Q&A: ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ Producer Frank Marshall

“The Bourne Ultimatum” isn’t just one of the most financially successful climaxes to any film series in history, it also happens to be the closing to the best action franchise of all-time. Period. So in advance of the third film’s release on DVD, MTV News hopped on the phone with producer Frank Marshall to discuss the series’ influence, what audiences can expect to find on the DVD, and who would win in a fight – Jason Bourne or Indiana Jones.

MTV News: There was a lot of talk when “Bourne” came out about it being the best action movie of the decade – not just for its craftsmanship but also for its subsequent influence. As producer, how do you judge its reach?

Frank Marshall: Well, I have to say that it does seem to have created a fresh, new look at kind of an old, tired genre that was just getting sort of tread into the ground. And it’s quite flattering to see sort of a new take on the James Bond movie, which has gone more Bourne-esque, I would say. The other thing that starts to happen is you become the thing everybody wants to imitate. What’s funny about that is that we didn’t get here by imitating anybody else. We tried to do something new seven years ago, which has worked out. But now I get asked, ’Do you have another Bourne franchise in you?’ Well, if I did, I’d be doing it! [laughs]

MTVN: That’s striking to me too – that Bond, who you’re ostensibly aping, went back and aped you.

Marshall: Yeah, that’s what I mean. When I look at the new Bond, he’s a little grittier, he’s a little more down to earth, he’s not as slick. It’s much more edgy and gritty. And I think that comes from them recognizing that just doing the same old thing over and over sometimes doesn’t always work.”

MTVN: All movies are obviously hard to make –

Marshall: Yes! You’re right!

MTVN: Yeah, but this one LOOKS hard to make.

Marshall: You know, the good and the bad news about what we try and do in the movie is that we try and put people in these real places, and that’s the bad news for us on the production side. It’s a real logistical challenge to go to the busiest station in London, for example. How do you do that? Well, that’s a challenge that we like to try and rise to. Another film might have gotten a closed station and put up Waterloo Station signs. But we wanted to go to the real place so we worked out a way to work between 10 and 4—the non-peak hours—and have a little unit that would sort of blend in with everything. And that’s why it feels so real, because it IS.

MTVN: As a producer do you delight in bringing people behind the curtain on things like that for the DVD – or are you a preserve the magic type guy?

Marshall: I actually like having lots of behind-the-scenes footage. It’s just kind of nostalgic for me. I like to remember the moments. But also, I think the audience is smart. They like to know what went on to get you to these places. We kind of pride ourselves in doing it the old-fashioned way, rather than shooting against blue screen and painting in Waterloo Station, for example. We go there.

MTVN: Given that, do you have a favorite bonus feature on the DVD?

Marshall: Well, I think the way we did the rooftop chase is pretty amazing, the camera set-ups. There’s this shot that’s in the trailer where the camera follows Matt [Damon] as he jumps off the roof and into a window. It’s sort of a parkour thing. We obviously didn’t want to do a whole parkour chase but we wanted Bourne to be able to do a couple of those kinds of things. I had a couple of interviewers say to me, ’Obviously that’s CG.’ I said, ’No, no, it’s not CG!’ I said ’Okay, I’m going to send you the behind-the-scenes.’ [laughs] So I revealed that a little early. It was incredibly exciting because they both had to run and jump at the same time. Even though they’re cabled off it was pretty spectacular.

MTVN: Matt said those leaps were the most challenging thing he had to do.

Marshall: Yeah. And that’s the great thing about Matt – he’s up for anything. He’s a big part of this.

MTVN: Matt told us that he thinks Bourne could kill Bond with a napkin. How about you? What would happen if Bourne and Bond duked it out?

Marshall: Oh, Jason Bourne would win. Bond would win with the gadgets, and Bourne would win the bare-knuckled fight. Bond has all the gadgets but Bourne has all the moves.

MTVN: What about Bourne vs. Indiana Jones?

Marshall: That’s a tough one. Two different eras. Well, what’s interesting is they are alike in that they’re both vulnerable and they do get hurt. When you look at Bourne at the beginning of this movie he’s pretty beat up. And Indy gets beat up because every once in a while he makes a mistake. Bourne doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.

MTVN: No kidding, he’s just about the smartest assassin I’ve ever seen –

Marshall: He’s a thinking man’s assassin. Bourne is always thinking and using everyday objects to get himself out of jams. Things like, ’Okay, I’ll roll up a newspaper and put it in a toaster with a fork.’ He obviously learned that in some combat school or something, but he’s always making do with clever things and you go, ’Oh, that’s cool.’ In a normal action thriller or spy thriller, Bourne would have just left that apartment because he wouldn’t have a way to blow it up. But he knew immediately to go turn on the gas and then set off the toaster which would give him time to leave. That’s cool. That’s the extra story beat that adds to the credibility of the action. And that’s what we’re always looking for – those kinds of moments.