After seeing the first trailer, you might have thought “The Bourne Legacy” would be just another “spy with amnesia” movie. Director and co-writer Tony Gilroy wants you to know that you’re very, very wrong.
Gilroy has worked on the screenplays for the series since “The Bourne Identity” with Matt Damon, but for this new leg of the series, Gilroy knew they had to “swing away” if they wanted to bring the franchise back.
For Summer Movie Preview Week, MTV News spoke with Gilroy about his first time directing a “Bourne” movie, working with Jeremy Renner and how things are different this time around.
MTV News: Where did you start conceptually when it came to continuing the series?
Tony Gilroy: I guess when they finished three, a lot of people spent a lot of time thinking about how and where to continue. I wasn’t a part of any of those conversations. When that ran out of road, everybody had sort of moved on. After that, I was approached because they were searching for some way of continuing something. I took a very casual meeting, long after everything had stopped and Matt [Damon] and Paul [Greengrass] had gone. There were a bunch of wacky ideas that they were trying, none of which were really appealing. I said, “I don’t know how I can help you, but it seems like you need a really big idea. You’re really going to need to swing away if you’re going to do something else, and I’m not sure if anybody’s going to want to do that.” I went off and did think about it a little bit and came back at them with something very ambitious and unusual. That caught some traction, and we started having conversations about it. We picked it up from there.
MTV News: Was there a sense that you needed to balance the old with the new?
Gilroy: I was there at the very, very beginning. It’s no secret that we never really had anything to do with the book. I spent a lot of time building up the mythology over the last 13 years. It wasn’t a preservation job, but it was very important to me. One of the things that was really important to me was that anything moving forward not only preserve what happened in the past, but make it better. There was never anything that was cheesy or cynical about “Bourne.” The one thing that was always true was that it had a soulful integrity to it, really embodied by Matt [Damon] in a personal way. You couldn’t violate what had happened in the past.
MTV News: How present are the events from the first three movies in “The Bourne Legacy”?
Gilroy: Everything that happened before was not a dream. Everything that happened was completely real, but you thought you knew what was going on. You thought you were seeing the world, and this movie is telling you that there’s a much larger world, a much larger conspiracy beyond this. The events of the other three films are incredibly present, but they’re not really in this very much. What happens in “Ultimatum” is really the spark that’s blowing open the door to this movie because the Jason Bourne story is exploding out into the public. Being impossible to conceal any further is causing problems for this much larger conspiracy. “Ultimatum” plays in the background of the very beginning of this film.
MTV News: We see the Jeremy Renner character enter the program in the trailer, something we didn’t see until the third movie for Jason Bourne. Is this a very structurally different movie?
Gilroy: Very much. Oh my God, yeah, for a whole bunch of reasons. One is that everybody in the world ripped us off. It’s been done to death at this point. It’s on TV three nights a week, much less Bond and everything else. The worst thing that could have been done would be to just slavishly follow some cookie-cutter pattern of visual style and storytelling style. It’s a bigger movie in the terms of the journey of it and the scale of it and the amount of stories in it and where it’s going. The great thing about Jason Bourne was that he was claustrophobically stuck down and trying to figure out this moral question. The whole second film is about an apology. It’s really about this guy trying to morally come to grips with the conflict between who he thinks he is and what he’s done. This character in this film has no moral conflict whatsoever. Jeremy Renner’s character has the reverse of amnesia. He knows exactly where he’s come from. He knows exactly what the stakes are if he doesn’t achieve his journey. It’s a very different tone, yet it will be very rewarding to people. You should be able to see the movie and not see any of them before. It’s been kind of ironic. The people that were having the most trouble getting their heads around the fact that we were doing this are actually the people who I think will ultimately be the most happy about what we’re doing. It has a lot of payback for the true fans.
MTV News: Jeremy Renner has quickly become an action superstar. What was it like having a talent like that leading this new story?
Gilroy: He’s a freak. Everybody knows what a great actor he is. He’s an all-in actor, just world-class. You can always double for somebody. You can always back off the action that you’re going to do. There have been a lot of great action stars who can’t run across the street. I was made aware as we were starting to get involved and then as we started pre-production [that] he is a physical freak. It is unbelievable. There are a couple guys out there that are like that, but they are very few and far between. He moves. He fights. He rides. He swims. He jumps, better than the stunt people. There are a couple people out there that you hear are like that. I hear Channing Tatum is a mindblower when it comes to learning stunts. You know Tom Cruise does all his stunts. Jeremy is right there. It would be hard to put someone who has a really clear identity with the audience in a part that wants to be that iconic. He’s sort of in the perfect place, monster chops, monster experience. To get someone who can kick ass every day is kind of a huge surprise.
It’s Summer Movie Preview Week, and MTV News will be bringing you exclusive interviews, clips and photos for the most anticipated summer movies. Get ready to gorge on inside looks at “The Avengers,” Robert Pattinson’s “Bel Ami,” Kristen Stewart’s “Snow White,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and more!