Gilroy made his feature directorial debut with Michael Clayton, and though The Bourne Legacy will be his third film as director, he has a history with the franchise as a writer, having contributed to all three previous installments. Unsurprisingly, for the fourth film, which he co-wrote with Dan Gilroy, he's not drastically overhauling the story that will offend fans of the series, despite the lack of its central figure.
In an interview with MTV News as part of its summer movie preview, Gilroy assuaged such fears, explaining that it's a logical and thematic continuation of The Bourne Ultimatum. Gilroy said,
"Everything that happened before was not a dream. Everything that happened was completely real, but you thought you knew what was going on. You thought you were seeing the world, and this movie is telling you that there's a much larger world, a much larger conspiracy beyond this. The events of the other three films are incredibly present, but they're not really in this very much. What happens in 'Ultimatum' is really the spark that's blowing open the door to this movie because the Jason Bourne story is exploding out into the public. Being impossible to conceal any further is causing problems for this much larger conspiracy. 'Ultimatum' plays in the background of the very beginning of this film."
When director Paul Greengrass took over the franchise with 2004's The Bourne Supremacy, he applied his almost improvisational style to the grounded approach undertaken by Doug Liman on the first film. Greengrass's shaky-cam style caused some much-publicized nausea and became subsequently became ubiquitous in theatrical action, even showing up in the Bond franchise, to which the Bourne films are basically a response. But for The Bourne Legacy, Gilroy won't be aping the Greengrass style, nor will his protagonist be a conflicted amnesiac like his predecessor. He explained,
"The worst thing that could have been done would be to just slavishly follow some cookie-cutter pattern of visual style and storytelling style. It's a bigger movie in the terms of the journey of it and the scale of it and the amount of stories in it and where it's going. The great thing about Jason Bourne was that he was claustrophobically stuck down and trying to figure out this moral question. The whole second film is about an apology. It's really about this guy trying to morally come to grips with the conflict between who he thinks he is and what he's done. This character in this film has no moral conflict whatsoever. Jeremy Renner's character has the reverse of amnesia. He knows exactly where he's come from. He knows exactly what the stakes are if he doesn't achieve his journey. It's a very different tone, yet it will be very rewarding to people. You should be able to see the movie and not see any of them before. It's been kind of ironic. The people that were having the most trouble getting their heads around the fact that we were doing this are actually the people who I think will ultimately be the most happy about what we're doing. It has a lot of payback for the true fans."
For more from Tony Gilroy, including some of how he came aboard the film and his thoughts on Jeremy Renner as an action hero, head to MTV News for the full interview. As you can tell, that's also the course of the image below, the first official still including Edward Norton as the film's villain.
The first three films were ostensibly based on the novels by Robert Ludlum, but beyond their titles they had very little relationship with that source material. This new movie takes its title from a novel by Eric Van Lustbader, who wrote six Bourne books after Ludlum's death.
Jeremy Renner, a two-time Oscar nominee who is proving his action chops this year with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Avengers, plays Aaron Cross, the product of a training program very similar to the Treadstone initiative that turned Bourne into an unstoppable killing machine. The ensemble cast features fellow franchise newcomers Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Oscar Isaac, Corey Stoll, Donna Murphy, Stacy Keach, and Michael Papajohn, along with the familiar faces of Joan Allen, David Straithairn, Scott Glenn, and Albert Finney.
The Bourne Legacy arrives in theaters on August 3rd.