With Jason Bourne now in theaters, last week I got on the phone with producer Frank Marshall to talk about the franchise. During our wide-ranging conversation he talked about how making this installment was different than the last three, the use of technology in the film, filming the Las Vegas sequence, more sequels, the status of another Bourne movie with Jeremy Renner, and more. In addition, with Marshall busy with a number of other projects, I got updates on the Jurassic World sequel, the next Indiana Jones movie, Clint Eastwood’s Sully, Assassin’s Creed, and Joe Cornish’s Snow Crash.
As most of you know, Jason Bourne teams Matt Damon with director Paul Greengrass and they dive into what it means to be a government-bred superspy in the post-Snowden era. The film also stars Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Tommy Lee Jones, Riz Ahmed, and Ato Essandoh.
Check out what Marshall had to say below.
Collider: Talk a little bit about making this one (Jason Bourne) versus the previous films, from what I understand, Matt [Damon] told me that you guys had a more solid script going in.
FRANK MARSHALL: Yes. I think we had a full draft that we all liked going into this one, whereas the last couple have been sort of on the fly and we weren’t quite finished with our stories or our scripts, but this time we had a solid script going in and we –as Paul [Greengrass] says– kind of got the band back together, all of us who had been away for 5 or 6 years and we’re back together. So it was very comfortable at the start of shooting and certainly we all knew where we were headed, so it made it a very relaxed shoot.
One of the things this film introduces more than I think the last few films did is the way technology has really changed everything in terms of surveillance and everything else. How much did you guys borrow from real life and how much of that depicted in the film is just Hollywood magic?
MARSHALL: I’d say 90% of it is borrowed from real life, it was sort of the inspiration for the story, and as you know now there is now a major conflict between people’s privacy and Big Brother and that was kind of the theme of the movie. We did a lot of research, we talked to a lot of hackers as well as people on the government side to see what’s been going on. So I would say almost all of it is real, we didn’t really have to make much up [Laughs].
In the development process of the film, did you guys go through any sort of big story arc changes, and can you talk about how the story developed and maybe story plotlines that you decided not to go with?
MARSHALL: I think as a movie evolves you start with –The major story plotlines are the same as what we started with, but the secondary plotlines and some of the secondary characters changed as we were making the movie. It’s kind of like you do in these movies, it’s not necessarily what we do in other movies, but on these movies as you see the characters come together… and it’s the way that Paul likes to work, which is kind of an organized chaos let’s call it, we’re planned but there’s a lot of room for spontaneity and we might take a left turn where yesterday we were gonna take a right turn. And so we were really able to manage that this time because we were ready in the overall arc of the story, we knew we were coming, for example, here to Las Vegas for Act III, a lot of things changed once we got here, once we saw all our sets and saw what we were working with and who was doing what to whom, we changed some things and we added some things and we gave Alicia [Vikander]’s character a gun when she didn’t have a gun in the first draft, then she had to put the gun in the safe in the room, and we had to cover a lot of details but –Things evolved but in an organized way this time.
The third act in Las Vegas is pretty crazy. Talk a little bit about the reception from the city in terms of filming, were they all in, did you have to pick any battles, or did they pretty much realize this is just a great commercial for Vegas?
MARSHALL: They were unbelievably cooperative and always helpful to try and work with us to make it happen. I was a little bit skeptical at first if they would even entertain us shutting down the strip for 8 or 9 nights, but because it was in a winter month and it was at night they said, “Well, let’s talk about what you wanna do” and we went step by step and were very organized and very planned and, as I said, they were extremely cooperative and certainly the people here at the ARIA were as well, we shot at the front of the ARIA, we shot at the casino, all kinds of places that might have been a problem but because we were so organized, they were organized, and we did change our plan, that’s we you get the difficulty, when you change things. We always did what we said we were gonna do and it worked out great.
People, including myself, love Matt Damon in this role. I really enjoy this character and I’m sure you get asked this all the time but it’s pretty confident this is gonna be a box office hit. How much are you guys already thinking, “Matt, what do I need to do to get you back?” now that he’s come back, and how much is this possibly his last turn as Bourne?
MARSHALL: To be honest, I have not thought much about the picture but try to get here where we launch the movie. I think we just wanna see how the movie does and what comes out of it before we talk about the next one. We certainly always leave it open at the end just like did on the third one, and it took what, seven year for us to come back together? But everybody’s open, as Paul says, “Let’s not say never again” but who knows.
You produced Bourne Legacy with Jeremy [Renner], is there any movement on doing a sequel to that, or has that gone pause until this movie comes out?
MARSHALL: That’s on pause until this movie comes out, and then the studio will decide whether they want to move forward on that one or not. I haven’t really had any discussions with them on that.
I want to jump onto something else, I recently spoke to Bryce [Dallas Howard] for Pete’s Dragon and she mentioned to me that you guys are gonna start filming the next Jurassic World early next year, and I saw a little promo poster when I was at CinemaCon. So I have to ask you, with Jurassic World, what was your wishful number at the worldwide box office and how much did you just demolish it, were you prepared for this kind of crazy success?
MARSHALL: No, I wasn’t, and that’s the honest truth. I was hoping to open at 100, they were projecting 100 which is huge, and that would’ve be the biggest opening for a movie that I’ve produced, but we pretty much doubled my expectations [Laughs] at every turn.
I’m very excited about your director for the sequel, what can you tease people about where you’re at in the development process?
MARSHALL: We’re in pre-production, in fact I just got back from London from meeting with Juan Antonio [Bayona] and the production designer. We’re designing, he’s doing storyboards, and we’re in full pre-production to start shooting sometime early next spring.
If I’m not mistaken, Colin [Trevorrow] and his writing partner, Derek [Connolly], developed a story for the sequel, are you guys still sticking with that story, or has Bayona taken more of an ownership of the story?
MARSHALL: No, as a director Bayona has his input but Colin and Derek are writing the script, so there have been numerous meetings and we have the template for the movie, but of course he’s putting in his own ideas and taking ownership of it, but it’s pretty much the same story that they originally came up with.
Do you look at the challenge of coming up with new action set pieces with dinosaurs as something exciting, is it nerve-racking, can you talk about the pressure on one-upping what you’ve done before?
MARSHALL: I think we have that pressure both on Bourne movies and on Jurassic movies [Laughs], we set the bar pretty high. For me it’s always a bout story, as long as the action sequences move the story forward, that’s what’s important, and I think just having to look and see how we can involve the characters in the story with whatever dinosaur we have in the action sequence. So, it’s a challenge but a healthy challenge.
I believe you guys shot in Hawaii last time, are you shooting again in Hawaii or are you going to new locales?
MARSHALL: Yes, we’ll be shooting again in Hawaii just like the last one.
I definitely want to jump on another subject really quickly, at the Star Wars Celebration over the weekend they were talking a little bit about how Disney is talking about an Indiana Jones movie universe. Did you see those quotes?
MARSHALL: I have not seen those quotes.
I guess someone at Lucasfilm was talking about how it could be like an Indy movie universe, so there could be movies that exist in that world of Indiana Jones, and I was gonna ask you if you could sort of clarify that or is this coming out of left field to you?
MARSHALL: It’s coming out of left field. It makes sense that they want to, now that they have the universe, that they want to turn it into something like they have with Star Wars. So it’s not surprising but they haven’t had any discussions with me, so I don’t know.
Anything Harrison Ford is involved with I’m all in, and the fact that you guys are talking about doing another Indiana Jones excites me. What can you tell people about where you’re at in that development process?
MARSHALL: I’m excited too, it’s my favorite franchise that I’ve worked on and certainly did a lot of landmark things for me on Raiders. We’re still way early in the process, we’ve hired a writer, David Koepp, and Steven [Spielberg] is out filming another movie now and the rest of us are on our current projects. So it’s in a very, very infant, beginning stages so there’s really not much to report.
Clint Eastwood’s movie Sully is coming out later this year, is it close to being done?
MARSHALL: It is done.
And how have the test screenings been, have you tested it?
MARSHALL: We have not tested it. We just finished last Friday.
Oh, wow! So it’s really just about done.
MARSHALL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love this movie, it’s fantastic, it’s a story that people don’t know and that’s what I’m excited about. Tom Hank’s performance is amazing, and it’s just a wonderful feel-good story by the end of the movie that is uplifting and I think somethings that’s really good for our audiences at this time.
I think if you look at the stats of this summer there is a reason why animated movies are performing and feel-good movies performing, people want escapist fare from real life.
MARSHALL: Yeah, especially now, and I agree. This is a hero’s story and want that you don’t know so it’s really life-affirming and, as I say, you come out feeling great at the end of the movie so I’m excited to get this one out on the big screen.
I’ve seen about 15min of footage from Assassin’s Creed from when I was in London and I really think this movie is gonna be cool. Where are you in the post-production process and how do you feel it’s shaping up?
MARSHALL: Well, these movies are a challenge and it’s because in the video game world when you’re playing the game you know the rules, but in a movie there are a lot of people that are gonna go –I hope– that don’t know the game, so we have to set up the world and I think we have achieved that. I think it’s a very cool movie, it’s very cool-looking, and we’re in the midst of post-production and special effects shots and that kind of thing, filling a few story points that needed to be filled, but everything is going really well. I’m very impressed with Justin Kurzel who’s our director.
Yeah, as I said, I saw a whole bunch of footage and I think that.. Look, I think that the video game genre, video game movie genre is on the cusp of finally breaking through and I’m hoping that Assassin’s Creed can be this kick-ass movie, especially with [Michael] Fassbender.
MARSHALL: Yeah. I hope that too, and I think what makes this one stand out is travelling back to a historical time and being very, very true to that time. It’s not a history lesson but it’s a period in time that people haven’t seen before, so that’s what I think people like about the game and hopefully what they’ll like about the movie.
I just about out of time with you but I have to ask you, you’re always producing a lot of stuff, what are you excited about that’s coming up for you in the near future?
MARSHALL: I would have to say the two we already talked about, Jurassic and Indy because they’re kind of old familiar friends, but I’m hoping that we’re going to get started on Snow Crash, do you know Snow Crash, do you know that book?
I do not know the book.
MARSHALL: It was written by Neil Stephenson and it’s a very, very cool book; and Joe Cornish is developing it with us and I hope we get started on that next year, I’m excited about that one.
I’m a huge fan of Joe Cornish, especially Attack the Block. So for people who don’t know, do you have a one-liner or can you describe the story?
MARSHALL: Oh gosh, it’s a complicated story. It takes place in the near future and it has a lot of virtual reality in it, it’s a character that goes back-and-forth between what’s called the “metaverse” in Los Angeles, but the sequences are fantastic and it really gives Joe the opportunity to show that great imagination that he has and create some fantastic scenes. If you look it up you’ll see it’s sort of the bible of the internet universe. Neil wrote this back in the ‘90s and you’ll see it’s a very highly regarded book.
I’m definitely gonna scope it out, especially if Joe is involved with this. One last thing for you, I’m very curious how things have changed because right now it does seem that there’s a disconnect between the ability to make like a mid-range budget movie and a mega-budget and the fact that studios are looking for franchises and for these event movies. Can you sort of talk about the challenge of producing now in an environment where maybe a smaller project is so much harder to get made?
MARSHALL: Yeah, I mean, that is the truth of it, the studios are looking for the big franchises or tent-pole movies because movies cost a lot to make today and for the mid-range movies you just have to have the right story. That’s why I’m excited about Sully, Sully fits into that mid-range and we got it made, it took Clint Eastwood to make it but we got it made. So I do think there still is room for the mid-range movies but it is much harder to get them made today because there’s more risk than what they think is a homerun with a big superhero or something like that.
I actually want to ask you another boring question, since I don’t get to talk to Paul, are there a lot of deleted scenes or was it a pretty lean cut?
MARSHALL: No, it was a lean cut. We don’t have much for the DVD extras, we really stuck to what they wrote and it was a very economical shoot. We reworked some scenes but they’re still the basic scenes, we really haven’t taken anything out, there may only be one or two that I can think of.
Jason Bourne is now in theaters.