August 29, 2007
Matt Damon: Bourne To Spy
Before dying in 2001, novelist Robert Ludlum penned three Jason Bourne books. Writer Eric Van Lustbader then wrote two additional tomes about the titular strong, silent assassin, but don't expect a reprisal by Matt Damon. "I'm never doing this again," the Cambridge, Mass. native vowed.
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He isn't totally closing the door. "If [director] Paul Greengrass calls me in 10 years and says, 'Now we can do it and I have a way to bring him back,' that's a world in which I can go. But if we came out with a fourth one now, say I suddenly got bonked on the head, everyone would be like, 'Are you kidding me?'" said Damon, who together with wife Luciana Barroso, is the father of a 17-month-old daughter, Isabella.
Greeted with critical acclaim, The Bourne Ultimatum racked up $131.6 million in box office receipts within its first two weeks. The third and final chapter of the CIA operative-with-amnesia trilogy is an adrenaline-fueled roller coaster ride. Without missing a beat, Ultimatum picks up where The Bourne Supremacy left off three years ago. Having settled some scores in his last screen foray, Ultimatum promises to fill in the missing pieces of Bourne's memory.
The catalyst for this story plot is the revelatory details printed in articles by a London Guardian journalist (Paddy Considine). The reporter has stumbled across details of a CIA program called "Blackbriar" that replaced its former black-ops program "Treadstone." Treadstone was manned by a squad of brainwashed government assassins with Jason Bourne's name appearing at the top of the list.
Bourne's attempt to track down the reporter's knowledgeable source takes him on a globe-trotting trek through Moscow, Turin, Paris, London, Madrid and Tangier, where a CIA "asset" or hitman lies in wait. Spared the James Bond gadgetry, Damon's character reaches for the toiletries and a dirty bathroom towel to eliminate the bad guy.
Meanwhile, back in New York, headquarters to this CIA's extra-legal assassination organization, Bourne's every move is being tracked by high-tech surveillance equipment. The hero manages to outwit this technology time and again much to the chagrin of Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) who's ordered the hit on the spy's life.
British director Greengrass, who earned an Oscar nomination for United 93, has a propensity for crowded public spaces like London's Waterloo Station. And don't forget his de rigueur car chase through the juggernaut Manhattan streets where he tracks each move guerrilla-style with hand held cameras.
Despite a screenwriting Oscar for Good Will Hunting, a turn as a Gulf War vet-turned-heroin addict in Courage Under Fire, and Tom Hanks' Saving Private Ryan, Damon didn't come close to being an action star until he was tapped for 2002's The Bourne Identity. Catching everyone off guard, it became a sleeper hit with a $122 million box office pedigree.
More importantly, it gave the 36-year-old actor leverage. Damon mixed dramas like last year's The Good Shepherd and The Departed with a return to the Las Vegas playground called Ocean's Thirteen.
Besides the year-long shooting schedule that spanned three continents, Damon feels that the character of Jason Bourne has completed his story arch.
"The story of this guy's search for his identity is over, because he's got all the answers," the actor explained. "What makes him interesting is that internal struggle that was happening for him – am I a good guy? Am I a bad guy? What am I blocking out, and why am I remembering these disturbing images? So all of that internal propulsive mechanism that drives the character is no longer there."
While Greengrass stated that he didn't set out to make a political statement, there are correlations between the Bourne storyline and current events.
"The first one is very much 2002," said Damon. "It's post- 9/11, all the fear, all the paranoia. Everything is there. What I love about them is that you'll be able to look back and know the second one is 2004. Things are starting to turn in Iraq, and now with Ultimatum, this iconic American figure is going and apologizing and atoning for his misdeeds. He's taking responsibility.
"Now you have the movie ending where Bourne is pulling the gun and putting it to the head of the person who lied to him, who said, 'This is what you're going to be doing, saving American lives,' and Bourne is saying, 'I see now that you led me into something under false pretenses. Now I understand that and I'm not going to do that anymore.'"
Touching on the subject of Ben Affleck, the longtime pal who director Kevin Smith referred to as Damon's "hetero-life mate," Damon was lavish in his praise.
"We're not working on a script right now, but we're talking about a bunch of different things. His career just totally has gone in this really new and exciting direction, because I've seen the movie, Gone, Baby, Gone that he directed and it's fantastic. So he's gone from being an actor to being a director. Now he's somebody that can give me a job. So our whole relationship has completely changed," Damon chuckled.
"It's been 10 years since Good Will Hunting. We both put our heads down and worked pretty hard. So now we've woken up with careers and families and all the things that we wanted. So hopefully the next 10 years will be about doing better work, maybe doing a little less of it, and doing more together," Damon concluded.