The news that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass could be reuniting for a new Jason Bourne movie was a boon -- and surprise -- for fans and pretty much everyone else who’s kept an eye on the franchise.
Damon and Greengrass had of course all but ruled out a new film over the years, saying that “The Bourne Ultimatum” and its resolution — the amnesiac super-spy regaining his memory — meant that there was little more they could do with the character.
But as Deadline Hollywood reported Monday night, Damon and Greengrass are indeed negotiating to reprise their roles as director and actor on the blockbuster Universal franchise. It would be the duo’s third outing together — the previous two garnered $730 million worldwide — and Damon’s fourth Bourne movie overall.
Universal declined to comment on the report, and representatives of Greengrass’ and Damon’s agencies also wouldn’t comment. But if it comes to pass, it offers one of the juicier back stories in Hollywood. What brought them back after all the reluctance?
Since the news broke, many have inevitably focused on the payday, and it’s hard to underestimate the power of a dollar in jogging memories of how much one enjoyed working on past hits, even for an amnesiac like Jason Bourne.
Options play a role too. Though Greengrass remains one of the few directors who can write his own ticket in Hollywood — the success of “Captain Phillips” last year opened things up again — Damon has been in a more precarious position lately. He’s had a series of decent performers in the past year — "Monuments Men” and “Elysium" — but hardly a big breakout of the kind he had with Greengrass and “Bourne.” He also seems to have shelved, for now, his directorial ambitions, after opting out of the chair on “Promised Land” a couple of years back.
The studio needs no such incentive. Its Jeremy Renner spinoff “The Bourne Legacy” (plans for a sequel of which would now be deferred) was something of a creative mishmash and performed only decently at the box office. Landing a new installment in a blockbuster series with the creative team that made it thus is valuable for any studio, and certainly for Universal, which after years of hunting for franchises is now back in the game thanks to coming movies like “Jurassic World” and its newish partnership with Legendary.
Whether they can reprise the magic remains a question. By the time the new movie hits theaters in 2016 it will be nearly a decade since the last time Damon and Greengrass conjured Jason Bourne. Other studios have tried similar moves, bringing back directors who elevated a franchise to great popularity, after years — and other directors and spinoffs — intervened. Most notably was the case of Bryan Singer, who returned to “X-Men” this past summer after more a decade away.
That experiment worked. Can Greengrass return to days of future past? We’ll see. But as Monday’s news showed once more, in the studio business, there’s always a way out of an ultimatum.