Did Daniel Craig's James Bond Copy The Bourne Identity? Doug Liman Talks Legacy Of His Matt Damon Film

Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity

Matt Damon was already a well-known name in Hollywood pre-2002, but that year, he became a bonafide action star when he debuted as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, which was directed by Doug Liman. 2002 was also the year that Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as James Bond ended with Die Another Day, and four years later, the Bond franchise was rebooted, with Daniel Craig taking over the 007 mantle in Casino Royale. With a darker tone and edgier, more realistic action, many noted how similar Casino Royale was to the first two Bourne movies. Is this a case of copying?

Doug Liman certainly thinks so. While plugging his new movie, HBO Max’s Locked Down, Liman spoke with Slashfilm about the Bourne franchise’s influence on Hollywood, particularly with regard to the modern James Bond movies. In his words:

I always wanted to make a James Bond movie, but they don’t hire American directors. By the way, you’ve made two little indie movies. You’re never going to direct James Bond. I went and made Bourne Identity, and then after The Bourne Identity came out, the next James Bond to come out was Casino Royale, which totally copied the tone of Bourne. I had a very surreal thing where I was sort of making Bourne because I really wanted to make Bond, and then Bond copied Bourne.

It’s worth noting that the’ no American directors’ rule for James Bond movies has been broken since Cary Fukunaga was hired to helm No Time to Die, but that’s beside the point. Considering how critically and commercially successful both The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy were, it’s easy to see why the Casino Royale filmmakers wanted to take a page from those proverbial books. In addition to boasting similar action, Casino Royale also ditched the cool gadgets that were among the Bond franchise’s main appeals. Plus, the 21st James Bond movie also dedicated more time to exploring the main characters inner struggles, not dissimilar to Jason Bourne trying to learn about his forgotten past and come to terms as a living weapon throughout the Bourne movies.

In any case, Doug Liman found the similarities between The Bourne Identity and Casino Royale to be surreal. He continued:

I didn’t quite know how to process that. I still don’t know how to process that. I don’t know if I got what I wanted or didn’t get what I wanted. It’s beyond my computing power to know how to feel about that. It’s probably an unsatisfying answer. To say I’m annoyed or flattered would be easy, but I’m still confused about how should I feel this.

While Doug Liman passed the directing reins to Paul Greengrass for The Bourne Supremacy (Greengrass would return for The Bourne Ultimatum and Jason Bourne), there’s no denying that Liman’s work on The Bourne Identity not only set the template for the mood and feel of the sequels, but also influenced various other action movies, including James Bond’s adventures. Liman also noted in the interview how he was determined to take risks for The Bourne Identity, even if it meant ignoring studio requests, such as having Matt Damon’s character fight only a handful of goons at once rather than dozens of them.

As far as how the James Bond and Bourne franchises are going nowadays, the former is certainly on firmer ground than the latter. The last Bourne movie, Jason Bourne, came out in 2016 and was met with mixed critical reaction, though it did reasonably well for itself commercially. As of late 2019, another Bourne movie was in the works that would tie into the short-lived Treadstone TV series, but there’s been no update on its progress since then. As for Bond, No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s final 007 outing, is currently set to arrive on April 2, although it’s looking increasingly likely that it will be pushed back again.

Keep checking back with CinemaBlend for more updates on both the James Bond and Bourne franchise. If you’re curious about what movies are arriving later this year, scan through our 2021 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.