The Bourne Legacy is not only one of the most highly-anticipated films of the summer, it’s a unique chance to revisit the blockbuster franchise with a different star at the helm. Meanwhile, co-writer/director Tony Gilroy, one of the key creative voices behind the original trilogy, is preserving the series’ lore while giving its events a broader and more epic context.
As the film’s trailer observes, “Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg,” and Gilroy’s insights about the direction he took the franchise in, for the first time as both writer and director, suggest that this expansive view of the world of Bourne was part of his plan all along. But as if embodying the director’s perspective, Jeremy Renner’s character Aaron Cross isn’t an unknown entering a larger world, but an experienced agent who knows exactly who he is and what he’s meant to do.
Speaking to the Academy Award nominated filmmaker recently, Gilroy talked about reviving the franchise via The Bourne Legacy, revealing how he paid tribute to longtime fans even as he looked to a broader horizon, and the organic approach he and cinematographer Robert Elswit approached the picture with.
With the scope of the film mostly likely being bigger than Duplicity and Michael Clayton, did that change your process at all?
You know, it still has to haul ass in its own way. Everything that’s unworthy falls apart in its own way, and we’re very ruthless…I don’t know. I mean, it’s fun to cut action. It’s very familiar. I’ve spent 20 years in the room as a writer, and it’s the closest thing to writing that there is.
I imagine the action isn’t quite as fun when you’re shooting it.
Uh, no [Laughs]. You know, the hard work pays off; it’s one of those things that gives back, if you throw the money, attention, and effort at it. I worked really close with Dan Bradley on this and his whole team. It’s one of those things that gives back when you throw, and we had opportunities to throw a lot of stuff [Laughs].
[Laughs] Based on the few glimpses of action you get in the trailer, the camerawork seems very smooth. Was it a deliberate choice taking a difference stylistic approach versus what Paul Greengrass did?
I think every picture dictates what it wants to look like, and I really mean that. You know, it really served those last two pictures well. You don’t want to lose the balls, man. You don’t want to lose the visceral stuff. I’m not sure that visual style is always the way to get energy out of stuff. Look, I think they’ll be some very recognizable things that go back even before that… Everything Robert Elswit and I did was very considered. There’s a lot of different flavors in the movie, so there’s a lot of things that have different tempos and hopefully an organic feeling approach.
Did you ever see a balance in keeping the familiar aspects people loved about the first three films and you personally bringing something new?
I’ve seen the genesis of the whole thing for 13 years with a pretty good seat. To make it live, we had to go wider and have a wider perspective. I guess it’s well known now it’s a much wider story and a much wider horizon, and that has a whole bunch of different demands. A part of the fun is playing on the lore of stuff that happened before. You have to make a movie people can see for the first time and not know what happened before, but you also want to payback people who have been paying attention along the way. I had the advantage of knowing what I think those things are.
How would you compare Aaron Cross to Jason Bourne?
Cousin programs, different skill sets, and different attitudes. I’m not going to get into it, but both have a need, a different need. That was the only reason I would jump on this, otherwise you’re just knitting together an action movie, and that’s not that big a deal. To do something as thematically strong as what we had before and have as much motivation… Why else would I put two years of my life into it if I didn’t have something driving me? There’s something really driving me here. He’s certainly not the same guy; he doesn’t have amnesia and is not trying to figure out who he is, he knows exactly who he is, but he has a big problem. This character has another problem, one that is hopefully just as fundamental and mythic.
You shot Duplicity anamorphically, and it looked fantastic. Did you shoot The Bourne Legacy in anamorphic?
You know, we thought a lot about it. We really did. I’ve had the chance to do it twice with Robert Elswit, and I don’t feel like we’ve completely exhausted the frame yet. There’s so much balls out action through this thing. We knew what the four or five set pieces were. It’s very hard to swing an anamorphic camera around. It’s very hard to swing two anamorphic cameras around. With four or five, it’s really hard. It’s hard to get everything to work out. The other movies were not shot in anamorphic, so there’s a consistency. You know, super 35 turned out to be great. We’re still the same frame, but slightly different glass and slightly different smell. We shot it on film, though, man! Film, film, film… film! You know what? There were only two pictures where we were shooting…they told me there were 26 shows shooting east of the Mississippi, and only two shows were shooting on film, us and Lincoln. It’s going to look great, it’s a great look.
The Bourne Legacy opens in theaters on August 3rd.