I'll never forget seeing the first trailer for THE BOURNE IDENTITY. It was 2001 and, up until that point, Damon had acquitted himself quite nicely as a dramatic actor-writer in high-minded productions like GOOD WILL HUNTING, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, and THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE. He and pal Ben Affleck crossed over into the A-list at the same time, thanks to their work as writers/actors in 1996's GOOD WILL HUNTING, but they seemingly split after that. Damon went serious, and Affleck went big. While Damon worked on the kinds of films mentioned above, Affleck ran around making bombastic blockbusters like ARMAGEDDON, REINDEER GAMES, and PEARL HARBOR.
So the idea, as a follower of films, was that- of the two of them- Damon was more of the thoughtful artiste, while Affleck was more the celebrity movie star.
That's what made the debut trailer for THE BOURNE IDENTITY so attention-grabbing. Here it is, before I proceed:
You had 5'10 Matt Damon, in a chunky sweater, suddenly swinging his fists and kicking ass as some sort of action hero. It kind of came out of nowhere and, at a time when big screen espionage films had become bloated with spectacle (at that point, the most recent James Bond and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE films had been THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and John Woo's M:I II), it seemed like a refreshing kick in the pants.
When THE BOURNE IDENTITY came out, it wasn't an instant smash. And it was dogged by a rough production cycle that included rewrites, reshoots, and delays. But it did, effectively, turn Damon into a bankable action star. Still, he primarily hitched his action bonafides solely to the BOURNE films, as he worked on more typical "Damon fair" aside from them. This created a bond between character and actor that is somewhat rare these days. In a lot of ways Damon is Jason Bourne, and Jason Bourne is Matt Damon. That much was true when Universal wanted to keep the series going after THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM and, rather than recast the role, they decided to introduce a new character, played by Jeremy Renner, in THE BOURNE LEGACY.
Now that he's set to return to the part he originated in this summer's JASON BOURNE, Damon is no longer so sure that Universal will show that level of restraint in the future. He fully expects the character, which has been solely his up to this point, to go the way of other iconic Hollywood spies like James Bond and Jack Ryan- who, coincidentally, Affleck once took a turn as- and be recast and rebooted for future generations.
He told THR that he is "definitely going to be replaced some day by some new young Jason Bourne. That happens to everybody and they reboot these things, and that's totally fine."
Ever humble, Damon considers himself only a temporary custodian of the role. He knows his influence on the character lasts for only as long as he's involved, and that it will someday expire. "The only control I can exercise is over the ones that I’m part of. I'm the curator of them as long as I'm involved and that's why I battled so hard to make sure that we got the same creative people [including director Paul Greengrass] to get involved in this one," Damon added.
That said, he acknowledges what the role has meant to him and to his career, and so he's very excited to be back. He says the role of Jason Bourne has "had a huge impact on my life and career." But he knows his days are numbered, as it wasn't quite as easy for the actor- now in his mid-40s- to do all that's required of the part. "It's difficult when you're 45 compared to when you're 29, but you still have to run as fast as you can. That part was a challenge but to get to revisit the people was wonderful. But I said, let's smell the roses as we say and appreciate that we get to be here together and make sure we have fun [especially because it was so tense on the set for the other films]."
So what do you think? Is Bourne destined to be another Bond-like property, with new actors, directors, and writers taking turns rebooting the property and remaking it in their image? Or should Jason Bourne be retired once Damon walks away for good and have the LEGACY approach be the model?
Personally, the idea of recasting Bourne seems almost as silly as Mark Hamill's past assertions that there'll be another Luke Skywalker one day. I just don't see it happening. But hey, I've been wrong many times before.
JASON BOURNE returns on July 29.
SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter