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In ‘The Bourne Legacy’s opening sequence, Aaron Cross is dressed like a speed climber, posing as one of the few brave souls who might be found alone in the Alaskan wilderness. “He’s in a brilliant red-orange jacket because climbers going solo know that they may not make it and they’ve got to be visible in case a helicopter needs to find them,” explains costume designer Shay Cunliffe. “It’s the opposite of being undercover.”
However, after Cross arrives at the appointed spot, a log cabin where another agent known as #3 is based, his Alaskan mission is brought to a violent end, one which he barely survives. The tables suddenly turned, Cross is now the target of the most sophisticated technology and weaponry on Earth. He returns to the mainland U.S. to find the character Marta, one of his few contacts in the program who may not be out to kill him. Their journey of survival ultimately brings them to Southeast Asia, where the production would travel next.
Unleashed in Southeast Asia: Racing Across the Philippines
During preproduction, director Tony Gilroy and producer Patrick Crowley toured Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in Vietnam, Jakarta in Indonesia, and Manila in the Philippines. Ultimately, Manila’s history as a shooting location won over the team. Major Hollywood features, such as ‘Apocalypse Now’, ‘Platoon’, ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ and ‘Brokedown Palace’, were shot in the Philippines in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. “They had a 25-, 30-year run of making movies there,” says Gilroy, “and they have this huge infrastructure that was built up from all the films made about Vietnam.”
The filmmakers called upon Lope V. Juban Jr., president of Philippine Film Studios, who has worked on most of the films that have come to the Philippines over the past few decades, to give them a tour of Manila. Not only could Juban—who came on as a line producer—offer locations that Gilroy was looking for, but his contacts with government entities would also be vital for a shoot that involved major stunts on city streets. “Juban said, ‘We can talk to the president about that,’ or ‘We can talk to the minister of transportation and the police department about that.’ They’re all people that he knew,” Crowley explains. “I couldn’t have gotten that in Jakarta or in Ho Chi Minh City.”
In fact, ‘The Bourne Legacy’ would be the first Hollywood film in which Manila plays Manila. “The Philippines has played almost any country—Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Panama,” says Juban. “It is only now that we are filming Manila as Manila, which is great for us.”
It was important to the locals to show off the progress the country had made and their big new areas of development. The Philippines also offered the advantage of a mainly English-speaking local crew. English, the legacy of the American presence for 50 years before World War II, is widely spoken in the country.