MATT DAMON returns as trained assassin Jason Bourne for the latest showdown in The Bourne Ultimatum. In the follow-up to The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy--the smash hits that have earned more than $500 million at the global box office and sold almost 20 million copies in North America alone since their debut in home entertainment--Academy Award®-nominated PAUL GREENGRASS (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy) again directs a breathtaking espionage thriller that allows moviegoers to crisscross the globe and follow one man as he stays a step ahead of his would-be assassins.
In the world of action choreography, chase sequences and intricate plot switchbacks, the Bourne series has set a new standard for an entire genre. With an innovative story structure that rewards fans who have followed the series and thrills those new to it, The Bourne Ultimatum explodes with twists and surprises. Capitalizing on the increasing stature of Damon and a cast of award-winning supporting talent in The Bourne Ultimatum, internationally lauded filmmaker Greengrass understands that audiences demand intelligent espionage stories complete with heart-wrenching emotion and mind-boggling action.
JASON BOURNE COMES HOME: THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM IS GIVEN
Over the past five years, audiences have eagerly followed Bourne's perilous journey. When The Bourne Identity was released in 2002, moviegoers were enthralled by the film's independent vision that put a distinct postmillennial spin on the action-spy genre. "What surprised people was how fresh the movie was," comments producer Frank Marshall. "It wasn't the action movie they expected. I think they expected a film that wasn't as brave as the choices that were made--in the telling of the story, the way it was shot and how good Matt Damon was."
To direct the second in the series, The Bourne Supremacy, the producers turned to Paul Greengrass, a British filmmaker who had garnered critical and audience raves for his documentary and feature films--such as the internationally acclaimed Bloody Sunday and Omagh. Though he was transitioning into big-budget filmmaking, Greengrass would retain his signature handheld cameras and style of lightning-quick edits while continuing the series' storyline of one man against a clandestine government program. The Bourne Supremacy won a litany of raves from critics, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone effusing, "If you've forgotten the kick you get from watching a globe-trotting, butt-kicking, whiplash-paced action movie done with humor, style and smarts, take a ride with The Bourne Supremacy."
Greengrass' career exploded with the thriller and his follow-up work as writer/director of 2006's United 93. The unflinching drama told the story of the passengers and crew, their families on the ground and the flight controllers who watched in dawning horror as United Airlines Flight 93 became the fourth hijacked plane on the day of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil: September 11, 2001. Greengrass' efforts and the film would both be put on countless top-10 lists, and earn the director his first Academy Award® nomination for Best Director.
Now, Greengrass brings the rogue hero back to find answers about who and what Bourne is--and who made him that way--in The Bourne Ultimatum. This need for closure is what made Greengrass want to return to the series. "Bourne is a real man in a real world in pursuit of a mythic quest," he reflects. "What's wonderful is that it's an oppositional story. Is he a killer, or was he made to be a killer? There is an underlying feeling that Bourne is one of us, and he's running away from 'them.' He's trying to get the answers, and he doesn't trust them. They're all bad, and the system's corrupted. To convey that with a sense of excitement in a very contemporary landscape is great fun."
A Bourne sequel would not be complete without Oscar® winner Matt Damon returning in the title role to join Greengrass. The actor was pleased with the director's desire to helm the third in the series. "Paul is one of the great directors working today," says Damon. "He's a real storyteller whose style is perfect for these movies, because it's not theatrical. He's got a way of shooting that has a very honest feel to it."
Damon again brings to the third production the quiet intensity and quest for truth he first infused into Bourne several years ago. "Matt's unfailingly accurate," returns Greengrass. "There's something about him that makes audiences know he is a good guy. He's a wonderful player of parts where the character is actually very dark. There's a yearning in that character to be good that speaks to people, particularly young people. Matt and I have the same instincts for Bourne, the film and the franchise."
Producer Marshall states that Damon offers the same qualities of the protagonist from Robert Ludlum's classic spy novels. "Matt embodies exactly what Mr. Ludlum would have wanted in the character. For example, he doesn't look like an assassin, even though he's a trained one; he is contemporary and able to slip invisibly into the world. That's the character Ludlum painted."
In keeping with the other screenplays of the Bourne series, Tony Gilroy's story for The Bourne Ultimatum diverges from the historical plotlines of Ludlum's novels--written in the midst of a Cold War that would be almost unrecognizable to a generation born after its end. But Ludlum's themes of conspiracy and government programs run amok remain compelling and universally relevant. The bestselling author was long suspected of having ties to someone inside the CIA--a contact who helped him maintain a high level of believability for his stories.
Like Ludlum, the film's director has delved into the shadowy world of espionage. In 1987, Greengrass coauthored--with Peter Wright, the agency's former assistant director--a personal account of a former MI5 secret-service operative. The British government's attempts to ban "Spycatcher--The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer" ensured its exposure and ultimate status as an international bestseller. Greengrass' glimpse into the actual workings of the spy game gave him insight few other directors could have for Bourne's story.
In earlier chapters, the assassin learned a limited amount about who he was, predominantly through an unusual set of instinctual skills--from how to silently kill a target in public to outsmarting anyone who crosses his path. But finding and losing his only love robbed him of the desire to use these tools. "Marie represented Bourne's humanity," says Damon. "He's got a very dark past, and he's done horrible things and he knows it. Marie helped him to understand some of what he did and what it means to be human. With her gone, he doesn't have anything to lose."
Bourne thought his past life was finished when a bullet killed rogue CIA agent Ward Abbott (Brian Cox) at the end of Supremacy. "Treadstone represents this group he never wants to have any contact with again," Damon says. "He gave them an ultimatum at the end of Identity: He'll come back with everything he's got if he feels them behind him."
But the need for global surveillance and the neutralization of threats to national interests has escalated in the minds of key CIA players, and in place of the Treadstone project has come Blackbriar. "They learned from their mistakes of agents having mental breakdowns, and they've upgraded training and behavior modification," explains Damon.
Not only would high-tech surveillance and stunning action mark their return in the third of the series, but Greengrass was adamant that this episode would push the envelope in travel. Indeed, no Bourne film would be complete without a jarring race across the globe that takes moviegoers with Bourne to new locales--from London to Madrid and Tangier, from Paris to Moscow and New York City. "I wanted a contemporary landscape, and I liked the idea of uniting London, Madrid and New York," offers Greengrass. "There are bits in Moscow and a big piece in Tangier. All Bourne films are not only quests, they're journeys."
Damon committed and key players back in producing and directorial capacities, it was time to cast the rest of the company players.
WHO AM I? CASTING SPIES AND TRAITORS
The chain of command has shifted, but the activities of Treadstone initiatives upgraded (into Blackbriar) for a post-9/11 environment have become more covert and sophisticated in The Bourne Ultimatum. Of the players, Greengrass notes: "There isn't one bad guy--there's one bad system. You have this split between the hero who is moving to the light and a system that is corrupted."
The production sees the return of two acclaimed actresses who proved crucial to the series. Joan Allen plays spy hunter Pamela Landy, a CIA operative and internal investigator who developed sympathy for Bourne as she faced off against the vicious Abbott in the second film. Also returning to the production is series' favorite Julia Stiles as Nicolette "Nicky" Parsons, now stationed in Madrid when Bourne enters the city.
When it came to Allen, fans were not the only ones eager for her return. "Joan brings a cool, cerebral intelligence to Pamela Landy," commends Greengrass. "You feel her watchfulness; she anchors the CIA side of the story."
In Ultimatum, Landy is brought into the fold to help Noah Vosen (played by Oscar®-nominated actor David Strathairn)--the complicated new head of the covert wing of the CIA--track down the re-emerging Bourne. Her sense of what Vosen's group is up to with Blackbriar does not sit well with the by-the-book career CIA operative. Allen explains: "She is brought back to help search for Bourne, because she is, in some ways, an expert on him. He's a mystery to her, and she has compassion for him, but wants to solve the mystery of what happened to him. It is a world of spying, lying and secrets, but Pamela has a strong sense of ethical responsibility within that framework."
Landy's unrelenting pursuit for the truth about Treadstone--and scorching tête-à-têtes with Vosen--adds a crucial dimension to the Bourne story. "She finds herself, if not defending Bourne, at least willing to offer him an opportunity to explain himself," says producer Crowley. "She is willing to give him his day in court, whereas Vosen wants to terminate him at all costs. When Landy and Vosen bristle against each other, it's great to watch."
The arc of Nicky, first introduced in Identity, has been a complex through line in the series. "Nicky didn't really know what she was doing in Identity," comments Stiles. "And now she's at another crossroads. She knows that, with Blackbriar, the situation has gotten worse, and she doesn't want to be involved anymore. She's between a rock and a hard place because she wants to stay alive, but can't get out because she has too much information."
"There is a great resolution to her character," adds Damon, "when you realize her history with Bourne. It's two young people again, and they're on the run. They end up in many of the same situations Bourne and Marie were in, but it's clear that there can never be anything more between them because of decisions they made in their lives."
David Strathairn was approached to play Vosen, who operates the umbrella black-ops program of Blackbriar. Crowley, who first worked with Strathairn on L.A. Confidential, notes that the filmmakers were interested in Strathairn because his "strength comes from his softness. There's a depth of intelligence that he brings to whatever he's doing."
Strathairn was eager to become part of the Bourne players. Of his agency, he explains, "Blackbriar is an operation whose primary responsibility is to gather information and take action against a previous threat. Vosen is part of--and maybe even responsible for--this operation formed to perpetuate what Treadstone put in motion."
Acclaimed acting veteran Scott Glenn was selected to play CIA director Ezra Kramer. "Scott Glenn's character is the new person at the CIA and now everything happens on his watch," notes producer Paul Sandberg. "You need an actor of extremely high caliber to pull off the commanding presence and underlying ambiguity that defines a character like that. Scott was ideal for the role."
In the tradition of Bourne villains that have included Clive Owen as The Professor in Identity and Karl Urban as Kirill in Supremacy, Venezuelan-born actor Edgar Ramirez joins the cast as Paz, one of the next generation of Blackbriar killers. "We were looking for someone who you felt could blend into whatever Third World environment he was required to work in," recalls Crowley.
Known as one of "the assets" in the agency, Paz possesses skills on par with Bourne and quickly finds himself in two pivotal cat-and-mouse games with the rogue agent. "There is a great scene in the first movie in which Bourne comes face-to-face with The Professor," notes Greengrass. "Bourne has shot him and the Professor looks up and says, 'See what they make you give.' That defines the relationship with these guys. By the time you get to the third movie, Bourne is the old gunslinger. Paz is the new blood, and that dynamic courses through the movie."
The international ensemble includes Paddy Considine as British reporter Simon Ross, the man who sets the film's story in motion when he receives leaks from a CIA bureau chief about Bourne, the CIA's clandestine activities and, most valuably, the name Blackbriar. "He's fascinated by Bourne and the idea of this rogue agent," says Considine. "Ross is scratching the surface of something giant, and he discovers more than he should. It's a fight to stay alive with the information he has."
Once Bourne reads his name in the pages of Ross' paper, he attempts to get to Ross before Blackbriar assets, including assassin Paz, can intercept him. "It's in their best interest to make sure that the story doesn't get out," says Damon.
Playing the part of Ross' source, Neal Daniels--a CIA bureau chief whose conscience has gotten the best of him--is actor Colin Stinton. Daniels ultimately leads Bourne to his associate, Dr. Albert Hirsch (played by acclaimed acting veteran Albert Finney), and images of the two men begin to echo a past lost in the blank spaces of Bourne's mind…and start to awaken memories of a life before Treadstone.
"Bourne's motivation is to get to Tangier and find Daniels, so he can interrogate him and find out what he knows about the program," says Sandberg. "It's Bourne's key to his own past." His journey to learn the truth will take him from London to Madrid to Tangier, where he matches wit and muscle with another Blackbriar assassin, Desh (played by Joey Ansah), in a thrilling rooftop chase across the Medina shopping square.
Each step he takes brings him closer to his true identity. "People like to see Bourne deal with the different challenges he faces in the different places that he goes," notes Marshall. "He has to then solve those challenges by being clever. The audience is never ahead of him, so it creates a lot of suspense and questions."
His quest ultimately leads him to New York City, the U.S. base for Blackbriar, and home of Daniel's mysterious associate, Dr. Hirsch. Finney, for his part, relished the opportunity to play a critical role in the Bourne series. "I thought they were great action films, very quick, and kept me on my toes as an audience member," he says. "What's extraordinary to me now is that Matt still seems so full of enthusiasm at having new ideas for the scenes."
In finally finding Dr. Hirsch, the super agent returns home, to the place where David Webb became Jason Bourne. "Dr. Hirsch holds the secrets of Bourne, of his training, of everything that he went through," explains Damon. "So, he is what Bourne is heading toward for the whole movie, and really, for the whole three films. He's going back to where he began."
"Going home is a fundamental theme of this movie," agrees Greengrass. "Jason Bourne must go back to America."
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
PAUL GREENGRASS (Directed by) was nominated for an Academy Award® and won the BAFTA Award for directing the 2006 release United 93, the highly acclaimed drama recounting the courageous rally of passengers and crew to overtake a group of 9/11 hijackers. As writer/director/producer, Greengrass also received a Best Original Screenplay nomination from the Writers Guild of America, along with numerous other accolades.
He returns to the blockbuster Bourne series after having directed the international hit The Bourne Supremacy, which grossed more than $50 million during its domestic opening weekend and went on to earn more than $175 million at the U.S. box office.
Greengrass wrote and directed the critically lauded, documentary-style feature Bloody Sunday, about the 1972 civil rights march in Northern Ireland that resulted in 13 deaths. Bloody Sunday's awards include the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival 2002, the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival 2002 and Best Director at the British Independent Film Awards 2002.
Greengrass' other credits include Omagh (Best Single Drama, BAFTA 2005), The Murder of Stephen Lawrence (Best Single Film, BAFTA 2000; Special Jury Prize, BANFF TV Festival 2000), The Fix, The Theory of Flight (Best Foreign Film, Brussels Film Festival 1999) and Resurrected (Interfilm and OCIC Jury Awards, Berlin Film Festival 1989).
Greengrass has also written and directed many documentaries, including the official Live Aid documentary, Food, Trucks and Rock and Roll. He began his career on World in Action, where he won a BAFTA. He was also co-writer, with Peter Wright, of the controversial best seller "Spycatcher."
TONY GILROY (Screen Story by/Screenplay by) has written all three films of the blockbuster Bourne series, including The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, based on Robert Ludlum's novels. He has also written or co-written numerous acclaimed and hit films, including three films for director Taylor Hackford: Dolores Claiborne, The Devil's Advocate and Proof of Life, starring Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan. Gilroy has also written or co-written the films The Cutting Edge, For Better and for Worse, Extreme Measures and Bait and received a shared adaptation credit for Armageddon.
Gilroy, who was born in Manhattan and raised in upstate New York, is the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright/director/screenwriter Frank D. Gilroy (The Subject Was Roses).
He makes his directorial debut with the upcoming thriller Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney, which he also wrote.
SCOTT Z. BURNS' (Screenplay by) most recent screenplay was The Half Life of Timofey Berezin, in which Paddy Considine portrays a worker at a Russian nuclear facility who is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. Co-starring Radha Mitchell, the film is scheduled for release in early 2008. Burns also worked as a producer on the Oscar®-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
GEORGE NOLFI (Screenplay by) wrote Ocean's Twelve, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and The Sentinel, starring Michael Douglas, Kim Basinger and Kiefer Sutherland.
ROBERT LUDLUM (Based on the Novel by) was the author of 21 novels, each one a New York Times best seller. There are more than 210 million of his books in print, and they have been translated into 32 languages. He is the author of "The Scarlatti Inheritance," "The Chancellor Manuscript" and the Jason Bourne series--"The Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum"--among others.
Mr. Ludlum passed away in March 2001.
HOMEPAGE NEXT HOME