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Behind the scenes of ''The Bourne Identity''

Behind the scenes of ”The Bourne Identity” — Upstart indie director Doug Liman and star Matt Damon aim for action blockbuster status

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Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Identitiy: Egon Endrenyi

Doug Liman is a man who loves drama.

Take the director’s meeting with the late Robert Ludlum, the author of the 1980 best-seller The Bourne Identity. Most guys who want to option a book plan a meeting. Liman planned an entrance.

”I flew out to visit Ludlum in Glacier National Park [in Montana],” remembers Liman, who established himself as an indie maverick with 1996’s Swingers and 1999’s Go. ”I had just become a pilot, and it was my first solo flight. I had woefully miscalculated my arrival, so by the time I got there I had the National Guard looking for me. I didn’t understand I had to slow down to cross the Tetons.”

The Tetons would be the smallest obstacle in Liman’s path to turn The Bourne Identity into Universal’s big-budget spy movie starring Matt Damon. Fasten your seat belts — there’s turbulence ahead.

More than three years later, Liman has had a small crash. By announcing last month that filming The Bourne Identity was ”a f — -ing nightmare,” and airing his disagreements with the studio over editing, he made it clear that while you can give an indie director $60 million, you can’t make him play by an unspoken rule of big-league moviemaking: The studio puts up, the director shuts up. ”Everyone is so political about what they say,” explains Damon. ”If anybody says anything interesting, it gets picked up immediately.”

Universal, which opens the movie June 14 opposite two other would-be summer blockbusters, MGM’s Windtalkers and Warner Bros.’ Scooby-Doo, apparently isn’t taking any more chances. Interviews with the scruffily handsome, jeans-wearing 35-year-old Liman are being conducted in a Beverly Hills hotel suite, with ”Bourne Identity” exec producer Frank Marshall — clad in a navy blazer — seated right beside him.