Matt Damon Reveals How Frank Marshall Saved The Bourne Franchise

Matt Damon, The Bourne Ultimatum

As Moby might sing it, oh baby (oh baby!), the Jason Bourne franchise almost fell apart before you could stand in line for more of this. Star Matt Damon credits producer Frank Marshall with rescuing the first film, The Bourne Identity, from one-and-done purgatory. Marshall was a last-minute addition to the team, but without him, Damon is sure he would not have had an action franchise:

Frank [Marshall] was a replacement, because our [The Bourne Identity] producer had a family emergency. There was a big rewrite, so there was this whole process of trying to get a lot of what Tony Gilroy had written back into it, including the big third-act piece on this farm. When the movie was testing at a 75 and was a year delayed in coming out, I'm sure the studio just wanted to release the thing. Frank laid out this surgical plan for what he wanted to do and got us $3 million for a reshoot, telling Stacey Snider, 'I can't say this is going to make you more money, but I guarantee you it will make the movie better.' Had it not been for Frank, we never would have had a franchise. It would have been just one and done. Instead, it became a 15-year project for all of us.

Yes, thanks in part to Frank Marshall's extreme ways (sorry, I'll stop now), one film became a franchise that made more than $1.5 billion at the box office.

Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy are this year's Irving G. Thalberg recipients, which is why Variety gathered stars to share stories about the producers. Matt Damon clearly had high praise for Marshall, and it sounds like Bourne fans should thank him as well.

The Bourne films are all based on the CIA assassin character created by author Robert Ludlum. The franchise started with The Bourne Identity in 2002, which Doug Liman directed to $214 million worldwide. Paul Greengrass took over directing for The Bourne Supremacy in 2004, which earned $288.5 million. Greengrass stuck around for The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007, which earned (and deserved) a massive $442.8 million worldwide. The franchise took a detour after that, with Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross fronting The Bourne Legacy in 2012, which still made $276 million even without Matt Damon.

It took nearly 10 years for Matt Damon to return for Jason Bourne, which was a disappointment to watch -- but boy did a lot of people watch! Anticipation helped get butts in seats, and the 2016 film made $415.5 million worldwide. That's not quite as good as Ultimatum, but still solid in such a competitive action franchise market.

But still. Matt Damon knows many fans were not thrilled with Jason Bourne. It's the only one of his Bourne movies to be deemed "rotten" by both Rotten Tomatoes critics and users. He said the only way they'd go back and make another Jason Bourne movie is if they had "a pretty incredible story." As Damon put it:

This last one didn't do as well as the one we did 10 years ago, so maybe people are done with the character.

Or maybe we, too, are waiting for another pretty incredible story. Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise shows that fans will keep turning up if the story and visuals are strong. Jason Bourne just didn't have the usual spark, but The Bourne Ultimatum certainly did. It's good that they wouldn't make another movie just to take more money, but Bourne fans can still hope that a perfect idea occurs to them at some point. Maybe Frank Marshall can save the franchise again?

In the meantime, here are some movies you can look forward to seeing in 2019.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.