Producer Patrick Crowley Talks THE BOURNE LEGACY, Introducing Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross to Audiences and Reflects on Past BOURNE Movies

     August 9, 2012


Opening tomorrow is writer/director Tony Gilroy’s The Bourne Legacy.  For those unfamiliar with the franchise reboot, this time around, a government task force led by Edward Norton‘s character is assassinating all their genetically-modified assets to prevent another Bourne situation.  However, one member of the program, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), manages to escape with a scientist (Rachel Weisz), and the two go on the run for their lives.  The film also stars Oscar Isaac, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, Stacy Keach, Scott Glenn, Corey Stoll, and Donna Murphy.  For more on the film, here are five clips.

During the recent Los Angeles press day, I did an exclusive interview with producer Patrick Crowley.  If you’re a fan of the Bourne films and want to hear some great behind the scenes stories about all four movies, you’re in the right place.  During our extended conversation we talked about the making of Bourne Legacy, did they ever consider 3D, Easter Eggs, test screenings, will future Bourne movies have Bourne in the title, coming up with new and exciting action scenes, deleted scenes, reshoots,  and so much more.  Hit the jump for what he had to say.

jeremy-renner-the-bourne-legacy-imageQuestion: Talk a little bit about getting involved in this projectThis one’s been going through a lot of development.

Pat Crowley: Well I’ve done all four of them, so I started the first one in 1999.

How long ago were you guys developing this script?

Crowley: Not this specific script, but the development process has been going on for at least four years.

Did it start as soon as the third one was released or was it even before the third one came out?

Crowley: It started afterWe were never quite sure whether any one of the films was going to be successful or notSo there was always that period in which we’d pat ourselves on the back, and go, “I guess we did OKI guess we better pull it together and do another one.” And there’s always so many human elements involved in that, like the director Paul Greengrass wanted to do another movie before he did The Bourne Legacy, because he had done three movies in a row with Matt DamonHe had done The Green Zone, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum.  And he said, “I really need to do another movie without Matt, so people don’t think that I’m his director and people don’t think that he’s my actor.” That process took a while to work itself outAlso, trying to come up with an idea that everybody thought was going to carry you through the fourth Bourne movie was a challenge.

Clearly you guys are launching what is going to be a new version of the franchise, just in a different directionFrank has said in previous interviews that the goal would be to get Matt and Jeremy in the same movie at some pointDo you think that is incredibly important, or do you think that if it doesn’t happen we still have enough with Jeremy that it’s not going to be an issue?

Crowley: I think the direction we’re going now with Jeremy as the lead person can stand on its ownWe always wanted to make sure that if we went in a different direction that we could have the ability to bring Matt in later, so we never made any choices that eliminated the Jason Bourne characterWe always wanted to keep that alive to see if things started to fall together whether they would at some point be in the same movie, but it’s not the goalWhen we were making The Bourne Legacy we were not thinking about that, we were thinking about making the best movie that we could with Jeremy as the main character.

jeremy-renner-rachel-weisz-the-bourne-legacy-imageHow cognizant during the decision making process that you might be setting it up for a trilogy, and maybe laying Easter eggs throughout this first film?

Crowley: A lot of it is in Tony’s mind, because Tony is, I think, the architect of the whole series to dateHe was given the responsibility of – Ok now we need to go in a parallel direction, but we have to move forwardIn my conversations with him he has worked out where it all has the possibilities of going, maybe not all the specificsBut Tony wanted to make sure that with the Ed Norton character with the NRAG (National Research Assay Group) that he had an entity that he could push and go out for at least three or four more of theseSo it has always been a goal that if this is number four, then there would be a five, six, seven and it would continue

I’ve seen the movie, it’s really goodI’m sure audiences are really going to dig this thingHas the studio already said to you guys assuming this is good, and assuming it’s a hit, lets aim for 2015, or has that discussion not been on the table?

Crowley: It’s never comes onto the table until the movie is released

So, it’s like the day after the movie’s released?

Crowley: The day after the movie’s released there’ll be a phone call, or there will be no phone call at allBut, the day after the movie is released there’ll still be some kind of a phone call where they start taking a look at when they would want to have that movie to be in theatersThen you work backwards from there and you figure the development process, the writing process, how long that’s going to takeYou start to check on people’s availabilities and then you set your production date.

I’m a huge fan of IMAX, not IMAX 3D, just IMAXHas there ever been a discussion about filming any sequence in IMAX and since you haven’t done it thus far do you think it could be something that would happen in future movies?

Crowley: I think filming in IMAX would be something that we would inherently shy away from because so much of our stuff is shot in real locations in which you might have to be in a room that’s a third the size of this room and shoot for two daysAnd an IMAX camera is then a big obstacleBut for example, Robert who shot this also shot some IMAX stuff on MI4I think if the technology supports itBut, I always thought this was a you’re in the film kind of feeling as opposed to grand set pieces, and I don’t know that IMAX would necessarily be the next thing that we would think of

jeremy-renner-rachel-weisz-the-bourne-legacyOkI could make the argument that IMAX is good for everything.

Crowley: You know much more about it than II know that I like it when I see itIt just hasn’t really come up, I don’t think it’s ever come up in any conversation we’ve had about the Bourne Series.

Hopefully this conversation will lead to other people talkingWhat did you learn in the test screening process when you tested this movie?

Crowley: One of the first things we learned is that it’s very important that the audience understand going in that Jeremy Renner is not playing Jason BourneBecause people still, if you say to them, “Jeremy Renner is the lead, he’s a new character, the Aaron Cross character.” They’ll all go, “well, isn’t Matt Damon in the movie?” With the enormous amount of press that there has been about that, it still hasn’t gotten through to the average viewerSo, we’ve seeded in some stuff of Matt, or things in which Jason Bourne was mentioned from UltimatumI think there were points at which the audience was sort of going, “well, you say that that’s Jason Bourne and that’s Matt Damon’s picture, I thought that Jeremy Renner was Matt Damon.” It’s still convincing people that it’s a parallel character.

It’s interesting because I’m just so glued that I don’t even think about it anymore.

Crowley: You know, I talked to my mother in law and she goes, “Matt Damon isn’t in the movie?” and we’ve been talking about the movie for a year.

Do you think that’s kind of your own doing with the title being The Bourne Legacy?

Crowley: I’m sure it has something to do with itThe other thing is the previous three Bourne movies have been about an unformed character and you watched him grown and determine who he was and what he’d done and where he was going to goSo people really knew Jason Bourne intimatelyI think they’ll make the transition, once they see the movie I don’t think it will be a problem, but for a lot of them, they’re going, “Oh, great there’s another Bourne movie coming out!’

jeremy-renner-the-bourne-legacyDo you think that a future sequel will have the name Bourne in the title?

Crowley: I think that’s a really good question and I don’t know the answer because Ludlum only wrote three Bourne books anywayMarketing may decide that it’s really important that they stay with that so people feel comfortable and go see the movie, but it is a really good question to askBecause, if Jeremy Renner goes and takes off for another movie, its far less about Jason Bourne than it is about Aaron CrossSo it’s conceivable that it could get changed.

Any film that has action in it, especially a Bourne movie, the action set pieces are a big part of itThat’s what the audience wants to see, some kick-ass actionTalk about the challenge of always coming up with these new action set pieces, and was there something that you came up with for this film that you scrapped due to budget or because it was too complicated.

Crowley: In lots of films, the action sequences are the first ones to get modified before you shoot them because it is where you’re spending the most moneyDan Bradley, who is the second unit director and who was the second unit director on Ultimatum and Supremacy, and is a geniusHe looked at the script and came in and talked to me, and said, “The motorcycle chase is going to be really hard.” He knows that he’s got to up the ante anytime he does anything, and you’ve got to see the characterAnd Jeremy was not cast in the roleWe knew that we were going to have to see this person’s face throughout this chase, and how to achieve thatPlus, it’s dangerousWhen you say, “Jason Bourne’s in that car over there and he just smashed into the wall and broke through and hit six police cars and flipped over four times,” there can be a stunt guy in there who’s in an incredible roll cage, and he’s completely protectedOr sometimes there’s no one in the car at allWith a motorcycle you can’t do thatIt was Tony’s idea, tony wanted a motorcycle chaseTony had written that wayThen that became the task that we had to make workAnd it was hardThere were times when you went we could get more bang for our buck if you didn’t have him on the motorcyclePart of the rooftop stuff there is to give us some time of him moving on the rooftop, so you’re not on the motorcycle the whole timeBut, that was what we felt was the best way to goIt’s very difficult for myself, and for all the other people who make action movies to keep coming up with stuffParticularly when you’re kind of rooting it in realityThen it becomes really hardYou can’t have a 3D character, a CG character who suddenly does somethingWe try to keep the feeling that this is something that actually happens for people.

rachel-weisz-the-bourne-legacy-movie-imageWhat is bubbling up for you in terms of other projects, or have you just been too knee deep in Bourne?

Crowley: Pretty much, right now, this Bourne was sixteen months and I was out of town for over a year so, so I think I’m just laying low for a while.

Until Saturday opening weekend.

Crowley: Until Saturday opening weekendAnd all bets are offAnd you’d be amazed by the phone calls that you get that come from places that you never expected them to come from.

If I’m not mistaken you were originally pitted against Total Recall and then you bumped back a week to the 10thWas that a result of Recall, or was that a result of getting away from The Dark Knight Rises a little bit?

Crowley: It was much more about Dark Knight, because Dark Knight was just sweeping everything in its path, it was a tsunamiWe’d always been in the first week of August, and it’s a great time to release, because you pick up people before they start to go back to schoolWe all felt, and the studio is pretty good at being able to model this stuff and see what was likely to happenYou need to open wellPeople like to see movies that do open big and open wellEven if it decreases the longevity in terms of the amount of the opportune time that you have to release the movieIt made much more sense to open well.

In terms of deleted scenes, did you have a lot?

Crowley: NoWe had one scene with Jeremy and a state trooper, where he’s on his way to Chicago on his way to Marta’s houseIt was a long, really good dialogue scene in which the state trooper sort of thinks something’s funny and see what an incredible job Aaron Cross has done of disguising himselfAnd he comes up with a perfect alibi for what he’s doingThe state trooper just pulled him over.

rachel-weisz-the-bourne-legacyThis must be after the scene where he’s telling Rachel to practice who they are.

Crowley: No, this is before he gets to the houseIt’s before the shoot outHe’s found his car in the garage, pulled the panels off the doorThen he goes and you see him driving off; he’s in ChicagoThen the next time you see him he’s changing his boots and he’s in a wooded area, and he’s about to go to Rachel’s rescueThis was a scene in between, which was pretty much just a character scene; it wasn’t really a plot sceneIn which there’s a state trooper who pulls him over because there’s something he doesn’t like about himIt was this great really tense scene, this exchange of questions back and forth, and you see how glib and how seductive Aaron Cross can be if he needs to verbally disarm somebodyAnd the state trooper eventually believed him, let him go and moved onIt was about a three or four minute sceneAudiences were going, “We want to get to the house sequence.” Because, the house sequence is also the place at which they really feel the kind of action that they’re coming to the theater for.

So, I’m assuming there are more deleted scenes than just this? Or was this the major one?

Crowley: Not muchThen you get into lots of trimsYou’ve got Aaron Cross is the A story, then you’ve got Edward Norton and his people as the B story and there might be little things of the B storyYou always cut back to that, just in order to keep the pace up and give additional information about the storyThere might be tiny ten fifteen second thing that was cut out, but not much else.

Edward Norton – I love his work, great actor, a lot of talk about Edward Norton being in the editing room always being involved, or helping out if you willHow was he in this movie? Was he in the editing room at all, or did he just do the performance?

Crowley: Just did the performance.

Had you heard about this?

Crowley: Well, sureHe has a well deserved reputation, so naturally expectations are very high on the first day when he comes to workBecause you don’t knowYou don’t know how mercurial he’s going to be, or anythingAnd he and Tony, they had talked a lot before hand, but he and Tony completely clickedI was relieved and also really, really impressed with how comfortable Tony wasHe could answer any question that Edward had for himIf he felt Edward was going a little bit, he would guide him back gentlyIf Edward would ask, “Why are we going here and doing this?” Tony had an answer for himTony was very effectiveNothing could have made me happier.

rachel-weisz-jeremy-renner-the-bourne-legacyI would imagine that having a strong director with a strong vision, knowing exactly what they want would ease many situations.

Crowley: Many, manyAll the good directors I’ve ever worked with were people who knew that actors want their help and their guidanceAnd they knew the project so well, particularly for an actor who really gets involved in it, that they can say “this is where your character is right now, and I know because I’ve crafted it that way.” Then the actor kind of surrenders and lets themselves go with the director and I think that’s always when you get the best performance.

Every movie has re-shootsDid you guys do a lot, did you do just pickups?

Crowley: We had thirty-five days of shooting in the PhilippinesSeventeen days of that was first unit and eighteen days of it was second unitThat was supposed to be, that time of year – which was January, February, March is supposed to be the best weather that you’re going to get in the PhilippinesBecause right now, its monsoonsIt was monsoons right before we got therePeople were going, “are you sure this is when we’re supposed to be here? It’s been raining day after day after day.” I was on the phone to all these weather men, “What’s happening? Are we in trouble here?” Because everything took place in the same day, so you couldn’t go from a scene in which its bright sunlight then it’s raining cats and dogsOut of those thirty-five days we made it through about twenty-eight daysThen we got hit with rainWe got hit with rain and a big highway which is called Magsaysay Boulevard in Manila near the president’s palace, we had closed down lanes, traffic was backed up for hoursIt was a huge dealWe were shooting on Saturday, Sunday and then we got rained outThen we had to wait for another Saturday, Sunday in order to get there and we didn’t get all the work, there were some pieces that were left overThose are the pieces that we had to come back to a parking lot in LA and basically just shoot up against green screen a car crashing into a wallJust little tiny bits and pieces in order to make the action workAnd that’s a first; usually the Bourne movies have had a great deal more reshooting

the-bourne-legacy-rachel-weiszWas Manila always in the script? Or was that added as a cool country that you hadn’t been to?

Crowley: What we’ve done in the past is, Tony sits down and thinks of a city that either has some mystery to it or kind of an unknown city, which makes it mysterious in itselfSo we went to Moscow, Tony and I went to Moscow with Frank and we figured out how the third act was going to go for SupremacyTony and I went to Tangiers and figured out how the big action sequence in Morocco was going to workOn this one Tony and I went to Jakarta, Manila, and Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, to look at those three because we wanted to go to Asia for the first time, because we hadn’t been there beforeTony thought in terms of the pharmaceutical aspect of it, that made sense that you had the manufacturer of your stuff in a distant locationWe went and we spent three days in each countryWe were looking for a fish market; we were looking for an intense urban area, not a slum, but just a very poor areaWhen we came back, that’s the point at which all three of those options were up in the air for a couple monthsThen it was my responsibility to figure out which was the most productive place to goManila was the one that passed the test because it had a long history of making movies

Jumping back into the previous Bourne moviesI remember on the second or third movie, there was a press junket and everyone involved with the film was incredibly nervous because it was the first time anybody had seen the filmIt had literally just been finishedThen everybody saw it and it was awesomeYou could see a sense of relief on everybody’s faceTalk about the stress of making a film like that, that’s so last minute versus this movie where you had a script the whole way through.

the-bourne-legacy-jeremy-rennerCrowley: The two movies to compare for that would be The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy.  On The Bourne Ultimatum we had an eighty day schedule and we came in at a hundred and twenty daysI’ve been doing this a long time and I’m almost always on scheduleThe first people to see the film complete were at the publicity screeningSomeone from universal publicity was on the phone going, “the line where Matt Damon says ‘if you were in your office we’d be having this conversation face to face,’ they love it! They love it!” So we were all in the editing room, completely tense, we could hear applause, or if there was some commentThat was the first time anyone had seen the film done togetherThat was cutting it pretty closeThe first one was fifty-five weeks in post production, The Bourne Identity.  The second one we only had sixteen weeks of post, so it was absolutely rushedOn this movie Tony’s brother John is the editor, and they were pretty much cut-to-camera all the timeSo that Tony could go and look at stuff he had shot two to three days before and really get a sense of how the movie was fitting togetherThere’s a meticulous quality to this, just in terms of the music, the effects and everything elseWe’ve got some great stuff before, but I think there’s some really quality, solid stuff hereBecause everybody knew what the movie was going to look likeAt the end of The Bourne Ultimatum when Jason Bourne jumps into the Hudson River and goes down, floats down into the water, and then starts to swim, we also had a version where he just floats down and didn’t ever swimThose were last minute decisions.

The-Bourne-Legacy-posterI’m curious what it’s like being a producer when its forty days over scheduleWhat kind of messages are you getting from Universal at that point? What’s it like to call the studio and tell them you’re going to be really over on this one?

Crowley: One, it depends on how successful previous iterations of the movie had beenSo if you’re in the third movie and they did really well on the first one, they did very, very well with the second one, they cut you a lot of slackBut it gets to a certain pointThis was not goodWe need to spend this money we want it to look coolerOr we need to spend this money because we shot these scenes and they don’t really work, and so now we need to shoot these scenes because we think they’re going to workIt was that free form of an experience

Which is crazy because every other movie that’s made in that way generally does not workIt’s usually a disaster, and that movie is really good.

Crowley: A lot of the credit on that goes to Chris Rouse, who was the editor on the second and third oneHe could put stuff together in ways where you were just entranced by what he didThere might be a logic hole big enough to drive four trucks through, but you just went “Wow! The pace is great and how did it get from this to this, and this is so exciting!” and suddenly you’re in another countryWe got really, really, really lucky.

Latest News