Matt Damon hasn’t played Jason Bourne since 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, but he quickly makes up for lost time, kicking off his long-awaited return in Jason Bourne with an adrenaline-fueled chase set during an austerity riot in Athens.
“It’s the kind of action sequence you can only see in a Bourne movie,” says returning director Paul Greengrass. “It marries action with a really intense, emotionally truthful next chapter in the Jason Bourne story.”
Greengrass thought he said goodbye to Bourne nine years ago, but Damon convinced him that audiences craved a comeback, and together they brainstormed an adventure that sees Bourne reunite with sympathetic spook Nicky (Julia Stiles). “Life out in the cold isn’t working for either of them,” Damon says. “Nicky uses the riot for cover to meet with him, but she gets followed, and that sets the plot in motion.”
The world has changed significantly since the superspy last appeared on the big screen, by way of new leaders and looming threats. “Different concerns, different issues, different themes,” notes Greengrass. “For Bourne, that’s a good landscape to emerge in.”
With the largest of the Canary Islands standing in for Athens, a crowd of hundreds of locals — who learned Greek phrases ahead of the 25-day shoot — played ardent activists. “Never for one second did I not feel like I was in the middle of some austerity riot,” Damon says. “I don’t know if it was something specific to Tenerife or that they were really excited to be in this movie or some combination of the two, but they [the extras] were awesome.”
Not that Bourne can’t handle it. He might be older, but Damon arrived on set in the best shape of his life. “Matt worked phenomenally hard to get into astonishing shape,” says Greengrass. “He looks like he’s on a mission, he looks like he’s active, and he looks like there’s no time to waste.”
And he needs a bike that can keep up with the bulk of his biceps — which is why he seizes this custom ride from one of the goons on his tail. Damon pulled off the high-risk caper with the help of stuntman Paul Edmondson.
“He does all the stuff that is life-threatening that I could never get insured for, and quite frankly, would never do,” Damon says, laughing. “Mostly because I’d just look terrified while doing it.”
Jason Bourne is in theaters July 29.
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