Pop quiz, Matt Damon: What was the most rented movie of 2003, above even ''My Big Fat Greek Wedding''? ''I actually heard this,'' says the actor. ''It's 'The Bourne Identity'! It shocked me.'' The DVD explosion prompted Damon to be Jason Bourne again. This time the former spy must clear his name after a Russian assassin claiming to be him kills two people.
In the hands of director Paul Greengrass (''Bloody Sunday''), the film will come out ''very unsequel-like,'' promises Damon, who wanted to ignore the typical Act 2 rules. ''The standard approach is you spend 20 percent more on the budget and you have five action set pieces,'' he says. Instead, ''there are some shocking things that happen early on. It's a dark story. Hopeful, but dark. It's pretty intense what the character goes through.'' (''Bourne Identity'' bit player Julia Stiles also returns in a bigger role -- though most of her scenes are with Joan Allen, who appears as a CIA honcho.)
By all accounts, the filming -- which took place in Berlin, Moscow, and India and just wrapped in February -- was more intense as well. ''We're not cheating,'' says producer Frank Marshall. ''We didn't [substitute] Montreal for Paris in the first one, and we didn't go to Prague for Moscow in this one. No one has ever done a chase on the scale that we did on the streets of Moscow.''
It all added up to a new and different experience for Greengrass, who has never helmed a big-budget movie before. ''He was so tickled that he was getting to play with the big toys,'' Marshall recalls. ''One day he said, 'Do I get that guy who does that voice in our trailer?' I said, 'You want that guy, you got him.'''
One thing the filmmakers have yet to decide: whether or not we'll learn Bourne's real name in the film. ''I think it's cooler if you don't know that stuff,'' says Damon, comparing Bourne to Chris Noth's ''Sex and the City'' character. ''He's Big.''
THE GOOD NEWS An action sequel worth getting excited about.
THE BAD NEWS This could look and feel as rushed as it actually was.