Matt Damon vowed, after director Paul Greengrass left the "Bourne" franchise, that he'd never do another "Bourne" movie unless they let Greengrass return. Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of two of the films and director of "Michael Clayton," has taken over the franchise, and he's found a way out of the Damon problem: Get rid of Jason Bourne.
The next film will be called "The Bourne Legacy," but even though the name's in the title, the film will have no Jason Bourne. Thus, no Matt Damon. Interestingly enough, the book "The Bourne Legacy" does have Jason Bourne (though it wasn't actually written by Robert Ludlum, the creator of the book series). Gilroy explained to Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells that he's just taking the title and running with it.
"The easiest way to think of it is an expansion or a reveal. Jason Bourne will not be in this film, but he's very much alive. What happened in the first three films is the trigger for what happens. I'm building a legend and an environment and a wider conspiracy… the world we're making enhances and advances and invites Jason Bourne's return [down the road]. Everything you saw in the first three films actually happened, and everyone who got into will be rewarded for paying attention. We're going to show you the bigger picture, the bigger canvas. When you see what we're going and see what we're doing it'll be pretty obvious…. but Jason Bourne's actvities in the first three films is the immediate trigger."
When Gilroy says he's only using the title of the book, not the plot, he's not kidding: "The Bourne Legacy," which came out in 2004 and is written by Eric Van Lustbader (who took over the franchise from the Ludlum estate for six more books), is all about Jason Bourne. Picking up where "The Bourne Ultimatum" left off, "Legacy" features Bourne back as David Webb (his birth name), teaching classes at Georgetown. He survives an assassination attempt and is -- all together now -- drawn into a complicated web of intrigue and deceit. Considering the whole book -- and the rest of the books written by Van Lustbader -- is about Bourne's adventures, Gilroy's adaptation will be anything but: He's essentially inventing a brand-new character and hitching it to the Bourne franchise.
The new direction may jibe well with Gilroy's "Michael Clayton" sensibility, though basically it sounds like Jason Bourne started some sort of "movement," which doesn't seem like Bourne's style. Curiously, Gilroy leaves the door open for Bourne's -- that is to say, Damon's -- return at some point, presuming the films are so good he just couldn't help but want to be a part of them. So, we have another entry in the casting couch speculation derby: Who's playing the new Bourne/not-Bourne? Horizons should be expanded; when they cast the first Bourne film, no one considered Matt Damon an action star either.
Watch Matt Damon in the trailer for "The Bourne Ultimatum":