After “The Bourne Ultimatum” wrapped up the story of amnesiac super spy Jason Bourne so neatly it was an open question as to what would happen to the franchise. Universal Pictures wanted to keep the series going for obvious reasons however with the immediate story threads concluded it started to look like all they would get out of the franchise was a trilogy. Director Paul Greengrass then declined to work on a fourth Bourne movie to pursue other projects. Star Matt Damon had said before that he’d only return if Greengrass did, and this seemed to put the nail in the coffin for the series. However Universal has moved forward with “The Bourne Legacy,” which will explore another agent from the same government project that effectively created Bourne. Now this continuation of the series has a face, as Deadline.com has confirmed that Jeremy Renner has been offered that chance to star in the new film, and he’s expected to accept.
Renner was thrust into the spotlight a few years back thanks to his Oscar nominated starring role in “The Hurt Locker.” He then went on to earn a second nomination for his part in last year’s “The Town.” Now Renner will play the part of an as yet unnamed agent in the same mold as Bourne. It’s not an unexpected choice for Universal but it is an interesting one for Renner. After his Oscar nominations the actor has found himself in high demand and is already involved in several other potential franchises. Next year he will appear as skilled archer Hawkeye in “The Avengers.” Later this year he will star next to Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” The word has been that Cruise will not be the sole focus of the new “Mission Impossible” film and that Renner’s character may take over that franchise. If this is the case this would make three action franchises that Renner is now involved in, which may run the risk of over-exposing the actor over the next two years. However he may get away with it since this new Bourne film is the only one where he would be the clear star of the film.
“The Bourne Legacy” will have Renner acting under writer/director Tony Gilroy. Gilroy served as the writer on all three of the Bourne films that have been made so far. However he had a falling out with Greengrass while working on the third film and had virtually no involvement after turning in his draft of the script. Once Greengrass and Damon departed Universal thought it best to bring Gilroy back on-board so that at least somebody who had their hands in the previous trilogy would be involved. It will be interesting to see if Gilroy attempts to maintain the high energy shaky camera and rapid cut editing that came to characterize the series under Greengrass. Given how stylized the second two films were and how positively audiences responded Gilroy may have little choice other than to approximate Greengrass’ style at least for the action scenes. However given the separated nature of this new story he may be allowed to develop a different, more subdued shooting style if he wants to.
The story details of “The Bourne Legacy” are still very much under wraps at this point. It is known that Renner’s character will be another agent who was part of Treadstone and their Black Briars project, which was the root of Bourne’s skill and amnesia. It seems doubtful that the amnesia aspect would be repeated but there are plenty of other ways that the film could have Renner’s character impacted psychologically by what he’s been through under Treadstone. The character of Bourne may be referenced in the film but it’s doubtful that he will actually put in an appearance. The intention seems to be that Bourne serves more as a background element or a point of reference for the audience.
Keeping the series going without the star or even the lead character is a tricky proposition, but Universal seems to have faith in what Gilroy is doing. Renner is a strong fit for the general tone of the material and can certain handle action. It’s worth noting that while Damon and Greengrass chose to leave the series neither has completely ruled out returning at some point in the future. So perhaps if “The Bourne Legacy” proves to be a success Renner may get to cross paths with Damon in a future installment of the franchise.