This post contains a SPOILER for American Made
The Bourne Identity director Doug Liman reveals that he considered killing off the main character at the end of the first film in the franchise. Staring Matt Damon as the super spy suffering from a bad case of amnesia, Identity spawned a series of followups and kickstarted one of the best action film series of the new millennium. Though Paul Greengrass is arguably the director most associated with the brand (calling the shots on three installments), it was Liman who got the ball rolling by adapting the first of Robert Ludlum’s novels for the big screen. The Bourne Identity was a critical and commercial success, establishing Damon as a bona fide action hero.
The film’s acclaim reverberated through the industry, setting a new bar for the genre and inspiring EON Productions to reboot James Bond for modern times. However, if things went a different way during Identity‘s development, the movie would have been memorable for an entirely different reason. At one point, Jason Bourne was going to die at the conclusion of the story.
In an interview with Uproxx to promote his new film American Made, Liman talked about his penchant for making Tom Cruise die in films, following their work together on Edge of Tomorrow and this year’s crime drama. As it turns out, the director had his thoughts on killing a different A-lister earlier in his career:
“Matt Damon and I talked about killing Jason Bourne at the end of The Bourne Identity. We were like no one will see that coming! And obviously, we decided not to do that.”
Liman went on to elaborate that the decision was more about finding a “satisfying” ending for viewers, and less about setting up sequels. At the time of Identity‘s release, it was unknown if it would be a big enough hit to warrant followups, so the creative team was focused on telling the best self-contained story they could. As many know, the film ended with Bourne and Marie reuniting on a sunny beach, which was certainly more upbeat than watching the main hero die. After all Bourne had been through, it was nice to see the character get that kind of catharsis – however short-lived it was. This ending ensured audiences would leave theaters on a high note, while also leaving the possibility for further adventures open.
Of course, Bourne is still alive and well after four movies where he continuously peeled back layers of his mysterious past. However, it’s worth wondering at this point if he’s reached the end of the line. Last year’s Jason Bourne was a decent box office hit with $415.4 million worldwide, but critically was seen as a retread of the previous films that brought little new to the table. If Damon is to come back for a fifth go-around, it’ll be pertinent to make the material feel fresh – and perhaps killing Bourne off would be the way to achieve that.
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