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Director of photography on new ‘The Bourne Legacy’, Robert Elswit, and 2nd unit director Dan Bradley could shoot all the footage in the world, but if it wasn’t cut together correctly, there would be no scene. Joining the team as editor was another member of the Gilroy family, John Gilroy, the director’s fellow collaborator on his last two films. Notes John Gilroy of his working relationship with his brother Tony: “I work with Tony essentially the same way that I work with other directors.
I try to understand their vision of the film and get on that same wavelength. If I can make their vision my own, I have a real compass to navigate me through the editing process. With Tony, that sort of deep understanding between director and editor came very early on and has stayed with us and grown through all three films. We have very similar sensibilities, and most of the time we see eye to eye on things.”
Tony Gilroy, the director, returns: “John is a machine. It’s a complex movie, and we shot in a weird order. The pace is relentless, and we were shooting a great deal of film. The need to know exactly where you stand and what you owe is essential. But he’s not just cutting and reviewing material as we go; he’s building sequences and road testing scenes that are coming at us with a consistent level of detail that’s shocking sometimes. He’s a total filmmaker. I can’t imagine even trying this without him beside me.”
War Rooms and “Southern” Mansions: Filming in New York
After two days of filming in Seoul, South Korea, principal photography began at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York, where all of the movie’s stage work—including D.C. interiors—was shot. Filming began with scenes involving the character of Byer and his team at the Virginia-based NRAG, the group that designed the government’s program of killer spies.
As Bourne’s exploits go public, Byer’s experts use every mode of technology available to minimize the damage. Here, Thompson’s crew built the crisis suite, the small amphitheater where Byer’s team holes up for days. Producer Patrick Crowley describes the film set as “like 25 people playing high-speed chess.”
At Kaufman, production designer Kevin Thompson built the lab where the character Marta engages in her pioneering work. The designer’s biggest set, however, was three stories high on Kaufman’s largest stage. Here, he created Marta’s home in the Maryland woods, which he didn’t initially plan to build. “We started by trying to find a real location that would either inspire us or lead us to what we were looking for,” Thompson recalls. “Tony wanted to have a house that was a bit of a fairy-tale fantasy: a larger-than-life decayed mini-mansion that Marta invested in when she was in a relationship, a place she hoped to someday restore.”
The kickoff to Marta and Aaron’s journey, the house is where the two realize that they must team up. “We found the magical house up in the Hudson Valley about two and a half hours north of New York City,” Thompson recounts. “It was built in 1815 and had a romantic, picturesque style. Although we looked at 150 houses, this one was by far the one that spoke most to us.”
Unfortunately, their prized location, the national historic landmark known as the Plumb-Bronson House in Hudson, New York, was in need of even more rehabilitation than Marta’s fictional home. “About six weeks from shooting, the owners association told us that it was going to be impossible to allow us to shoot there,” says Thompson. It turns out that the structure could not support the equipment and crew necessary for filming.
Thompson’s team quickly set about re-creating the interior of the house in precise matching detail. This included reimagining its parlors and vestibules, magnificent three-story elliptical staircase, peeling paint and faded wallpaper on the stage at Kaufman Astoria. While unanticipated, building Marta’s house on a stage did offer several advantages, including greater flexibility and control with lighting and camera placement for DP Elswit’s equipment. “Having the three floors on the stage provided some great sight lines for action,” says Thompson. “It was a pretty photogenic set.”
In the end, the production traveled to Hudson to film the exterior of the Plumb-Bronson House for a key scene with Aaron, but other scenes outside Marta’s home were filmed at William H. Pouch Scout Camp, a 143-acre site in Staten Island, New York. Unlike Plumb-Bronson’s surroundings in Hudson, the Staten Island location offered the thick woods that surround Marta’s home in Gilroy’s story.
Among the many other New York area locations where the film shot were JFK Airport, The New York Times printing plant in Flushing, Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, and residential areas of Syosset and Old Westbury in Long Island.