"The Professor" [The Bourne Identity]
CLIVE OWEN (The
Professor) received wide acclaim for his starring role in Mike Hodges'
Croupier. Born in Coventry, Warwickshire, England, Owen has a long list
of credits that include the feature films Vroom, Close My Eyes, Century,
The Rich Man's Wife, Bent and The Echo. He was seen most recently in
the comedy Green Fingers and in Robert Altman's Gosford Park.
A great deal of the
world is already familiar with Jason Bourne, the enigmatic hero of three
best-sellers by Robert Ludlum. Until his death shortly after the end of
production of The Bourne Identity, Ludlum was one of the world's most
popular writers. He wrote The Bourne Identity while the Cold War was raging
and the real-life international terrorist Carlos - a major character in
the original novel - was cutting a bloody swath across Europe. Two decades
later, Liman faced the task - with Ludlum's blessing - of preserving the
spirit of that novel while placing Bourne and his struggle in a context
that would speak to a new generation.
"The Bourne Identity
is a really good story, and that's what I look for in anything that I
do," said Liman, who as a new pilot, made his first solo cross-country
flight to Ludlum's residence in Glacier National Park to secure the rights
to the novel. "It was a very dramatic arrival, coming in over the
Tetons," he continued. "It inspired Mr. Ludlum to give me the
nickname 'Hollywood' which is ironic because I'm a New Yorker."
After securing the rights, Liman set the project up at Universal. "I chose to work with Universal because it was just as important to them as it was to me to make this a character-driven movie and not just a generic action movie," the director emphasized. "They had a proven track record of taking chances in the pursuit of making better films."
21st Century Spy Film
Liman wanted to create
a spy film for his generation. "Most of the spy films I've seen have
had nothing in common with anyone I've ever known," he observed.
"I've spent time in Washington D.C. through my father's work on Iran-Contra
and I've seen real spies in action."
Liman and his collaborators
knew that the originality of their interpretation - which lowered Bourne's
age by some 10 years - demanded a star with finely honed acting skills
and physical prowess to match. Matt Damon was the first name to spring
to mind, and the actor was game.
"I wanted to do
The Bourne Identity because of Doug and his sensibility," Damon said.
"I knew that he would not make a standard Hollywood action movie,
and I also knew that if I was ever going to try something like this, I'd
want to do it with a guy like him."
Damon was especially
pleased that the relationship between Bourne and wayward spirit Marie
Kreutz - a character even more radically altered from the novel than Bourne
himself - took front and center stage in the script. While working on
the screenplay, Liman and Tony Gilroy had modeled Marie after the German
actress whose performance they had admired in Run Lola Run. Liman later
cast that actress, Franka Potente, in the role.
Damon appreciated the
choice. "Casting Franka was a great idea," he said, "especially
since the story takes place in Europe. Having this incredible German actress
adds an entirely different dynamic of culture and language to the story."
Potente was also grateful
for Liman's emphasis on characters involved in action, rather than the
reverse. "I think this movie could renew the kinds of espionage thrillers
that Hitchcock did, with great action but very strong characters and relationships,"
"Marie is definitely
a person of her own. She is troubled, but basically a normal person who
finds herself attracted to a man who is in very dangerous circumstances.
It's as if Marie is catapulted into this thrill ride, and she holds onto
this guy who seems to know what to do."
Damon and Potente both
undertook a strict regimen for the rigorous physical work that would ensue
during production, supervised by stunt and fight coordinator Nicholas
Powell and trainer Michael Torchia. "I had about three months to
work on the martial arts, boxing and weapons training, which was like
summer school in assassin training," Damon quipped.
Damon had to add bulk
to his physique and study the Filipino martial arts discipline Kali. "It's
very quick, three or four move blocking, trapping, destruction techniques,"
explained Nick Powell. "You don't see it on film very often, which
was exactly its appeal to Doug. Since Jason Bourne is trained as a killing
machine, the director wanted him to master a lethal fighting technique
different from anything audiences have seen before."
Liman began assembling
his team of behind-the-camera artists and crews, with the assistance of
producer Patrick Crowley and executive producer Frank Marshall, both highly
seasoned professionals with experience around the world, and in Marshall's
case, a noted director in his own right.
Production was based
in Paris, which gave Liman access to some of the most talented motion
picture artists and craftsmen available in France. However, it also presented
a tremendous challenge because Paris is one of the most logistically and
bureaucratically difficult cities in the world for filmmaking.
"Filing for permissions
and authorizations is incredibly complicated in Paris," said Crowley.
"You have to prepare a dense dossier on every single location you
need, where every single truck will park, exactly what your shots are,
maps showing where the cameras are going to be, and this dossier must
go to the city hall and the prefecture. However, unlike the U.S., French
authorities never assign a policeman, an authority or an official from
any of the agencies from which we have to secure our permission. And because
the traffic is so congested, making a company move from one location to
another in the course of a day is nearly impossible.
Crowley emphasized, "this is one of the greatest and most photogenic
cities on earth, and I think locations were selected that show the city
in ways that most filmgoers have never seen before."
Although director of
photography Oliver Wood, film editor Saar Klein and second unit director
Alexander Witt are all based in America, production designer Dan Weil
and costume designer Pierre-Yves Gayraud are both French and the primary
crew while shooting in France, were mostly French as well.
As producer Richard
Gladstein observed, "Our intention was to go to Europe and make an
American film, but with a European crew and a European sensibility. We
did not want to be a crew of tourists."
Before the huge challenge
of Paris, Liman and company had to shoot the film's opening sequence on
an Italian fishing boat, in the harbor of a typical Italian coastal city.
The filmmakers selected the twin cities of Imperia/Oneglia in the northern
Italian province of Liguria, which provided not only a perfect harbor
in which to take the boat out for filming, but also a picturesque port
next door. Docked in Imperia's harbor, the production discovered a fishing
trawler - the Aventura - which matched the script's description of the
craft that picks up Jason Bourne.
With the cooperation
of local authorities and the Italian Riviera Alpi di Mare Film Commission,
and the expert help of veteran motion picture marine coordinator Ransom
Walrod, the production assembled and constructed camera and lighting barges
and assembled an impressive array of support boats, preparing for the
first night of filming.
"We were going
to attempt to film the Aventura, with Matt and the actors portraying the
Italian fishermen, off the barge in the lee of the breakwater about a
mile from shore," recalled Crowley. But ferocious winds and heavy
rains stalled the plan. The company pulled back into harbor and commenced
filming anyway, as they did every day for a week. It would ultimately
fall upon visual effects supervisor Peter Donen, who had most recently
created the watery surroundings of U-571, to digitally create a huge ocean
surrounding the Aventura.
It was a strange sight
for the inhabitants of Imperia, who strolled along the waterfront to watch
the nocturnal filming, with the Aventura bathed in klieg lights, showered
with water from the six water towers (in addition to the real rain which
pelted cast and crew on a daily basis) and surrounded with a mysterious
layer of movie fog.
For the scene in which
Jason Bourne disembarks from the Aventura, the boat sailed to the neighboring
harbor of Oneglia, and the rains finally lifted enough one morning for
Liman and company to shoot Matt Damon, as Bourne, walking into an uncertain
future in the lovely Italian seaside town. The sun was at last shining
on The Bourne Identity, as the entire company embarked for Paris.
Hôtel Regina to the 11th Arrondissement
The company filmed in
a vast number of Parisian locations, including Bourne's lavish apartment
on Avenue Kléber near the Arc de Triomphe; on the banks of the
Seine with Notre Dame de Paris looming in the background; at the l'Ile
St. Louis; within the futuristic environs of La Defense, the office/entertainment
complex to the north of the city; inside the venerable Hôtel Regina,
and directly across the street in the Place des Pyramides and Louis XIV's
Jardin des Tuileries; inside a grandiose residence on the Place des Etats-
Unis utilized for Wombosi's mansion; and at the lovely Place du Marché
Sainte Catherine, the site for the exterior of Treadstone's Paris safehouse.
Liman and his team also
settled into Belleville in the decidedly untrendy 11th arrondissement.
"Belleville is actually more typical of the real Paris," said
Liman, who also acknowledged that the less glossy side of the city appealed
to him as a story- teller, just as the darker parts of Los Angeles had
inspired him for Swingers and Go.
excitement to the street life in Belleville - the incredible balance of
Chinese, Vietnamese, North African Jews, North African Muslims, West Africans,"
Crowley added. "An authentic Cantonese noodle parlor might be right
next door to a kosher Tunisian restaurant, which visually gives you something
that you don't typically think of when filming in Paris."
Dan Weil, a lifelong resident of the city, agreed. "Belleville has
always been an immigrant neighborhood at the edge of Paris," he explained.
"For me, it's a place I've gone to all my life on Sunday for Tunisian
or Chinese food. But for tourists, it's somewhat forbidden, like the neighborhoods
Americans warn me against in New York or Los Angeles. Typically, these
are the most interesting neighborhoods of all."
The Paris shoot featured
two of the film's biggest single action set-pieces: Bourne and Marie -
in her battered, vintage red Austin Mini Cooper (one of several production
acquired and duplicated each down to the last rust mark for filming) -
being chased by a batallion of French police cars, and Bourne fighting
for his life in his apartment against a Treadstone assassin.
"We shot for about 10 days through the streets of the city, winding up in a big bang on the banks of the Seine," recalled stunt coordinator Nick Powell. "There are crashes and a lot of near misses. The point of the chase was to demonstrate how good a driver Bourne was under pressure, and how he could take this puny little Austin Mini and utilize its diminutive size to escape his pursuers.
"Size is the only
thing the Mini has going for it," added Powell, "because the
engine and handling are not great. We were trying to emphasize how it
can get into certain areas that a police car can't, and how it can turn
on a dime."
For the battle between
Bourne and Treadstone's Castel, portrayed by French actor/stuntman Nicky
Naude, all of Damon's martial arts and boxing training came to the fore.
"Matt does virtually everything in the fight," noted Powell.
"We start off with a little bit of the Kali style, which develops
into some Thai boxing and karate, with close combat stuff thrown in. And
to emphasize that Bourne is so well-trained as a fighting machine that
he can turn anything into a weapon, he goes against Castel's knife with
a ballpoint pen!"
Everyone agreed upon
that Damon was in top form. "Matt was in great shape even before
he started his pre-filming training regimen," continued Powell, "but
he worked really, really hard to bring himself to the next level. And
he held up, continually fighting for 12-hour shooting days. Matt and Nicky
were really hitting limbs, really banging forearms all of the time, arms
against arms, legs against legs. At the end of the day, you're feeling
quite bruised. Matt certainly knew it the next day, but he's a real trouper
- the most uncomplaining actor that I've ever come across for that kind
Damon was more modest
about his action skills. "It's a lot of fun, and although it's meant
to look violent, no one gets hurt. You make it look as real as possible,
but at the end of the day it's choreographed like a dance. Then you put
the intent in, and it all cuts together. Nick Powell is really great at
choreographing these fights. He did Braveheart and Gladiator, which have
really compelling battle and fight sequences."
I Could Be A Camera
Liman's maverick style,
which often included operating the camera, also appealed to Damon. "The
directors I've really loved working with are the ones who are right in
there, watching it unfold live. Someone like Doug, who's usually operating,
doesn't miss anything. He's framing it, he knows what's in and what isn't,
and what's captured and what isn't."
"Doug has a real
visual style," agreed Frank Marshall. "What he sees and feels
goes right into the camera."
Another critically important
visual element of The Bourne Identity fell to French costume designer
Pierre-Yves Gayraud. Rather than dip into his mastery of haute couture
- so elegantly displayed in Indochine and East-West - the designer made
much grittier choices in dressing Matt Damon and Franka Potente.
"We decided early
on to keep a very simple look for Matt as Jason Bourne," said Gayraud.
"The character begins with clothing borrowed from the fishermen who
save him - very old, very dirty, a torn sweater, a filthy parka. He later
begins to establish his personality, but his clothes must never draw attention.
He wears practical clothes, the kind you might buy in a military clothing
store - T-shirts, jeans, boots. Later, as he needs to gain respectability
to gain entry to offices and decent hotels, he wears a simple long black
"As Marie, Franka
has two looks in the movie," Gayraud continued. "The first is
her gypsy/artist look, which is very cool. Our key hair stylist, Kay Georgiou,
created multi-colored hair for Franka, very post-punk and on her, extremely
attractive. This contrasts with a more conservative look that she affects
later. We fabricated every single piece of wardrobe for Franka ... nothing
Gayraud patterned Nykwana
Wombosi's (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agabaje) uniform and civilian dress after
Zaire's ex-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and Uganda's Idi Amin Dada. The character's
numerous wives are dressed in a startlingly beautiful array of African
and western designs.
The Czech Republic's
capital of Prague, which has played virtually every city in Europe recently,
primarily doubled as Zurich, Switzerland for The Bourne Identity..
"Unless you view
Zurich from far back, in which you see its relationship to the lake, it's
not a highly visual city," Crowley observed of the city the production
scouted before settling on film-friendly Prague. "We knew that we
could select locations in Prague that would be even more dramatic than
what we could find in Zurich."
However, what Weil and
his production team created in Prague, assisted by special effects supervisor
Philippe Hubin and visual effects supervisor Peter Donen, exceeded neat,
clean and sweet. Large swaths of downtown Prague were expropriated by
the filmmakers and redressed as Zurich, with tons of faux snow both on
the ground and floating to earth, often abetting the real snow in wintry,
sub-freezing Prague. Joined by a contingent of highly skilled and experienced
Czech film personnel, The Bourne Identity took full advantage of what
the city had to offer.
A defunct branch of
the HypoBank - on its way to being completely refurbished as a luxury
hotel - was cannily converted by Weil, supervising art director Bettina
von den Steinen and set decorator Alexandrine Mauvezin into the United
States Consulate in Zurich, one of the most important backdrops in the
story. It's here that Bourne, under suspicion by Swiss police, tangles
with Marines and other security personnel and suddenly connects with Marie.
Three stories of the Consulate were created within, including the huge
Visa Room and office space above.
the face of the building is probably the most grueling thing I had to
do," confessed Damon. "I'm not an experienced rock climber,
but I've done other movies, like Courage Under Fire and Saving Private
Ryan, where I had to do a lot of running, diving, falling and shooting."
of the sequence was to make it look completely natural for Bourne to climb
down the sheer wall of this building like a mosquito," noted Nick
Powell. "Matt was extraordinary, and climbed down the last 30 feet
of the building on his own. But we brought in a climbing double rather
than a stuntman, because none of the stunt guys I know are in Neil's class."
An exact replica of
the building's exterior was also designed and built by Dan Weil and his
crew on a soundstage at Barrandov Studios for close-ups of Damon scaling
Logistically, the most
complex Zurich exterior shot in Prague was for scenes in which Bourne
wanders the wintry city streets. One Sunday in mid-January, authorities
allowed the production to take over Jindrisska Street, a major thoroughfare
just off the even more bustling Wenceslas Square. Weil's art department
covered Czech street signs with their German counterparts, and even a
huge banner indicating the central Prague post office was draped with
a huge white cross on a red background, the markings of the Swiss flag.
The production acquired two Prague city trams for the morning, painted
them in Zurich colors, and then shut down the line so that filming could
Many other central Prague
locations doubled not only for Zurich, but for Paris locales as well.
These included the legendary art nouveau Imperial Cafe, still one of Prague's
most popular gathering places, and Kampa Park, in which Bourne battles
two Zurich police officers. The city's famed Barrandov Studios also provided
Weil with the space he needed for several major studio sets, including
the modernistic, nautically-themed offices for Alliance Security, an impressively
scaled vault at the Gemeinschaft Bank in Zurich and the interior of Treadstone's
The company traveled
outside the city limits to a frozen area aptly known as "Cesky Sibir"
(Czech Siberia) to portray Bourne and Marie's journey across the Alps
from Switzerland to France. And for the dramatic sequence set on a French
farm, a real farmhouse and its surrounding lands were discovered in the
Czech village of Suchdol, not far from Ruzyne, Prague's international
airport. Here, the cast and crew were truly challenged by the often brutal
cold and topographical conditions, with the grounds, frozen solid in the
mornings, turning to deep sludge by mid-afternoon on sunny days.
Through the weeks and
months of filming, Liman and his stars came to a unique mutual understanding
of the fresh techniques they had all brought to the table. "It was
great to work with both Matt and Franka because I didn't want to make
a conventional action movie, and neither did they," he reflected.
"None of us wanted one false moment in this movie - that was the
standard we held ourselves to.
"It's been exciting," Liman concluded. "Hard, too. But I could not have been surrounded by better people to take on this challenge."