“Universal hated me… they were trying to shut me down”: Matt Damon Had to Become a Mediator Between Director and Studio to Save the Most Difficult Bourne Movie

Turns out, Matt Damon played a major role in one of the most difficult Bourne movie ever made, and it wasn't just as an actor!

Matt Damon, Universal Studios
Credits: Harald Krichel /Wikimedia commons


  • The making of "The Bourne Identity" faced significant challenges due to creative differences between director Doug Liman and Universal Pictures, nearly halting production.
  • Matt Damon played a pivotal role as a mediator, resolving conflicts between Liman, the studio, and writer Tony Gilroy.
  • Despite initial setbacks, "The Bourne Identity" became a major hit, earning $214 million on a $60 million budget and spawning several sequels, though Liman was replaced by Paul Greengrass for future installments.
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Matt Damon has scored some of the best action roles throughout his career, with one of the most prominent ones being that of the iconic spy Jason Bourne in his blockbuster film series. But as much as he earned a critical commendation for that one role, there was a time when even the first film from the saga almost didn’t get made.

Matt Damon. | Credit: Nomoretitanic/Wikimedia Commons.
Matt Damon. | Credit: Nomoretitanic/Wikimedia Commons.

The reason behind this was the creative differences between the mastermind Doug Liman, who helmed the masterpiece The Bourne Identity, and the production studio Universal Pictures. In fact, had it not been for Damon acting as a mediator between the two, this unarguably most difficult movie of all the films from the series just may have never been brought into existence!

The Director and the Studios Clashed on The Bourne Identity Sets

Back in 2002, when The Bourne Identity hit the theatres to mark the start of a widely successful franchise, pretty much no one knew just how much it had gone through just to be made into the spectacular piece of work it turned out to be.


In fact, because director Doug Liman and production studio Universe clashed on the sets due to creative differences in their working methods, there was almost a time when the movie never got made.

The Bourne Identity. | Credit: Universal.
The Bourne Identity. | Credit: Universal Pictures.

During an interview with Variety, the Edge of Tomorrow director claimed:

Every time I had to make a decision, my inclination was against making a traditional action movie,” Liman said. “I wanted to make an art film the studio could sell as an action movie with trailer moments to trick the audience. They had no idea what to make of this.

However, the studios seemingly never really saw the situation from his point of view. That being said, Liman and Universal clashed brutally during the making of the film. In fact, things seemed to go wrong right from the beginning when they were deciding on a shooting location.


Since it was only the first film and pretty much had no guaranteed success, the studios decided to choose a cheaper city like Montreal as the shooting location as a substitute instead of Paris.

But Liman was anything but okay with this.

Doug Liman. | Credit: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.
Doug Liman. | Credit: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.

According to what Den of Geek reports him as having said:


I was like, ‘What are they talking about? Because they speak French in Montreal, it’s going to look like Paris? Like, nothing looks like Paris.’

Needless to say, not seeing eye to eye rubbed the studios the wrong way and things didn’t look too good for the film due to the same.

However, even that wasn’t all, because Liman also reportedly found it hard to share the same perspective for the storyline as writer Tony Gilroy. This paved the way for clashes happening between these two as well, as reported by the New Yorker.

Tony Gilroy. | Credit: Eva Rinaldi/Wikimedia Commons.
Tony Gilroy. | Credit: Eva Rinaldi/Wikimedia Commons.

Because of this, the movie had to undergo multiple script rewrites, with Liman interfering and changing Tony Gilroy‘s version of the story, leading to a further conflict that eventually even led to William Blake Herron rewriting the entire thing.


But this new script wasn’t to Damon’s liking, and Gilroy was brought back on board to make the necessary changes.

Due to all of these reasons, the movie continued to face even more troubles in its mere developmental stage, with its initial release date getting pushed back from September 2001 to February 2002, and then finally fixed on June 2002 because of the reshoots.

Matt Damon Acting as a Mediator Saved The Bourne Identity

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in the movie. | Credit: Universal.
Matt Damon as Jason in the movie. | Credit: Universal.

As mentioned above, the filmmaker quite clearly didn’t hold the same vision for the movie that the producer and the studios did. This was further highlighted during an interview with the New York Magazine, where Liman claimed:


Universal hated me. I had an archenemy in the studio. They were trying to shut me down. The producers were bad guys.

This came as a result of all the reshoots and rewrites and the fulfillment of the heartiest desires of the director that he was denied.

Nonetheless, it was eventually Matt Damon who saved the day as well as the movie. This he did by acting as the mediator between Liman and all the people that he didn’t see eye-to-eye with, which mostly helped in the making of the movie.

A still from the movie. | Credit: Universal.
A still from the movie. | Credit: Universal Pictures.

As the New York Magazine reports Damon as saying:


I would be his surrogate because at least I could be heard.

Eventually, an eternity after all of these troubles and clashes were sorted out, the first film in Damon’s iconic film series finally luckily made it to the theatres on the very merry day of the 6th of June, 2002.

Moreover, it ended up becoming a major smash hit, not only garnering a whopping $214 million on its budget of $60 million (as per Box Office Mojo) but also going on to spawn multiple sequels over the course of a little over a decade.

As for Liman? Well, he was quite honestly replaced by director Paul Greengrass and Tony Gilroy for the rest of the films.


You can watch The Bourne Identity on Netflix.


Written by Mahin Sultan

Articles Published: 1209

Mahin Sultan is a News Content Writer at FandomWire. With almost one year's worth of experience in her field, she has explored and attained a deep understanding of numerous topics in various niches, mostly entertainment.

An all-things-good enthusiast, Mahin is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Commerce, and her love for entertainment has given her a solid foundation of reporting in the same field. Besides being a foodie, she loves to write and spends her free time either with her nose buried in a good book or binging on COD or K-dramas, anime, new movies, and TV serials (the awesome ones, obviously).

So far, Mahin's professional portfolio has more than 500 articles written on various niches, including Entertainment, Health and wellbeing, and Fashion and trends, among others.