Matt Damon starred in the first three of the currently four films that consist of the Jason Bourne franchise: The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and The Bourne Legacy (2012). Loosely adapted from Robert Ludlum’s books, Bourne was marketed and critically acclaimed as a more intellectual version of a shoot-em-up, violent spy thriller. Here are 16 action-packed facts about the franchise.
1. DOUG LIMAN FLEW HIMSELF TO ROBERT LUDLUM’S HOME TO GET THE FILM RIGHTS.
Doug Liman, the director of Swingers, Go and The Bourne Identity, piloted his first cross-country flight by himself to reach Ludlow at his home in Glacier National Park. He almost ran out of fuel flying home.
2. TONY GILROY MADE LIMAN TOSS MOST OF THE NOVEL AWAY.
Gilroy was credited as a writer on all four films, and directed The Bourne Legacy. Back in 2000, he told Liman he wasn’t interested in writing a screenplay about Ludlow’s books because they were just about “running to airports.” Gilroy insisted on just taking the idea of an assassin with amnesia and working from there.
3. BRAD PITT, SYLVESTER STALLONE, AND RUSSELL CROWE COULD HAVE BEEN BOURNE.
Pitt was offered the part, ultimately turning it down to work on Spy Game. Liman met with Crowe and Stallone, too. Matt Damon was the actor Liman thought best understood what he wanted to do with the material.
4. SARAH POLLEY TURNED DOWN PLAYING MARIE, WHO WAS A DIFFERENT CHARACTER AT FIRST.
Polley was in Liman’s Go, and declined playing the “foul-mouthed, high-strung” American with the name Marie Purcell in The Bourne Identity. Run Lola Run’s Franka Potente won Liman’s favor instead, and her character was re-christened Marie Helena Kreutz.
5. CONKLIN WAS BASED ON OLIVER NORTH.
6. PRAGUE PRETENDED TO BE SWITZERLAND FOR THE BOURNE IDENTITY.
Both faux snow and real snow were on the ground during scenes where Prague doubled for Zurich. The problem was that Damon’s wardrobe was designed in Paris, so he ended up being very cold in just his sweater when filming the Zurich scenes in Prague in January. Damon’s voice slurred in the scene where he’s talking to Marie in the alley because of the low temperatures, so his dialogue had to be re-recorded later. Some cameras even stopped working because of the cold.
7. THE U.S. EMBASSY WAS A DISUSED PRAGUE BANK.
It was about to become a luxury hotel when The Bourne Identity’s crew came in and briefly turned it into the United States Consulate in Zurich. The U.S. Embassy guards were played mostly by actual U.S. Marine Security Guards stationed in Germany.
8. LIMAN INSTRUCTED DAMON TO WALK LIKE A BOXER.
Damon said it really helped in finding his character. He spent six months learning boxing for the first movie, in addition to six months of martial arts training, and hundreds of hours of gun training.
9. THE MARTIAL ARTS STYLE USED IS CALLED KALI.
In Kali, one uses the energy of his or her opponent against them. Liman figured that’s what Bourne would use.
10. NO SMOKING WAS ALLOWED.
Liman didn’t allow smoking in The Bourne Identity. He wanted to set a better example than he did in Swingers, where there was a lot of it.
11. LIMAN WANTED THE CAMERA OPERATORS TO BE A LITTLE SLOW.
The director wouldn’t let them watch rehearsals, so they didn’t know which character was speaking next. Liman believed it gave the movie a bit of an “edge.”
12. THERE WERE MASSIVE SCRIPT TROUBLES IN THE FINAL 30 MINUTES OF THE BOURNE IDENTITY.
At Universal Studios’ insistence, a new writer was brought in to rewrite the third act, who drew upon Ludlow’s book and made it inconsistent with the tone Liman and Damon wanted for Identity. Liman claimed the studio wanted another action scene at the end, leading to the final half-hour needing to be re-shot in 10 days in two different countries. Universal grew to not trust and “hate” Liman (his words), no doubt in part due to hearing about the time he paid his crew overtime to light a forest for the purposes of playing paintball. It got so bad Liman considered auctioning his director’s credit off on eBay.
13. THE ENDING TO THE BOURNE SUPREMACY WAS ALSO TRICKY.
Not surprisingly, Liman was replaced as director for The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, but the 11th hour scrambling still remained for the movie franchise. New director Paul Greengrass had a meeting with Damon where the two came up with a new ending to Supremacy. They then insisted and received permission to shoot the new version, even though it would cost $200,000. Damon had to leave the set of Ocean’s Twelve, and it was only two weeks before the movie’s release.
14. DAMON REALLY BROKE AN ACTOR’S NOSE.
He deviated Tim Griffin’s septum in the Supremacy scene where Griffin was playing CIA interrogator John Nevins. The problem wasn’t a lack of rehearsal—they had spent three days doing that. The issue was that the room the scene was actually filmed in was smaller than the actors had planned for.
15. THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM DIDN’T SCHEDULE THEIR FILMING IN TANGIERS AT THE BEST TIME.
It was in the middle of Ramadan, when no Muslim can eat or drink during the day. Because several of the crew members were observing, the cast and the other crew members had to hide their eating and drinking.
16. DAMON WAS UPSET WITH GILROY OVER HIS SCRIPT FOR THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.
He claimed that his script was “unreadable” and didn’t care for Gilroy to leave Paul Greengrass to have to deal with the resulting mess without him. Damon later apologized. Gilroy went on to receive screenwriting credit anyway with Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi.