The narrative architect behind the Bourne film series, Tony Gilroy, takes the helm in the next chapter of the hugely popular espionage franchise, ‘The Bourne Legacy.’ The writer/director expands the Bourne universe created by Robert Ludlum with an original story that introduces us to a new hero (Jeremy Renner) whose life-or-death stakes have been triggered by the events of the first three films. Faced with the public and political fallout from the events of ‘The Bourne Ultimatum,’ the CIA decides to shut down “Operation Outcome,” the successor to “Operation Treadstone.” Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an agent of Operation Outcome, and Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a research scientist who helped create the Outcome agents, must find a way to escape before CIA agent Byer (Edward Norton) can have them assassinated. For ‘The Bourne Legacy,’ Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton join fellow series newcomers Stacy Keach and Oscar Isaac, while franchise veterans Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn reprise their roles. ‘The Bourne Legacy’ comes to cinemas August 10th in the US and August 13th in the UK.
What was the appeal of stepping into this “Bourne” world and bringing this new character to life?
Jeremy Renner: There was so much developed in the three prior movies, as far as the tone and pace, the action, the authenticity….there were so many things I loved about the series. Then to see what Tony Gilroy did with the new material and with this new character, it really opened up the world. For me, it was really exciting. At first I was hesitant, I wasn’t quite sure how they would do it. But once I saw how clever it was I just jumped at the chance. It was a lot for me to play with. And what Matt Damon did, and what the previous directors have done, that was great. For those who love the franchise, I’m not replacing Matt, nor would I want to. It would never have been interesting if I was taking over and playing the same character. Matt is always the face of Jason Bourne and always should be. I liked this script because it was a very interesting way of continuing the story while honouring what came before. And with ‘The Bourne Legacy,‘ there’s a science to it that is very real, and why would it not be? It’s in this franchise where authenticity is its main foundation. There’s no superhero-ness to him, to my character, it’s just advanced science that is very plausible. And I think that’s exciting.
Set in a world that is parallel to Jason Bourne’s, ‘The Bourne Legacy’ also keeps a very similar tone, like you said, it’s steeped in authenticity…
Jeremy Renner: Yeah. Cross and Bourne, they don’t know each other, so this has a whole new spin on why these super soldier spies are the way they are now. I hope I can bring a fresh perspective to it. It doesn’t veer into the CGI world or massive explosions. It stays authentic. It was important for me to want to find humanity within this character. What matters is that there is believability in everything we do in the film. No matter what the stunt is or the setup, it’s all based in reality, truth and the potential of science. As an actor, that’s easy to grab onto.
Marta’s utterly devoted to her groundbreaking research as a biochemist, sort of ignoring the ethical conflict of her work. But then she’s forced to confront the morality of her choices when her life is in jeopardy?
Rachel Weisz: Yeah. I think the really interesting thing about Marta is that she’s working in science, at the very cutting edge of her field and she’s very excited by what she’s doing. She’s very highly paid, the project is very highly funded by the government. But there are certain things that she does not know and is not allowed to know. She’s told not to ask any questions, and I think that probably suits her because she’s a bright person and if she started to think about what she was doing, she would know that there’s a huge moral compromise going on. So it’s kind of, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” She thinks she’s contributing to her country. But at the same time, she does secretly know that what she’s doing has great moral ambiguity to it. I would be less interested in her if she were just doing something good and saving the world. What she’s doing is a little dubious.
Like Treadstone, Outcome carries the promise of “perfect agents”, and similarly it presents its own unique bugs and flaws…
Jeremy Renner: Yeah. Initially being out there in the woods, it’s to keep Aaron Cross busy. That’s what has kind of become the problem of Outcome. They say it so eloquently actually in the script, how each of these programmes came with these flaws. You look at Treadstone and the flaws that came with that and the inconsistencies. And with Outcome, it’s a different sort of leash to control these agents. They’re too smart and you’ve got to keep them busy or they start doing bad things. So Aaron Cross is out in the wilderness, just keeping busy, they have him on a scavenger hunt, essentially, looking for absolutely nothing. But they’re keeping him busy (laughs). Then in the mean time they realise that the programme is out of control and they want to shut it down.
Marta and Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross quickly form a relationship out of necessity, they both need each other desperately when Outcome is rapidly shut down. They form an unlikely sort of duo?
Rachel Weisz: I think that’s a real strength of the storyline, that my character and Jeremy Renner’s character have met through my job and his job. We’ve come together, but I don’t even know his name, he doesn’t know my name. For various complicated reasons I can’t survive without him and he can’t survive without me, literally (laughs). Neither of us can stay alive without the other. So we are thrown together through necessity and we kind of become a really unlikely pair, we come from different backgrounds, different places and I think if we met in a bar we probably wouldn’t have got along (laughs). But we’re thrown together and we become very dependant on each other and I think grow to care for each other.
How was it working opposite Jeremy in that capacity, with the dynamic you two have in the story? Both perceived as simply residual cleanup by the “powers that be”…
Rachel Weisz: Yeah. Marta is hesitant to go with him, but she doesn’t have any other alternative. The people who represent law and order in her country just tried to kill her. She is a regular woman who happens to be good at science, but not good at evading the police authorities of the globe (laughs). They’re incredibly driven in very different ways. Marta and Aaron come from completely different backgrounds, and they end up relying on one another for different reasons. That’s a really fascinating way to create a story. And with Jeremy, we’re very different people, like Aaron an Marta, and we come from different backgrounds but we have a similar way of working. Jeremy’s very free and loose and pretty wild, and wonderful to work with. I’ve loved every minute opposite him, that was a lot of fun.
In keeping with the realism, I know you were heavily involved with the stunt work and physicality of the role, working with Dan Bradley?
Jeremy Renner: Very much so, I was wanting and willing to do everything I possibly could. Again, it’s really important to this franchise, to not suspend belief. And Dan Bradley, he’s been apart of the franchise since the beginning, and I got to work with him on ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’ so we had a great shorthand. He knew he could push me to a place and he always knows that I can push it. The shorthand was great, because of that we could get a lot done very quickly. And we trust each other too, it’s immense what you can get done when you have trust – and the same with Tony Gilroy on the acting side. You can really go to a lot of places very quickly because of the trust. ‘The Bourne Legacy’ was very, very demanding. I was lucky enough because many of the fight coordinators, the stunt coordinators and Dan Bradley were on the three movies I did back-to-back right before this movie. Working with them was seamless. I had learned hand-to-hand combat on ‘The Avengers,’ so I took that over to this and actually used patterns. I had a nice running start.
Rachel Weisz: The thing that I like about “Bourne” is the level of realism, so the stunts feel and look very realistic – partly because of Dan Bradley’s great directorial skills, directing stunt skills. But also because the stunts are real, in this, we were just doing them. There were certain amounts of questions that could be asked, but actually the things about stunts is you can’t really explain them, you just have to do them. So if you saw me asking lots of questions on set, it was probably because I was incredibly anxious (laughs), and I was trying to just delay it. You just have to do it, it’s like learning a dance….well, on the back of a motorcycle you just experience it and every time you do it, it becomes a little less scary.
How much more difficult was this hand-to-hand combat, as opposed to ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’ and ‘The Avengers’?
Jeremy Renner: Every day was difficult. There was really no difference, it was just a challenge with a different set of circumstances. I was lucky enough to have ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’ and ‘The Avengers’ beforehand. The same guys I worked with on those came to Bourne, so I had a running start with that. If anything, it might have been a little easier, even though what was required of me was a lot more.
How was the experience working with writer/director Tony Gilroy, someone who must know this “Bourne” world inside out after writing the first three films?
Rachel Weisz: Tony Gilroy, he’s a very unusual director. I’ve never come across someone like him, in that he’s incredibly bright, he’s got a very strong intellect, he’s a wordsmith, he’s got a great sense of control and order. All the thing that you need to direct. But he also loves chaos and chaos in the acting, and I think that’s how you get a raw, edgy, kinetic acting style which feels like reality, rather than safe, stagy kind of acting. I’ve never come across someone who has that combination, Tony has a real rock ’n’ roll streak in him, a raw edginess. It’s like, “Let’s find chaos and abandon, and let’s go,” which is great for acting. He’s an unusual combination in a writer/director, and I’m happy to be in his band (laughs). I felt very exited because of Tony, who was architect and writer of the first three “Bourne” films. It was very exciting, with the curtain being lifted on the first three films. You get to see who’s really in charge, you think you knew who was in charge and you don’t. So that was a really exciting reveal.
Jeremy, how did you find the frozen lake scene?
Jeremy Renner: With that, there’s no prep. And that’s why I was so stressed about it, how do you prepare for that (laughs)? Even I can prepare for a jump or a stunt, with that you just go and get cold. You have to mentally go there. But it actually wasn’t so bad – it was so bad up to the moment of going in! But once I did it I was like, “Ok, this is not THAT bad.” My brain made it much worse than I thought it would ever be. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I ended up doing it with no wetsuit, I did the shirtless thing. It was all fun….don’t get me wrong, I’m not jumping in freezing water again (laughs). But I’m glad I did it.
How challenging was it to shoot in such cold weather, out in the snow?
Jeremy Renner: For everybody, cold is cold, no matter if you’re holding the camera or you’re in front of it (laughs). You don’t ask for that sort of physical torture, but it’s very telling and makes it even easier to play because it’s part of the scene. We weren’t shooting it in the Rockies and pretending it was summer. It was cold, and it was supposed to be. The only thing that’s really challenging is that I’m supposed to be a tough guy who thinks, “Oh, it’s not cold!,” but I was freezing. But, it was just another one of those challenges to overcome. It wasn’t easy, but it was beautiful and became a character in itself, I think. Tony Gilroy had batteries in his gloves and heated underwear, he had everything on that could be powered. He was not very good in the cold (laughs). He asked me to jump in the water naked and said that he was willing to do it with me, but he didn’t mean it. But, I’m glad that he said that. I appreciated it.
With the amount of work that goes into a film like this, looking at it from start to finish, does it ever seem daunting? How do you stay focused on the work, the whole time?
Jeremy Renner: It’s like running downhill. That’s what it felt like. I felt like my personal workload was minimal compared to the entire process of filmmaking. For me, it was about getting enough sleep and being physically adept enough to be able to perform when I needed to perform. That was it, every day. There was fighting, training, stretching, or whatever I had to do to get through the day. It was like, “Here’s food. Here’s water. Now, go do this.” The treats were the moments I had with Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz. Those were the little treats along the way that kept me going through the really physical part of the movie.
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