[UPDATE: Paul Greengrass has issued a statement, reprinted in Variety. He's as diplomatic as you'd expect: "My decision to not return a third time as director is simply about feeling the call for a different challenge. There's been no disagreement with Universal Pictures. The opportunity to work with the Bourne family again is a difficult thing to pass up, but we have discussed this together and they have been incredibly understanding and supportive."
Read the whole statement there, and note that Mike Fleming floats George Nolfi and Tony Gilroy as possible replacement directors. Nolfi is plausible, as he's already directing Damon in The Adjustment Bureau, and good notes there might offset any lack of support for his Bourne 4 script. Gilroy would be a surprise, as he wasn't at all happy with the way Bourne 2 and 3 went down. If he came back to the series, the underperformance of Duplicity notwithstanding, I'd be very surprised. Original article follows.]
If you’ve been following the very slow development progress on the fourth Bourne film, you know that it is (a) rather surprising that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass agreed to come back and (b) fraught with uncertainty about how best to proceed. The latter has led to a dearth of news, and reading between the lines it has seemed like the involvement of the principals was pretty tenuous.
Now the shaky nature of the project is being emphasized by the news that Greengrass has walked away from the film.
The Playlist has the exclusive on the story for now, though as they say it’s a bit surprising that this hasn’t been a trade break. Quick recap of the history of the film: Damon and Greengrass did Green Zone together after The Bourne Ultimatum, and the schedule on that has become a bit drawn out, with the budget going north of $100m. That’s high for a film that was intended to be a quick ‘one for me’ project and isn’t likely to find the mass audience necessary for great financial success.
Meanwhile, as Greengrass tinkers with Green Zone, two writers have been on Bourne 4. Ultimatum and The Adjustment Bureau (another Damon picture) writer George Nolfi penned one script and Universal hired Josh Zetumer to write a ‘parallel’ script. Nolfi is the Greengrass-approved writer, and the Playlist says Zetumer was hired without consulting the director, as Universal doesn’t like the Nolfi script. So there’s some schism there.
The long and short: based on the script issue and his standing with Universal, Greengrass has reportedly walked. Where does that leave the film? Depends on Damon’s involvement, and whether Universal wants to and/or can coax the director back. If the studio hires another director, will Damon stick around? He’s a busy guy, so there are schedule issues to consider as well as political and business ones.
The franchise is Damon’s, definitely, so if he bails the thing has to die, right? Ha. You’d like to think so, but this is Hollywood, and Universal won’t be quick to let a money-making series like this bury itself.
Expect a lot more to come to light on this. Definitely read the great Playlist report for a few other small, tasty details.