Move over, Bond; it’s Bourne’s time to shine.
The morally conflicted super spy — a character actor Matt Damon hasn’t played since 2007’s Bourne Ultimatum — is poised to return to the big screen in the upcoming Jason Bourne, which debuted its first teaser (and officially revealed its title) during Sunday’s Super Bowl.
With so much at stake for Jason Bourne — after all, the world has changed tremendously since he last was in action, and the space for action-thriller titles has only grown more competitive — what kind of movie can fans expect to see come summer? Damon spoke to EW late last year and set the record straight on the character’s latest outing, answering some burning questions about the adventures ahead.
It’s been eight years since Bourne Ultimatum was released. What had to happen for you to return to the character?
First and foremost, we needed a good story to tell [laughs]. Everyone involved at the studio level really wanted it to happen, but none of us wanted to force it. And so [Bourne Ultimatum director] Paul [Greengrass] and I, if there was any strategy we could hit upon, it was to wait to see how the world change, or to see if anything presented itself organically. Mainly, we just didn’t want to mess it up. We were really happy with the three films and if we were going to do another one, we wanted it to fit in with the three films in terms of quality.
Is there a particular current event that triggered your imagination when it came to Bourne’s next adventure?
Since 2007, so much has changed. There’s been the financial collapse, the great recession, all these issues of cyber warfare and civil liberties — things that are slowly coming to into the zeitgeist as we start to grapple with what the future is going to look like. And so those are kind of somewhere in the stew of our story. If you look at the first three, they are films that are product of the Bush presidency. Thematically, they touch on things people were talking and thinking about during that presidency. This one feels like a movie about today.
Where is Jason Bourne when the film begins?
Well I don’t know how much I should say. [Laughs] We talked a lot about what state he should be in, and where we came to was that if you found him fat and happy and content, you don’t really have a movie. So we talked about how at the end of Bourne Ultimatum, he gets his memory back and it kind of completed that identity journey for him. But does that complete things for the character or not? And the conclusion we came to is no — we find him in a very dark and tortured place. He’s living with the same things as he was before, and then he goes to find Julia Stiles’ character, who basically says, “Just because you remember everything, doesn’t mean you know everything.” So you find him in a place that’s dark and unresolved.
This is the completion of this journey that started in the Bourne Identity. It’s part of the first three [movies], it’s not a whole new chapter. It feels like the conclusion, even though we’re not saying it’s the conclusion, it feels like the conclusion of my identity journey. It goes deeper than Ultimatum, basically.
Shooting has taken place all over the world in locations like DC, London, and Greece. What does that mean for you in terms of plot?
The last one was set in London, Madrid, and New York. And subconsciously, those places were places where there were terrorist attacks. This movie opens with an austerity riot in Athens, and that’s very much by design. It feels current with what’s going in our world. You’re always creating an alternate reality with Bourne, but you want to feel like it’s our world.
What can you say about stepping back into the character and on set with Paul Greengrass – especially neither one of you were involved in The Bourne Legacy
I always said I wouldn’t do it without Paul. It’s because he’s got such a handle on this mythology of the character and just because he’s one of the great directors alive. I would never feel comfortable doing this with anyone but him. It had been seven years since we had been on a set together — time kind of flies, especially when you get to middle age. I’m just reminded every day why I like working with him so much, with the way he attacks every problem. He’s just so smart. I love working with him. I’m going to do as many movies as I can with him before they pack us away to the old folks home.
Alicia Vikander is in the movie. What can you say about her part?
You have to do something great and new, and Alicia is our great and new. She plays a new character we’re introducing, and she’s a specialist in cyber. Instead of just the three arenas of warfare — air, land and sea — there’s now this fourth element: cyber. The implications of that are huge, and she’s representing that in the movie. We also have Tommy Lee Jones in the movie, and he’s kind of representing the analog CIA in the way the old guard thinks. Those two go head to head quite a bit. Introducing those two new characters, I think, is probably one of the biggest trailblazing things we’ve done in this movie. One thing about these movies is that the casts are so good. I always feel so amazed at the people we get. If we have any kind of formula, it’s hiring the very best actors we can to fill out these roles, and Alicia and Tommy Lee are two absolute heavyweights.
Jason Bourne opens in theaters on July 29.