I keep telling myself this is how Matt Damon negotiates.
While promoting his upcoming movie, Promised Land, Damon hasn’t hemmed or hawed when asked about the future of the Bourne franchise. For the longest time, Damon had an easy out – claiming not to have seen The Bourne Legacy, the summer side-boot that starred Jeremy Renner and stretched the franchise in new, drug-enhanced super-soldier directions. But last week, he dropped the news that he had seen it… and that it didn’t exactly open the door for his return. “I think it’s going to make it harder for us to make another one,” he told IndieWire. “I love Jeremy and I’m a huge fan of him and I know him personally and love him outside of work, too. But … I could never see Bourne teaming up with anyone.”
Damon didn’t parse his words when he spoke to Deadline over the weekend, reiterating that he wouldn’t contemplate returning unless director Paul Greengrass was on board and revealing that he had personally asked Dark Knight trilogy scribe Jonah Nolan to take a close look at Bourne’s future. “I just said, can you put your brain on this? I can’t figure it out,” said Damon. “And he took a run at it and he couldn’t crack it either. Paul and I have been talking about it for years. And we can’t quite see what the movie would be.”
Legacy didn’t live up to the first three Bourne films at the box-office, but it wasn’t a total disappointment. Still, there’s an argument to be made that its underperformance strengthened Damon’s negotiating position, and every time he expresses his reluctance to come out of hiding, his price tag only goes up. Universal needs to keep Bourne going and only Damon’s involvement can guarantee the returns that make a $100 million budgeted-movie worthwhile. To that point, Damon left the door open, ever so slightly. “Neither [Paul nor I are] against it. I would love to do another one,” he said. “I love that character. To me, the reason to make that movie is because people want to see it. Paul and I have said that to each other. We don’t take for granted the fact that we’ve built an audience for Bourne, that’s a real privilege.”
Damon doesn’t seem like the kind of actor who craves a franchise vehicle to finance his purchase of his own private tropical island. Yes, one Bourne would help secure several Promised Lands, but as he told Deadline, “I would never just protect my beach head. That would be a career built out of fear and I won’t live that way. I want to challenge myself in different genres, playing different characters, and I don’t want to get pigeonholed and forced to do the same things.”
God, he’s good. He’s being completely true to himself and his art… and driving up his asking price at the same time.