The Bourne series, starring Matt Damon as the amnesiac but deadly assassin Jason Bourne, was among the more reliable action bets of the 2000s. Each of the first three films grossed more than the previous one at the box office, coinciding with Damon’s rising star power and the technical ambition of the action sequences.
The story behind the scenes is different. All of the Bourne films have been beset by production difficulties. Director Doug Liman clashed with the studio during the production of the 2002 original The Bourne Identity. Damon and director Paul Greengrass decided to film a new ending for the 2004 sequel The Bourne Supremacy just weeks before its release. Screenwriter Tony Gilroy wrote a first draft of the 2007 threequel The Bourne Ultimatum before bowing out, forcing Damon to help out with the writing process.
In 2012, a spinoff/”sidequel” titled The Bourne Legacy – featuring Jeremy Renner as deadly operative Aaron Cross – did relatively soft business at the box office, grossing less than Ultimatum and earning a more lukewarm reception too. For a while it appeared as though a Bourne Legacy sequel would be the next step for the franchise anyway, until Damon and Greengrass agreed to make Bourne 5 (as it’s currently known) instead.
Bourne franchise producer Frank Marshall, who has recently been out and about promoting Jurassic World, has informed Collider that Bourne 5 is moving along much smoother (so far) than other Bourne films have in the past:
Well, it’s very exciting obviously. Working with Paul [Greengrass] again and Matt [Damon] and getting the team back together is kind of a dream. We’re in pre-production, the script’s there, we’re going to start casting soon, we’re looking at locations, it’s all going very well.
Marshall also said he expects (hopes?) the production process for Bourne 5 will be “a slow walk this time,” compared to production on the previous Bourne installments. In a separate interview with /Film, Marshall also reiterated what he’s said in the past: that Renner will not be appearing in Bourne 5, as he re-emphasized that Bourne 5 and the Bourne Legacy sequel are “still two different projects, two different films.”
With that in mind: Damon’s return to the franchise is intriguing, but the Bourne series (arguably) feels somewhat played out at this point. Ultimatum wrapped up the Bourne character’s journey on a strong (and satisfying) note, while Damon is at a point in his career when he might be better served by continuing to pursue projects with more ambition for his performance talents (see: Alexander Payne’s Downsizing) or more original movies, like Ridley Scott’s upcoming The Martian adaptation and Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall (arriving in Fall 2015 and Fall 2016, respectively).
Still, Marshall sounds confident that the next film is going well and could be a return to form for the Bourne franchise. Greengrass’ last film Captain Phillips was tense and thrilling in all of the right ways, but it remains to be seen if he can pull off the trick again through the lens of this familiar character.
Bourne 5 will be in U.S. theaters on July 29th, 2016.