EXCLUSIVE: Jason Bourne is coming back. Universal Pictures has begun making deals with Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to reunite for their third film in The Bourne Identity series, sources tell me. This is an absolute stunner — and Universal would not comment nor would the reps — because Greengrass told Deadline as recently as last year that once Bourne regained his memory, there was no place else for the character to go creatively. His search formed the spine for the trilogy Damon starred in.
Well, they’ve figured it out. I’m told that the studio is so bullish on this that the intention is to make the reteam the next Bourne film to go into production to make the July 16, 2016, release slot that Universal had previously assigned to an untitled Bourne film. That means it would step in front of the spinoff sequel that is to reprise Jeremy Renner and be directed by Fast & Furious architect Justin Lin. That film, which began with the Tony Gilroy-directed The Bourne Legacy, remains in development. I thought its premise— Renner plays one of several genetically altered assassins, all of whom are targeted for death — was smart and satisfying on its own. Universal intends to continue that series and to broaden its franchise base, much the way that Marvel cranks out superhero films. The Bourne Legacy was a good start to a new franchise, but Jason Bourne is a hard act to follow. Now, franchise-hungry Universal has both of them. Lin can probably use the time, as he signed on to direct the second season of the HBO series True Detective.
I saw The Equalizer as it premiered in Toronto, and it reminded me of The Bourne Identity, in that both are sophisticated adult thriller franchises where the protagonists are capable of high-action exploits but aren’t running around in spandex. Even though I could not get corroboration, I am confident enough to say that, probably very soon, these deals will all be done and that fans will be pretty happy to have Bourne back.
Both Damon and Greengrass are perpetually busy. Damon next stars for Ridley Scott in The Martian, and Greengrass has several projects percolating, most recently circling at Fox The Ballad Of Richard Jewell, the story of the security guard at the Atlanta Olympics who uncovered a suspicious backpack and cleared the crowd away from a park before it exploded, only to be vilified as a possible terrorist in the advent of the 24-hour news cycle. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill are going to star in that one, and Captain Phillips scribe Billy Ray has penned the script. Damon’s repped by WME, Greengrass by CAA.