Hot on the heels of his buddy Ben Affleck's box-office-topping "The Sum of All Fears," Matt Damon is ready for his action hero close-up with "The Bourne Identity."

Damon plays Jason Bourne, who wakes up on a fishing boat with a couple of bullets lodged in his back, a Swiss bank account number embedded in his skin, a deep knowledge of foreign languages and the martial arts and absolutely no recollection of who he is. Oh, and several assassins are trying to kill him. "The Bourne Identity" follows Damon as he pieces together his missing past while eluding his would-be killers in increasingly creative ways.

"It was four or five months of martial arts and boxing and weapons training," Damon said of his preparations for the role. "I do this for every movie. For 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' I ended up stuck in a room playing the piano for months and months. ... This was a lot more fun."

Damon is accompanied on his quest by Franka Potente ("Run Lola Run"), who plays Marie, a girl Bourne offers $10,000 to give him a ride. The "Good Will Hunting" star's first major action movie also includes a brief but vibrant appearance from Julia Stiles ("Save the Last Dance") as a coordinator for the team of bad guys hunting the amnesiac hero.

"The Bourne Identity"'s many action scenes are infused with heavy doses of style, reminiscent of director Doug Liman's prior outings like "Swingers" and "Go."

"I just really responded to the script and to Doug Liman, who I think is a great director," Damon said. "Coming from the independent world, I just figured he was going to do something pretty great with this one."

Liman isn't the first director to tackle this material. In 1988 Richard Chamberlain, who starred as Allen Quartermain in 1987's "Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold," played Jason Bourne in a "Bourne Identity" TV movie.

Though a spokesperson for Universal Pictures said there are no concrete sequel plans, Internet rumblings have long suggested that "The Bourne Identity" is intended as the first part of a trilogy, or perhaps even a larger franchise. Which seems more than plausible considering that Jason Bourne, like James Bond before him, is the fictitious star of a handful of spy novels, including "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."

Bourne was created by author Robert Ludlum, who wrote 21 bestsellers before passing away at 73 in March 2001. Ludlum was widely regarded as a master of suspense-filled and action-packed storytelling. He wove a variety of intricate characters through several spy-oriented novels, and though Bourne was perhaps his most popular protagonist, there were others, including "Covert-One" series star Jon Smith.

If Damon proves to be as bankable an action star as Affleck, with whom he co-wrote and co-starred in the Oscar-winning "Good Will Hunting," Jason Bourne could well become the next James Bond. "The Bourne Identity," moved back almost a year from its planned fall 2001 release date, hits theaters June 14th.