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The Bourne Supremacy - Paul Greengrass Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. What were the challenges you faced making this?
A.
Number one was that I was doing the sequel to a very successful and very good film, so I had to believe before I went into it that I could do something better and different.
The second challenge was that I'd never made a film on this scale with colossal set pieces and working in five different cities. But the really profound challenge was that, coming from independent cinema, I worried about making the film particular to me. Normally, I write the scripts to my films, so I worried about whether the film would feel and look like mine.

Q. You're known for making fact-based dramas like Bloody Sunday, sp why come to Hollywood?
A.
After doing The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence, Bloody Sunday and Omagh, which I didn't direct, but was very involved in, I felt that I'd kind of said what I wanted to say.
Even before Bloody Sunday became a successful film internationally, I was thinking I needed to do something different. And then this became a possibility. But it took me a long time to go for a film because I didn't want to come to Hollywood and do any old film. I wanted to come and have a life adventure as well. But I knew the moment they asked me to do this, that I wanted to do it.

Q. Why?
A
. I just think it's a unique franchise. It's right at the heart of the mainstream, where the characters are normally super-heroes, often from comic books, and a lot of the films are special-effects driven. But the Bourne franchise is the antithesis of that.
It's about being real and edgy. It's real locations, Bourne doesn't particularly have special powers, it's about being smart and contemporary. That isn't the same as being topical, but it is saying something about the way the world is.
So I wanted to make a film that brought you closer to Bourne and also tapped into what is going on in the world. The film starts out as a journey of revenge, but then becomes about Bourne questioning himself. I think, in the world, we've moved out of our revenge time, and we're definitely in our questioning time.

Q. The film is in the same tradition as thrillers like Three Days Of The Condor and The Parallax View?
A.
Well, there was a vogue for paranoid movies in the early Seventies, and that was built on the mistrust that grew out of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Watergate was really the defining moment of my student years. I was a child of Watergate in the broadest sense and I remember films like All The President's Men and The Parallax View vividly.

Q. How was working with Matt Damon?
A.
Matt's a great guy. I had dinner with him, in Prague, a year ago, while he was making Brothers Grimm for Terry Gilliam, and I knew after that I wanted to work with him. He's got plenty of opinions and we come from the same place, politically.

Q. Was it difficult to get the balance between making an edgy movie and a commercial film?
A.
Well it's got to be an entertainment, it's got to work in the mainstream and that's part of the fun of it; doing the car chases and the fights.
You know, can you make it compelling and visceral, so that at the end of it people really feel like they've had a ride, but can you also keep the doubt and uncertainty and the search for answers?
I'm proud of the film because, for a mainstream franchise movie, I think it's unusual, unpredictable and raw.

Q. Most of the film was shot in Berlin and Moscow, how was that?
A.
It was crucial because Berlin and Moscow are both cities with dark pasts trying to remake their futures and that's Bourne. He's a character trying to remake his life. I wanted the movie to be set in places that reflected the struggle of the character.

Q. You started out making documentaries for Granada TV's World In Action, what did you learn there?
A.
Well, World In Action had its roots in the British documentary movement, and Granada had a definite anti-metropolitan, radical edge.
You were expected to be a maverick and it was a place where they believed in throwing young people out into the world to make films about what was happening out there. What they taught me has never left me. It's about observing and listening to the world. Of course, you make selections in the way you cut and shoot, but it's built on observing and listening first.

Q. Is it a relief to move away from making fact-based dramas, because they can be very controversial?
A.
No question there is a trust deficit between the people who make the films and the audiences, and particularly the critical audiences, because they know that standards have not been high enough.
I always took care to carry the people involved with me and, with Bloody Sunday, we did carry everybody. That film played in London, Derry and Dublin and it got fantastic reviews in Protestant papers in Northern Ireland.
A whole cinema of former soldiers applauded it, because they thought it showed what it was like for them. I'm sure, to the end of my days, that will be my most exhilarating experience.

Q. Why did you want to make Bloody Sunday?
A.
I'd spent a lot of time in Northern Ireland and that event had never really been addressed. The whole idea of the film was that, whatever happened, there was no shared understanding of what happened. So wherever you were in the UK, tended to dictate what you thought had happened.
There was this weird non-coherence and, of course, that's relevant to the Troubles, because until you have some common view of your past, you can't move on.
So, I wanted to create a version of that day so that, whether you were a British soldier, a demonstrator, or you lived in Dublin, you could say, 'Well, it must have been a bit like that'.

Q. Now that The Bourne Supremacy is a big hit, will you stay in Hollywood?
A.
To be honest, I don't know what I want to do, and I don't want to decide just now because this has been such a gruelling process, just on the level of travel and the speed at which it's been done. So, I'm off on holiday to Suffolk.

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