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"The Professor" [The Bourne Identity]

Images thanks to EricaVisit the official web site

The "Find the Picture" contest for The Bourne Identity is over. There were three winners, Alice, Maria and Anu. I thank them for participating. (The picture is the one HERE with Clive and John Frankeheimer) As one of the assassins sent after Bourne, Clive Owen is very nearly similarly wasted, though his eventual encounter with Damon makes you understand exactly why he took this small role. Owen effortlessly captures what the movie strains to convey: a spy's moral queasiness with his work. It's one of those small, brilliantly acted moments that linger in the memory. Thanks, Alice

Flickfilosopher on Clive Owen in The Bourne Identity: "And then there's Clive Owen (Gosford Park, Croupier), who positively smolders as a CIA assassin sent to take out Bourne. He speaks but in one of his few scenes, and that scene is -- unfortunately for Damon -- with Bourne. Regardless of what happens to his character, Damon gets blown away, buried under superior charisma. I say that Owen should have been Bourne, except he would have been so combustible that the film would have burned up multiplex screens around the world and theater owners would sue the studio and it would be a whole big mess." Thanks Erica and Paula

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.

Owen's extensive television work on both sides of the Atlantic have included starring roles in the series Chancer, Sharman, Split Second and the recent BBC hit Second Sight; and the TV movies Lorna Doone, Class of '61, The Magician, Nobody's Children, An Evening With Gary Lineker, The Return of the Native and Doomsday Gun.

While filming his role in The Bourne Identity, Owen began shooting a series of unique Internet-based "mini-movies" for and executive producer David Fincher, portraying a character who recurs in each film. These shorts were being directed by such filmmakers as Ang Lee, John Frankenheimer, Guy Ritchie and Wong Kar-Wai.

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About the Production...

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."

A 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.
"You might consider casting Franka as Marie a bit of a gamble," acknowledged executive producer Frank Marshall, "because American audiences have not seen much of her. But she has tremendous charisma and energy. Marie is a strong character, very much her own person, not an appendage to the action hero. Like Matt, Franka can do the 'action thing,' but she can also expertly handle the dramatic side. So when you put these two actors into the shoes of Jason Bourne and Marie Kreutz, you have an unusual combination in what's an unconventional, even existential, action movie."

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," she said.

"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."

At Sea ….

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.

"However," 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.

From 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.

"There's enormous 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."

Production designer 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 of thing."

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."

If 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 winter coat.

"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 was store-bought."

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.

Winter in Prague …

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."
"I expected Zurich to be big and imposing because of the presence of all those banks," added production designer Weil, "but it's a lot more provincial - neat, clean and sweet, sort of a cross between Strasbourg and Berlin."

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.
Even the exterior was utilized for the thrilling climax to this sequence, in which Bourne scales down the 70-foot-high walls of the building, which alternately saw Damon himself dangling from the lofty precipice by nothing more than a safety belt, and world-class free-climber Neil Bentley - who conquered the nose of El Capitan in Yosemite without safety harnesses - doubling him for the more dangerous moves.

"Climbing down 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."

"The challenge 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 the walls.

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 commence.

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 Paris safehouse.

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."