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Matt Damon Talks About the Third Bourne Movie, The Bourne Ultimatum

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Matt Damon Talks About the Third Bourne Movie, The Bourne Ultimatum

Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum.

© Universal Pictures
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The preview audience was cheering when you were beating up people and crashing cars. How does it feel to be in that kind of crowd pleaser?
“It feels so good I can’t even tell you. In fact, you guys were the second audience to see the movie so none of us have seen it with an audience. So two nights ago, when the first press screening happened, we were all getting Blackberried during the movie, ‘They’re cheering at Waterloo,’ because we didn’t know. We came so down to the wire, as we always do on these Bourne movies, that we didn’t even get a test in. We each had little DVDs; we showed it on television. I showed it to my wife. I showed it do my brother and he was like, ‘Yeah, cool.’ And so we’d have these little friends and family screenings. Paul showed it to 25 people. You know, people in the business that we know that make movies. ‘Are we missing anything, guys? Can you help us out?’ Collecting notes as quickly as we could and trying to get them into the edit, and then putting it out.

So two audiences have seen the movie, of which you guys are the second, so to hear that… Last night we were at dinner, we got the Blackberrys all started going off at the same time. We heard that it was a crowd pleaser again. It was Paul and George Nolfi, the writer, and me and Joan [Allen] and David Strathairn and Julia [Stiles]. So we just told Amanda to expect a hung over group coming in the next day, because that’s when the champagne came out.”

Was there a sequence in Washington outdoors in the mall that you shot that didn’t make it into the film?
“Joanie and I have shot over the course of the last two movies, probably – we were talking about it and laughing about it at dinner last night, probably eight scenes. Joan Allen and I have shot, probably three or four in Supremacy and three or four in this one, where… It’s a weird thing. We make these movies [and they] are changing in such a fluid [way]. It’s a really weird process. We’ll end up doing scenes and we’ll just be sitting there shooting and going, ‘Well, this is never going to be in the movie. This doesn’t work at all.’ But a lot of that we don’t know until we get them up on their feet. So as a result, Joan and I have done a number of scenes together, all of which are on – I mean, you could make a DVD of. We’ve done the same scene in all these different locations and finally what we ended up with is that little quick scene outside the hospital in New York where I give her the thing.

It’s kind of a good indicator. It’s kind of the way – like the amount of attrition, like the attrition rate. Like we shoot, our ratio of scenes shot, the scenes that make the movie are probably about eight to one. That’s what happens when you start without a script.”

How did you deal with the backstory?
”We always kind of had a feeling about kind of where the Bourne character came from, and that he would have been trained, that he would have had a military background. Presumably he was tapped from one of these programs as a good candidate and showed language skills. You know, we had a kind of a loose idea of what that backstory was. We didn't want to pin anything too far down because obviously making all three movies, we never really knew. But we definitely knew enough that I could do all the physical stuff and get ready so that the character was kind of, hopefully, believable.”

Did you get hurt doing any of the stunts?
“Well, the fighting stuff, yeah, there was a huge difference. The first movie, I was 29, and this last one, I was 36. I definitely felt my age. And particularly because that big fight scene in Tangier, Joey, the other actor, the guy that I'm fighting, is like 23 years old. The first movie came out and he was in high school so he was so happy. He was like, ‘Mate, I'm in a Bourne fight. This is great!’ He is in really good shape and he's already like a much better athlete than me. So I was like, ‘Oh, man, Joey, you're killing me! You gotta slow down.’ And so I think it took probably a couple extra days. You know, it probably cost the studio a couple extra days because I'm a little older now.”

What kind of relationship do you have with Paul Greengrass as far as shaping the film?
”He's the guy that I do that with because he's so great at that. He's also a terrific writer. You know, I mean, he wrote United 93. He wrote Bloody Sunday. He's a really good writer and he does a significant amount of the work on these movies, too. Which any director does. I mean, you have to take ownership. You're telling a story, even if someone else has written it, you have to tell the story in a way that makes sense for you. So every director working, every director worth his salt is a pretty good writer, too. They never take credit for it, unless it's just them doing it.

You know, generally, that's what the writer's there for. We were lucky enough to have George Nolfi on set with us every day. So George kept out ahead of us. He would literally be in his hotel room working on the pages for the next day while we were working on the pages he had given us for this day, and we were making our tweaks in the real location, going, ‘Okay, well let's change this to that, because that thing's over there.’ You know, it's not an advisable way to make a movie. Like you couldn't teach that in film school and send people out there. But it works for Paul.

There's something about the chaos and the alchemy of like Frank Marshall and Paul Greengrass. And in this case, we had three different guys working on the script: Tony Gilroy, Scott Burns, and George Nolfi, who were on at different stages, and who are three of the best writers working today. So it's like you get this big mix and then you get the actors in there. But they've all gone down to the 11th hour. And we've literally [not known] until two nights ago. It should come with a stamp. It's not an advisable way to work if you want to live a long life.”

Page 3: Film Franchises and His Baby Girl

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