there’s the ad line “There never was just one.” So, people are comfortable with the world they’re entering into, and certainly, we’ve had a lot of discussions about there was a misconception that Jeremy was replacing Matt, and that was one thing we wanted to make very clear, that they’re different agents, and Bourne is still out there, and Aaron Cross has now come in, and who knows what’s going to happen next.
Pat Crowley: I remember talking with Tony, even back in “The Bourne Supremacy,” about this intense obsession Tony has with the American intelligence community, and he literally said “There’s Treadstone, but there’s a whole bunch of others.” In his mind, and in the research that he’s done, there are a whole lot of parallel agencies. The Department of Defense has got one. The National Security [Agency] has got one. Each one of the services has something. So, it actually is the way that these organizations are structured.
Q: What was it about Jeremy that made you think he was the right guy to carry on the franchise?
Crowley: We looked at a number of people when we first started out and we kept coming back to Jeremy. There’s an accessibility to him. There’s a vulnerability to him which maybe a more polished actor might not communicate to the audience, and his physicality made a huge difference to us, because that allowed us to be able to put him in situations in which you could see him fight or you could see him ride a motorcycle that with other people you’d have to do green screen or some kind of face replacement in order to cover up the fact that you didn’t have the right guy. Also, audiences haven’t formed their opinion about Jeremy Renner. He’s still evolving from the audience’s perception. What is he? Who is this guy? What does he bring? I like him but I don’t know why. I want to see more of him.
Marshall: I also think he brings an intelligence to the role that you see. He’s playing the part of a guy who’s now intelligent and doesn’t want to go back to what he was. I think we are able to see that in his performance. Then also, there’s the physicality. As Tony says, he’s a movie athlete. I mean, he’s extraordinary. Those moves that he makes, it almost looks like you’re speeding the camera up, but we weren’t.
Q: I noticed Joan Allen’s name is on the poster. Shouldn’t that be a surprise for people to see that she appears?
Marshall: I don’t think so. She’s part of the world that the movie takes place in. It’s like David Strathairn, same thing. It’s the same characters from the last movie.
Q: Can you talk about some of the challenges and the advantages of shooting in the Philippines?
Marshall: One of the things we always do on these movies, or we have done on all four, is Tony takes a trip with Pat to several different places before he starts to write the script. We have an area or a region in mind for where a sequence is going to take place. I’m going to turn it over to Pat because I stayed home while he went on this trip.
Crowley: In the past, we’d gone to India. We’d been to Moscow. We’d been to Morocco. On this one, Tony said “I think we’re going to go to Asia this time.” And so, we went to Jakarta, then we went to Manila, and we went to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, to check those out as places to see which one would win the competition. It took a couple of months to figure it out, but Manila was the winner because they really do have a lot of experience and a real infrastructure that would allow us to do the kinds of complicated things that you’ve seen in the movie. If you’re going to shut down highways and have huge car crashes and do the kind of mayhem that we do, then you need to know that the city government or the national government is going to understand what the filmmakers are asking and that you’re going to come up with the best possible solution. That was what made our choice for Manila.
Marshall: Also, there are a lot of pharmaceutical companies who do their business in Asia so it also added to the reality of the situation.
Q: Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to play with that science fiction aspect of the pharmaceuticals and how chems were being used to create super agents and soldiers?
Marshall: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s science fiction. I think there’s a lot of manipulation going on today with genes and a lot of that science. And certainly, what we found on all these movies is [when] we put something out there that we were sort of testing and creating, it already exists. That is sort of the 2.0 version of the agent that we started with back 12 years ago.
Crowley: And when you go back into the Bourne… it’s really arrogant to call it the Bourne mythology, but when you go back into some of the things that we were thinking about even in “Bourne Identity,” there are points at which the Jason Bourne character is going “I get these headaches.” And, as you’ll see, there’s also a line in the movie in which they go “He’s three years off of meds.” Also, in “Bourne Identity” and from the very beginning, there were certain medications that the Treadstone agents were being given at that time. So it’s not like this is just a completely new idea.
Q: Chronologically, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie like this before. It’s not really a sequel. It’s not really a prequel. Have you guys coined a new term for it?
Crowley: We need your help to come up with the term. We haven’t figured it out.
Marshall: We actually love these movies because we get to do things that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to do, like in the second movie with the leading actress who we lose in the first ten minutes of the movie. And, on the last movie, dropping the story in between the leap ahead that happened in “Bourne Supremacy,” we see what happened from Moscow to New York. And then, in this movie, as you say, it’s not a prequel or a sequel. It’s the same time-quel. Same time-quel? How about that?
Marshall: No? That’s why I’m not a writer. But I think the coolest thing is that we make a phone call from the last movie into this movie. So, you get to do things on these movies that are kind of cool and fun.
Q: How well-oiled a machine is the Bourne franchise at this point now that you’re in the midst of the fourth installment?
Marshall: I think it always has to do with the story, and I’m happy to say Pat and I have been on all four, and we have a core unit that we bring to each movie so far, but it works in and out with each director and their vision for the movie. We have this great, well-oiled machine that is able to keep the same sort of feel to all the movies but give each director their own individual style. I think all three directors have had their own visual style but they’re still in the same ballpark. So, we have a good group. It’s a nice family.
Crowley: And it’s because the personalities change. But year after year of doing these movies overseas or doing them with the kind of budgets that we do them and the level of complexity that they have, just having that experience and having somebody like Tony who we’ve all known for all of these movies and now he’s a director and he comes in and goes “How are we going to be able to do this?,” and we go “Don’t worry, Tony, we did that before and we know how this is done.” Our accumulated experience contributes to the facility of making these projects.
Marshall: We have this wonderful team that works with us when we go to these exotic locations headed by a wonderful woman named Hilde.
Crowley: Yes. Our production coordinator is a woman named Hilde Odelgarde (Odelga). Her first movie was “The Sound of Music.” She’s Austrian. She is absolutely wonderful and works at least twenty hours a day. No kidding.
Marshall: It’s incredible.
Crowley: She’s one of the ones who goes “Okay, so their plane’s coming from here and this is happening. Yeah, that’ll be fine.” She does it all in pencil. And so, we always bring her in when we get in trouble.
Marshall: She’s been in London, Paris, Prague, Tangiers, Moscow and Manila.
Crowley: We like to have those relationships. It’s a lot more pleasant and a lot more interesting for us, too.
Q: How does music factor into your input into the film, whether it’s the selection or influence?
Marshall: The music is a crucial element in the movies. As you know, we had John Powell on the first three, and unfortunately, John wasn’t available to do this movie. But, we had a great back-up in James Newton Howard with whom both Tony and I have worked before and who’s a consummate, fantastic composer. He came on very early and we had lots of discussions about again having still the feel of the Bourne predecessors but also having our own new direction that we were going in. There are little themes throughout that you’ll hear that remind you of the other movies. And, of course, we have our great closer in Moby at the end, and it was really fantastic this time because he came in and did this really kick-ass version of “Extreme Ways” and was very involved. Tony is very musical and they had a great relationship. Moby got to come to his first scoring session and see a large orchestra playing one of his songs, and he was like a kid in a candy store. It was great.
Q: I remember for the “Bourne Supremacy” they invented something called the Go-Mobile to shoot a lot of the action. Were there any new technical developments on this film to shoot the action?
Crowley: We still use that same old Go-Mobile. I think it’s on its last legs. I think it was sold for scrap. I think we wore it out.
Marshall: I think probably the jumping from roof to roof, we had a lot of rigs and things that we used in Manila that were pretty new and pretty advanced in being able to make something look like it was a little bit more than gravity would have, but it had the realism that it had, and also it was safe. These guys were jumping in great leaps, but they were very safe, and we were able to do that with this new equipment.
Q: Did that have a name as cool as the Go-Mobile?
Crowley: No, that’s just rigging and rock ‘n roll truss.
Marshall: Yeah, we took a lot of rock ‘n roll into this movie. Exactly.
Q: In creating this film with Tony, were there any discussions about where the franchise goes from here? Is it now Aaron’s story? Will we reintroduce Jason or will we meet a new Treadstone character in each film if it continues?
Marshall: I think that all those possibilities are open, but we’re going to follow Jeremy’s character, and everything else is wide open. That’s the great thing about where we are now. The table is set to go any direction we want to, but we will, I’m sure, follow Jeremy and Rachel and see what happens.
Q: In light of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, is the film at this point locked or do you think there might be any changes? Is there anything either of you would like to say about what happened?
Marshall: I think we are still, as most people are, in shock about these unimaginable events and really thinking about the people that have been affected. Certainly, we can’t change the movie. It comes out in two weeks. I don’t think really I can speculate on anything.
Crowley: Yes, it’s only a few hours old.
“The Bourne Legacy” opens in theaters on August 10th.