Matt Damon’s performance as the mysterious Jason Bourne has become legendary in the Bourne movies. Fans may be surprised to learn that Damon was hesitant to take the role of Jason Bourne in the film adaptation of the novel of the same name.
The acclaimed actor thought the film was different from the usual action movies, and he almost said no to the project because of the drastic changes made to the script.
A Departure from Conventional Action Heroes
The critically acclaimed performances of Matt Damon in films like Good Will Hunting had already established him as a versatile actor. When offered the role of Jason Bourne in the action film The Bourne Identity, he jumped at the chance to try something new.
But he didn’t take long to see that Bourne wasn’t your standard action hero. Damon was intrigued by the character precisely because of his complexity and flaws. Matt Damon was able to stretch his acting chops in Bourne, a departure from his usual one-dimensional “good guy” roles.
During the making of The Bourne Identity, many changes were made. The film’s original writer Tony Gilroy drew inspiration from the book but ultimately went in a different direction to make it more timely.
When Gilroy could not finish the film’s third act, another writer was brought in to finish the job. The author decided to completely rewrite the screenplay, taking elements from the source material but resulting in a version of the story that Damon would have trouble following.
When Matt Damon showed up in France to start filming, he was given a script very different from the one he had agreed to. The interpretation offered by the replacement writer focused on explosions and followed the standard formula for action movies, both of which Damon usually avoids.
Lacking the depth and substance he had initially found in the Jason Bourne character, the script had become the exact kind of movie he would usually pass on. Matt Damon and the studio wisely decided to revert to Tony Gilroy’s script after realizing they had strayed from their original vision.
“The writer who got hired to come in though went back to the book and did a page one re-write of Tony’s stuff. So when I went to France I got this script that was unrecognizable from Tony’s script and unrecognizable in a way I was really uncomfortable with. It became the exact kind of movie I would pass on, that I don’t want to do and that I avoided doing because there was the perfect number of explosions and everything.”
In this script, they could go in the direction they had hoped for the film without compromising the depth or complexity of the character of Bourne or the story’s ability to provoke deep thought. This decision was instrumental, as it laid the groundwork for the subsequent achievements and lasting impact of the Bourne series.
From Doubt to Success: Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne Legacy
Matt Damon is proud of The Bourne Identity due to the film’s unique contributions to the action genre. The violence and action in the film are integral to the story and the tension, making it stand out as a character-driven action film.
Damon likened the film to those of Alfred Hitchcock, emphasizing how it provided a new perspective while still being thrilling and entertaining. The Bourne Identity avoided the usual trappings of its genre while giving viewers a satisfying experience.
Matt Damon’s decision to play Jason Bourne, despite his initial reluctance and the difficulties he faced on set, was a turning point in his career. Damon’s reputation as an action star was cemented by the success of The Bourne Identity, which also launched a successful franchise.
Fans and critics alike praised his complex performance as Bourne, helping to make the films financially successful. Damon’s experience making The Bourne Identity highlights the significance of maintaining the original intent.
Although the film’s initial detour from that vision caused some unease and skepticism, Matt Damon and the studio ultimately succeeded in creating a thrilling and thought-provoking action franchise that has stood the test of time by returning to the script that captured the essence of the character. The Bourne Identity allowed Damon to show off his acting chops while revolutionizing the action film.