The Real Reason Matt Damon Hated His Role In The Bourne Ultimatum
Anyone who saw Matt Damon play the title character in 1997’s “Good Will Hunting” knew the then-27-year-old actor was bound for great things. While Damon’s cinematic debut occurred nearly a decade earlier in “Mystic Pizza,” it was his role as the genius janitor that catapulted him to international attention. That he co-wrote the screenplay with friend Ben Affleck only further impressed viewers — as did their touching and humorous Academy Award acceptance speech.
In the 25 years since “Good Will Hunting” made him a household name, Damon has tackled a variety of roles, from zoo owner to astronaut, serial killer to jewel thief. The leading man also surprised many when he showed off a muscular physique and impressive fighting skills in the role of Jason Bourne in 2002’s “The Bourne Identity.” Damon’s turn as the amnesiac assassin won over audiences and earned the actor three sequels in what is essentially America’s version of the James Bond franchise.
However, while the actor starred in four Bourne films, it turns out that Damon really disliked his third outing in 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum.”
Matt Damon was disappointed by the script
The inaugural film of the franchise, “The Bourne Identity,” was directed by Doug Liman, using a script from Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron. For the second installment, “The Bourne Supremacy,” Gilroy returned to write with Paul Greengrass (who would later go on to direct “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Jason Bourne”) in the director’s chair.
According to an interview with GQ, Damon claimed that when it came time to pen “The Bourne Ultimatum,” Universal Studios offered Gilroy an incredible deal. Damon told the outlet that Gilroy was offered a “boatload of money” for a draft screenplay. Damon further stated that the contract did not require Gilroy to take notes from the studio or provide a rewrite. Based on the contract, it would appear the studio had considerable faith in Gilroy and his writing mastery. Unfortunately, according to Damon, the draft Gilroy turned in was “terrible.” Not holding back, Damon went so far as to tell GQ that should Gilroy’s draft ever see the light of day, it would be “game over for that dude” and “a career-ender.”
The Bourne Ultimatum had a stressful production
With Gilroy’s script reportedly unusable, production on “The Bourne Ultimatum” was faced with a filming deadline for a movie with no script. According to Screen Rant, acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppad was called in to write a new screenplay. For reasons unknown to the public, Stoppard’s script was also tossed. Eventually, writers Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi (who had previously penned “Ocean’s Twelve,” also starring Damon) were brought in to provide a usable screenplay.
At a press event for the film, Damon discussed the chaos of shooting, explaining that Nolfi would be in his hotel room working on pages for the following day’s shoot (via Latino Review, per HuffPost). At the press event, Damon said the production process for “Ultimatum” was “not an advisable way to make a movie.”
Though the screenplay saga seemed settled, Damon’s aggravation continued when Gilroy demanded sole writing credit for the film. Eventually, the Writers Guild of America was brought in to arbitrate, rejecting Gilroy’s request but granting him co-writing credit with Burns and Nolfi instead. Damon told GQ that he found the WGA’s ruling to be “just a little bit of justice.”
Despite the chaos, The Bourne Ultimatum was a huge success
Despite the hectic process, the final product was a major financial and critical success. Released on August 3, 2007, “The Bourne Ultimatum” opened to strong reviews. The film currently holds a 92% favorability score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the highest rated film in the franchise. At the box office, “Ultimatum” outperformed both its predecessors and its successors (via Box Office Mojo). Furthermore, according to IMDb, the film is one of Damon’s best box office showings, ranked only behind such blockbusters as “The Martian” and “Ocean’s Eleven.”
As for Gilroy, he went on to both write and direct the franchise’s fourth film, “The Bourne Legacy,” which infamously doesn’t involve the title character and instead focuses on Aaron Cross, as played by Jeremy Renner (“Hawkeye”). The movie failed to meet its predecessor’s success with critics and at the box office, and Jason Bourne returned in 2016’s “Jason Bourne,” which was scripted by Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse.
It should be noted that before Damon’s interview with GQ went to print, he contacted the outlet to expound further on the Gilroy debacle. Damon stated that he respects Gilroy, which is why he was so hurt by the work the writer turned in. He also acknowledged that he should not have aired his grievances in a public forum, saying he was stupid and unprofessional to bash Gilroy during the initial interview. Gilroy eventually responded to Damon’s comments, telling Empire (per Indie Wire), “I don’t understand that at all. I don’t know where it came from. I think Matt is one of the greatest actors of his generation.”