Update: We now have a quote from Greengrass himself!
For literally months and months now, all we've heard regarding a fourth installment in the successful and critically acclaimed Bourne franchise - dubbed Bourne 4 for the time being - are the repeated claims by star Matt Damon and Supremacy/Ultimatum director, Paul Greengrass, that the next installment is being worked on and that they have a story but no script. Every time we heard something new, however, the project always seemed to be getting pushed forward, inch by inch.
Today comes a bit of shocking news that puts a large wrench in the Bourne 4 works, at least for the time being. Apparently, according to The Playlist (who has the exclusive on the story), Greengrass has walked away from the project. "Sources and friends close to the project," say this actually happened not just in the last day or two, but more than a week ago, and for some reason we're just hearing about it now (The Playlist has took the time to ensure all the specific details were accurate before publishing).
Despite repeated word that the movie is coming along, things on the Bourne 4 front haven't exactly been going smoothly. This has specifically to do with the script, or rather scriptS: Two have been written, one by George Nolfi (co-writer of Ultimatum, and another Matt Damon movie, The Adjustment Bureau) and one by Josh Zetumer, the latter being brought in not that long ago to write a "parallel" script (whatever that means). Zetumer hasn't written anything that's completed, but he also has Dune, a film called Villain and another called The Infiltrator, which are currently in-development. He must be good...
So what's Greengrass' problem? Well, apparently he didn't have any knowledge of Universal bringing on another writer (Zetumer) to write another script on top of/parallel to Nolfi's. Greengrass has been busy with his other Matt Damon movie, Green Zone (see below), which some people are describing as "Bourne in Iraq."
Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass on the Green Zone set
That's not where the problem ends, unfortunately: Green Zone was supposed to be a smaller movie that Greengrass made in-between Bournes (although evidently he didn't stretch too far with that film), but the reported cost has ballooned to a whopping $150 million (yowza!). Greengrass has apparently reshot things many times, and has been tinkering away at the movie for months in the editing room, something which the studio is obviously not happy with (these things cost money).
Supposedly, Greengrass has become notorious for (as The Playlist says), "finding the movie," by letting the story grow by itself right in the middle of production. He's a creative director and it's fine to do that sort of thing on a project like United 93 (which cost $15 million to make), but when it comes to a high-profile, fairly big-budget franchise like Bourne, the studio isn't going to like that sort of thing. Bottom line, Greengrass and the studio haven't been seeing eye-to-eye, and with the way the director feels he's been treated on Green Zone, he's reportedly walked away from Bourne 4, with the good ol' generic "creative differences" being cited as the reasoning.
Word is that Greengrass and Universal can resolve this thing and hopefully, for the movie and the fans' sakes, things will go back to normal and Bourne 4 will be firmly back on track. However, what happens if Greengrass doesn't return? What about Damon? Apparently, he's really quite loyal to Greengrass, so if the director doesn't come back we'll likely either have to face the prospect of a Bourne 4 without Damon (please, no...) or none at all (the lesser of two evils, I think you'll agree).
Update: hear Greengrass himself speak on the matter!
"You won't find a more devoted supporter of the Bourne franchise than me. I will always be grateful to have been the caretaker to Jason Bourne over the course of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. I'm very proud of those films and feel they express everything I most passionately believe about the possibility of making quality movies in the mainstream. My decision to not return a third time as director is simply about feeling the call for a different challenge.
There's been no disagreement with Universal Pictures. The opportunity to work with the Bourne family again is a difficult thing to pass up, but we have discussed this together and they have been incredibly understanding and supportive. I've been lucky enough to have made four films for Universal, and our relationship continues. Jason Bourne existed before me and will continue, and I hope to remain involved in some capacity as the series moves on."
Perhaps Greengrass will Damon the thumbs up to do it without him, but I don't know if that will happen - Damon is a hot commodity right now, and he'll find plenty of other work. Besides, he's already done three Bourne flicks, and with the third, tied up the franchise PERFECTLY.
So with Greengrass off the project for the foreseeable future (he may come back if Universal does the required ass-kissing), and Damon's involvement hanging in the balance (at best guess, anyway), this really does hinder us from seeing a Bourne 4 anytime soon. We reported a few months ago that a summer 2011 release date has been eyed for the film, and a fall 2010 date to start shooting. Unless things pick back up very soon, I don't see those dates being met.
What do you think of Greengrass walking away from Bourne 4? Are you surprised or have the rumbling troubles surrounding the project over the last few months made this easy to see coming? Do you think Greengrass will return to the project? And if not, do you reckon Damon would do another one without him at the helm?