Matt Damon To Be Bourne Again — And Perhaps Again And Again

Series producer says franchise could continue past Ludlum's trilogy of books.

The mysterious Jason Bourne has made a living out of rising from the dead.

The saga of the amnesia-stricken assassin originally took off in three bestselling Robert Ludlum books, only to have a Richard Chamberlain made-for-TV movie leaving the series’ fans praying for their own mind-erasing affliction. More than a decade later, Ludlum passed away and Eric Van Lustbader took over the series, while a baby-faced Hollywood star raised the ire of loyalists who insisted his casting was all wrong for 2002′s “The Bourne Identity.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars later, the Damon-powered “Identity” and its 2004 sequel, “The Bourne Supremacy,” have once again resurrected Bourne. And as two of the franchise’s creative talents prepare to shoot “Bourne Ultimatum” later this year, they’re admitting to James Bond-like plans to take the super-spy beyond the limitations of Ludlum’s trilogy.

“It’s kinda up to Matt [Damon],” series producer Frank Marshall recently said of how far “Bourne” will go. “Maybe to five [films] … At some point, he’s gotta find out who he is.”

“[Next] there’s a ‘Bourne Ultimatum,’ ” Julia Stiles said. “Paul Greengrass is going to direct it again, and we won’t shoot it until August.”

“There’s a script, and we’re moving forward,” Marshall added. “Matt Damon’s available, and we’re going for that right away. That’ll be out in summer of 2007.”

As fans of the series know, Stiles’ precocious government agent was one of the breakout characters of “Identity,” with the endearing qualities of both the actress and the character earning her significantly more screen time in the sequel. Grinning, the 24-year-old stated her desire for the trend to continue: “I hope so, but things always change, so I’m going to knock on wood. I hope that I get to be in it more.”

Interviewed separately, Marshall said Stiles need not worry. “Yes, she’ll be a central character in this,” the producer revealed. “So will Joan Allen and some of the other characters from the last movie.”

Adding that there will be two new villains in the next film, Marshall said the main challenge facing himself and Greengrass in the next several months will be the casting of the baddies. As fans of the novels know, the plot of Ludlum’s “Ultimatum” focused on an aging terrorist who targets Bourne, leading to his uneasy alliance with the KGB.

“We haven’t started casting yet,” Marshall said of the process. “Paul Greengrass is doing another movie right now, and then once he’s done with that in April, we go right into pre-production, so we’ll start casting then.”

“It kinda continues things,” Marshall said of the “Ultimatum” script, which will continue the trend of reinventing the books. “It starts up where we left off in the last movie and moves forward with him trying to discover who he is.”

The admittance that Bourne won’t discover his identity in the third film will undoubtedly be met by a sigh of relief from series fans, many of whom feared that “Ultimatum” would be Jason Bourne’s final appearance.

According to the producer, writers will be brought in to concoct storylines for life beyond “Ultimatum,” with Damon’s character discovering his true identity and resurrecting himself a few more times. “I think there’s hope for a couple more,” he said.

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