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Tony Gilroy, creative hand behind the storyline of the ‘Bourne’ movies, then began work on a treatment for the new project ‘The Bourne Legacy’ even as he outlined a blueprint for where the story might go after ‘Legacy’. He began an in-depth research process that would serve as the underpinning for both documents.
He looked most particularly at the secretive U.S. government agency known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) that is hard at work trying to figure out how to make better soldiers. DARPA and its intelligence counterpart, IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity), fund many research programs with the objective of enhancing the cognitive and physical performance of American soldiers and spies.
Gilroy notes: “There’s no drug testing in war. There’s a very real appetite to have soldiers with increased energy, higher pain thresholds and less need for sleep. The warrior who heals, learns and processes information faster is the dream of every commanding officer. We’re in a place now where the science has begun to make real that dream in a very unpredictable and terrifying way.”
Just as in ‘The Bourne Legacy’, DARPA and its counterparts are working closely with the pharmaceutical industry, medical researchers, Silicon Valley and others to find ways to make humans into better warriors. Gilroy found that there was a burgeoning post-9/11 marriage of biology and warfare: a top-secret America that has proliferated, funded by the U.S. government and staffed by scientists often working for large corporations. It has, in fact, become so large that it is impossible to fully oversee by any one branch of the U.S. government.
Offers the director: “This was an odd story to research because I was doing more confirmation than prospecting. I kept finding that my imaginative ideas for Outcome and Candent and NRAG were already there and in play. Every hint that we’d laid along the way in the trilogy about Treadstone and its science-medical background fit perfectly into the existing reality. Then it was just a matter of asking what would happen if everything went wrong.”
After finishing the treatment for ‘The Bourne Legacy’, Gilroy decided he would be interested in making this his next directorial effort. Although he began his career as a screenwriter, Gilroy has become an accomplished director with two features to his credit: 2007’s Best Motion Picture nominee ‘Michael Clayton’, starring George Clooney, for which Gilroy received Oscar nominations for both directing and writing, and ‘Duplicity’, the 2009 romantic caper starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.
The producers and the studio agreed immediately and were enthusiastic about this turn of events. Says Frank Marshall: “One of the best things about the movie was getting to work with Tony as a director. I’ve been involved with him on the other three movies as the writer, but way back on ‘The Bourne Identity’, I knew that someday he was going to direct. He was in the cutting room and making the kind of suggestions and solving the kind of problems in the way that a director would think about them. So, it’s not a surprise that he’s directing this film but it didn’t start out that way.”
To collaborate on the screenplay, Gilroy called upon his brother, fellow screenwriter Dan Gilroy, for their first professional teaming in many years and they began work. Notes Dan Gilroy of the collaboration: “Tony and I actually co-wrote several unproduced screenplays when we were first starting. It was an easy fit then and pretty effortless now.
Our process is outlining the story together and then leapfrogging scenes or sequences. When we’re working, it’s seven days a week—long hours. I’m in L.A, and he’s in New York, but these days distance doesn’t matter. There’s no ego involved. Whatever works gets used, and there were no disagreements or arguments. It was a blast. We were both on the same page and committed to tuning every element to the highest possible degree.”
The two writers expanded upon the research that Tony Gilroy had done for the treatment, while also developing the intense drama of the story. Continues Dan Gilroy: “We hope ‘Legacy’ lives up to its title by expanding the mythology in smart, imaginative and absolutely realistic directions. All technology referenced in the film is either in development or in use by the U.S. intel community.
The hardest part of the job was creating a character with a need that makes the film personal, and Tony had the core of that before I came on. Aaron Cross has a primal need that creates constant intimacy with the audience. The emotional journey is always in the foreground, which for me is the hallmark of all great action movies.”
Marshall was thrilled with the resulting script. He commends: “The genius idea was Tony and Dan’s: Expand the world that Bourne lived in and see what else was out there and who is controlling whom. This way, we could build upon the world the audience had discovered via Jason Bourne and then have an opportunity to see new characters and the bigger picture.”
Patrick Crowley agrees that the writer/director and his brother nailed it. The producer marvels at their crafting of a language specific to this series and how they connected everything in this world: “Tony’s obsessed with the intelligence community. He lives and breathes it, asking, ‘How would these people think, how would they act, and what are the relationships that you would have in the intelligence community?’ It thrilled me that we have a writer who is the soul of the whole series—who shows that he is an amazing director with two well received movies—come on board to direct this one.”