Doug Liman changed the game with The Bourne Identity. The director’s grounded vision for what many eventually came to see as “America’s James Bond” influenced action movies for years, and arguably still continues to do so. When James Bond was rebooted with Casino Royale and beyond, audiences and critics spotted an unmistakable Bourne influence. More inner conflict, more brutal hand-to-hand combat, and the gadgets and toys flew out the window. 007 became a spy in the modern world, similar to the tone Liman struck with his Robert Ludlum adaptation.
To this day, Liman doesn’t know how to feel about it.
The filmmaker is back with a new movie on HBO Max, Locked Down, which depicts life under lockdown and a heist at Harrods. While interviewing Liman for his latest, we asked about Bourne’s influence on Hollywood and more specifically, Bond.
“I always wanted to make a James Bond movie,” he said, “but they don’t hire American directors. By the way, you’ve made two little indie movies. You’re never going to direct James Bond. I went and made Bourne Identity, and then after The Bourne Identity came out, the next James Bond to come out was Casino Royale, which totally copied the tone of Bourne. I had a very surreal thing where I was sort of making Bourne because I really wanted to make Bond, and then Bond copied Bourne.”
It remains surreal for Liman. “I didn’t quite know how to process that,” he added. “I still don’t know how to process that. I don’t know if I got what I wanted or didn’t get what I wanted. It’s beyond my computing power to know how to feel about that. It’s probably an unsatisfying answer. To say I’m annoyed or flattered would be easy, but I’m still confused about how should I feel this.”
Liman does, however, know how he feels about the risks he took with The Bourne Identity. The director has always seen himself as a rule-breaker. With the ending of his Bourne film, he went big by going small and defied Universal’s wishes. Bourne doesn’t fight off dozens after dozens of goons. Instead, only a handful.
“It’s still one of my favorite mementos from my career,” he concluded. “Universal told me the ending would be unsatisfying, and they wanted Jason Bourne to fight 200 people. I told the two executives to go eff themselves. Unfortunately, one of those executives now runs Netflix. I’m still proud of having sent that memo.”
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