The Bourne Supremacy Paid Off Russian Cops To Shoot The Moscow Car Chase With No Permit

In the years since the "Bourne" trilogy first burst onto the scene, a whole host of inferior imitators have made it easy to dismiss this gritty action franchise as a relic of its era — and, of course, the chief party responsible for the scourge of unintelligible shaky-cam thrillers that have followed in its wake. But when taken on their own merits and separated from all the surrounding noise, it becomes clear that these movies have continued to age tremendously well. Where some may see nothing but headache-inducing camerawork, choppy editing, and mindless violence, a closer look reveals the genius behind the overwhelming amounts of chaos involved in the production of the Matt Damon-starring action flicks.

Between frenzied shootout sequences, pulse-pounding and elaborately staged vehicular mayhem, and a healthy dose of paranoid thriller tropes that hearken back to the genre's heyday in the 1970s (think "The Parallax View," "Three Days of the Condor," or "The Conversation"), that sense of controlled chaos pervades all three original "Bourne" films ... but perhaps one film, more than any other, lives up to the true spirit of improvisation and accomplishing impossible feats embodied by Jason Bourne himself, the amnesiac black ops specialist with a talent for escaping trouble by the skin of his teeth.

Director Paul Greengrass' "The Bourne Supremacy" took that exact renegade energy and used it generously during the filming of the 2004 sequel, especially during times when doing so in Russia wasn't, strictly speaking, legal.

'We were going around Moscow, literally stealing shots'

How does a film crew achieve true verisimilitude while meeting the rigors of a complicated shoot head-on? It's simple, really: Cut a few corners when necessary with a mix of careful planning and, well, winging it. Jason Bourne's globetrotting mission in "The Bourne Supremacy" takes the assassin from the beaches of sun-scorched Goa, India, to the frostbitten streets of Moscow, Russia, the latter of which presented some of the biggest challenges faced by the production team. The climactic car chase set in Moscow pits Bourne in a stolen taxi against the villainous rival assassin Kirill (Karl Urban), who is responsible for murdering Marie (Franka Potente) earlier in the film.

In a retrospective with GQ, Urban revealed that the filming of this third act chase sequence required some underhanded tactics:

"That Moscow car chase, we shot a huge portion of it in Russia, we shot some of it in Berlin, but the Russian stuff was incredible. The production had to pay the local cops to shut off roads, so we could shoot it. For whatever reason, we didn't get the permit to shoot, so we were going around Moscow, literally stealing shots. We'd have one cop on a bike, and he would literally walk out into the street, hold his hand up, stop the traffic, and go, 'Okay, go.' And I'm in a seven series BMW and I'm flooring it, really sort of cowboy sort of stuff. But that's how we were getting the shots."

The quality of the end result certainly lives up to the lengths the crew had to go in order to pull off such stunts. Even better, Urban remarks that he did much of the driving himself. Keep that in mind the next time you fire up "The Bourne Supremacy."