Total Film is standing in a riverside bar on a blustery Berlin night, 500 yards from where Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon are shooting a scene for the sequel Bourne Supremacy.
Despite the chilly weather, both Greengrass and Damon – along with producer Frank Marshall – spared us some time for a chat about the latest instalment in the Bourne series.
The original movie was supposed to kill your career. Were you worried at all back when The Bourne Identity was released?
Matt Damon: It had bad buzz from Hollywood because it had been delayed and delayed. They said, “This is going to be a disaster”, and that was it for me.
I’d had my two bombs [All The Pretty Horses and The Legend Of Bagger Vance] and I was about to have my third. I mean, ‘Goodbye! You’re done.’
There was nothing I could do. So I went to London and I did a play [Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth]. I looked at the decisions I’d made and I said, ‘I really wouldn’t do it any differently...
How is this shoot compared to Bourne Identity?
Damon: Last time with Doug, the script wasn’t where we needed it to be while we were shooting and that is a tough situation for anyone to be in. We were scrambling a lot more on the last one than we are on this one.
What inspired you to bring Paul [Greengrass] on board?
Frank Marshall: We looked at Bloody Sunday and we were knocked out by the way he told the story, his visual sense, and we wanted that kind of energy for this film. In a funny way, this sequel kind of feels to me like Raiders of the Lost Ark: we’ve got something new established and now we’re going to go on.”
The current political climate is very different to when The Bourne Identity was made. Have you tried to tackle contemporary issues within the movie?
Paul Greengrass: That’s a good question. You don’t want to make The Bourne Supremacy and set it in Iraq – that wouldn’t work. I think the Bourne franchise works very well when it’s contemporary, when it’s urban, when it’s close to the street and when it’s unconsidered.
I think it wouldn’t work if you made it sort of topical. That’s not the purpose of it.
What is the purpose of it?
Greengrass: To give people a ride. I really liked the first film – it was commercial but it felt like an indie film, too. Essentially, it’s a kind of paranoid conspiracy thriller and it’s preposterous in one way, but at the heart of the film it’s played for emotional realism.
It’s got a slightly more compressed timeframe: a bit more urgent, a bit more desperate. I think in pushing Bourne further, you’re getting a little edgier.”
Damon: Yeah, visceral and vicious. I operate at a deficit in an action-movie situation just because of the way I look, so I did training with weapons and fighting just to be more believable.”
Last time, the guy I was fighting was a professional kickboxer and he never hit me. This time, within the first day, Marton busted my lip open! So I kinda realised how that stuntman felt last time. We banged each other up a little bit...
Any interest in taking on Bond next?
Greengrass: God, no. I don’t think that sounds like me. James Bond is a great archetypal character but essentially James Bond is an imperial adventurer, he’s a figure of the establishment.
Everything that Bond is, Bourne isn’t. Bond’s a superhero. Bourne’s just a clever guy who’s against the establishment and on our side. And he’s out on the streets and on the run and we hope he makes it home. Whereas James Bond’s just some idiot in a casino...