The Bourne series has tapped into new territory with The Bourne Legacy. Matt Damon is out and Jeremy Renner is in as Aaron Cross. It turns out there was never just one. ScreenCrave recently spoke to the new cast, which includes Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton. They talked about the franchise’s future, shooting action scenes and who they’d prefer to battle: Bourne or Cross. Can you guess who they picked?
One of the big differences between Aaron Cross and Jason Bourne is that Aaron likes being an agent. How did that help you wrap your head around the character?
Jeremy Renner: I don’t start off figuring out the character by comparing it to another character. I look at page one to page 120, and then go over all the circumstances with Tony [Gilroy] and figure it out from there. What was very exciting to me is that it’s a new palette of colors and a new canvas to paint upon with the circumstance of being willing. I feel connected to that idea of wanting to belong to something and have a sense of purpose as a man on the planet. I think most people do. That’s what I initially connected to. He’s a guy that really wants to belong, whether it’s the military, or a program that really makes you feel like you’re doing some sort of good on the planet.
Rachel, this isn’t the type of character you usually play. What was your experience dabbling in action?
Rachel Weisz: What I really like about the tone of the Bourne films is that they’re really realistic, I’m not playing an action heroine. I’m playing a scientist who is a pretty normal person. I’m not physically gifted in any way. I think it’s always very realistic. She’s really scared. She’s really terrified. And then, at the end, she gets to kick ass a little bit, but she’s not a superhero.
What was it like riding through Manila behind Jeremy Renner on a motorcycle?
Rachel Weisz: It was terrifying! Jeremy never told me when we were in Manila, but that was the scariest stunt for him because he was responsible for my life. He didn’t tell me that in Manila, thank God. I would have been like, “Oh, my God!” I just had to surrender and hold on. But I didn’t have to act. It just was terrifying.
Jeremy, how much more difficult was this hand-to-hand combat as opposed to M:I — Ghost Protocol and The Avengers?
Jeremy Renner: Every day was difficult. There was really no difference, just a challenge with a different set of circumstances. I was lucky enough to have Mission and The Avengers. The same guys I worked with on those came to Bourne, so I had a running start with that. If anything, it might have been a little easier, even though what was required of me was a lot more.
Edward, do you feel that your character thinks he’s more noble than he actually is?
Edward Norton: I’d rather not answer that question. I think that’s a question that’s being purposefully posed. That’s what makes Tony Gilroy’s approach to this film more interesting to me than trafficking in villains and heroes. A lot of what we see going on in the world, every day, that makes us possibly a little bit uncomfortable with what’s being done in our name and under our banner, has that question embedded within it. It has that question of, ‘Is our security worth the compromise of our values? And at what level?’ That’s the question. I enjoy the idea of those paradoxes and rationalizations hanging out there for people to sit with and decide how they feel about this guy. I’m happy that you’re asking the question, but I’ll leave it at that.
Jeremy, what was the biggest challenge in taking on this role? Was it the stunt work and physicality, the global bouncing around, or the pressure of stepping into such a well oiled machine?
Jeremy Renner: Not getting hurt. I couldn’t get injured. I was wanting to do as much as I possibly could because of the responsibility of the authenticity of the three films prior. It would do a great injustice and disservice to this film if I could not perform what was required. I like those challenges. I like those physical obstacles. Outside of them, it’s a job, from page one to 120. There was a tremendous cast and director and writing. I was excited to go to work.
Did you get hurt at all?
Jeremy Renner: I hurt my feelings, here and there. You get banged up a little bit. But if you don’t get banged up, you’re not working hard enough — in my mind. But I never got injured to where it stopped me from doing what I needed to do.
With the amount of work that goes into a film like this does it ever seem daunting? How do you stay focused on work the whole time?
Jeremy Renner: It’s like running downhill, I suppose. That’s what it felt like. Just running downhill. I felt like my personal workload was minimal compared to the entire process of filmmaking. For me, it was about getting enough sleep and being physically adept enough to be able to perform when I needed to perform. That was it everyday. There was fighting, training, stretching, or whatever I had to do to get through the day. It was like, ‘Here’s food. Here’s water. Now, go do this.’ The treats were the moments I had with Edward and Rachel. Those were the little treats along the way that kept me going through the really physical part of the movie.
Edward, do you have any advice for starting something from scratch, like you did with Class 5 Films?
Edward Norton: Class 5 is a production company my partners and I have had. Originally, we put it together just to make our own movies, and then we started expanding out to backing other filmmakers and their passion projects, and things like that. The people involved in it are a writer and some actors. None of us set out to be movie producers, really. For young, creative people, I don’t think you should sit around and wait for people to give you an opportunity to express yourself or do your work, or whatever. Actors have to be producers and writers have to be producers. In the beginning, you’ve got to try to manifest it for yourself. A lot of times, in our business, things that get prominent or suddenly become a really well known shingle just started off as a couple of artists who were trying to create their own opportunities. I would just say, don’t wait on anybody else. Set it up for yourself and do it. Wear all the hats if you have to.
Jeremy, how challenging was it to shoot in such cold and extreme weather?
Jeremy Renner: Well you don’t ask for that sort of physical torture, but it’s very telling and makes it even easier to play because it’s part of the scene. We weren’t shooting it in the Rockies and pretending it was summer. It was cold, and it was supposed to be. The only thing that’s really challenging is that I’m supposed to be a tough guy who thinks, ‘Oh, it’s not cold!,’ but I was freezing. It was just another one of those challenges to overcome. It wasn’t easy, but it was beautiful and became a character in itself. [Tony Gilroy] had batteries in his gloves and heated underwear. He had everything on that could be powered on. He was not very good in the cold. He asked me to jump in the water naked and said that he was willing to do it with me, but he didn’t mean it. But I’m glad that he said that. I appreciated it.
Did Matt Damon reach out to you at all when news broke that you were taking on the legacy?
Jeremy Renner: No, we didn’t reach out to each other at all. We never spoke creatively about it. I’ve known him for years, but I inadvertently ran into him before we started. We had a good time at a birthday party, and that was about it.
Will Aaron Cross meet and team up with Jason Bourne for the next installment? Do you think that’s where the franchise is headed?
Jeremy Renner: As far as the future, I’m excited that the architects and creators behind this whole thing have cleverly left it wide open for fans like myself wondering what the heck is going to go on next.
Rachel, do you know if the idea of having a female lead was ever toyed with? And had that happened, would you have been up for it?
Rachel Weisz: I don’t know if it was ever toyed with or considered, you have to ask the Gilroys. But Yeah, I’d be up for it! If [Tony and Dan Gilroy] wrote it, I’d be up for it.
If you had to choose Aaron Cross or Jason Bourne to go up against, who would it be and why?
Weisz: I really don’t know how to answer that question.
Norton: I think this might be one of those moments where we remind somebody about the fine line between what’s real and what’s magic.
Renner: I’ll take The Hulk.
The Bourne Legacy hits theaters Friday, August 10.