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Why Jason Bourne Made Matt Damon The Perfect Lead For Stillwater, According To Tom McCarthy

Warning: minor spoilers for Stillwater are in play. If you want to go into the movie clear, then return to the home page and enjoy another one of the awesome stories here at CinemaBlend.

Though it’s not the role he’s exclusively known for, actor Matt Damon has gained quite a following over the years thanks to his role as Robert Ludlum’s amnesiac spy Jason Bourne. With four of the five films in the series centered around his titular spy, there’s an expectation that comes when dropping Damon into a high tension fish out of water scenario such as the one he experiences in his latest film, Stillwater. According to co-writer/director Tom McCarthy, that expectation is exactly why he was such a perfect fit to play the lead.

It was a question that needed to be asked during the Stillwater press day, as there were pieces of this serious family drama that were reminiscent of Matt Damon’s previous work in the Bourne saga. As a fan of those films myself, certain sequences evoked memories of Jason Bourne’s travels through Europe, and in some cases, a filmmaker might want to avoid invoking that memory when telling the story of someone like Bill Baker. Tom McCarthy, on the other hand, was pleased to encourage that misdirection, as he explained below:

I would say Bourne and other characters in Matt’s sort of oeuvre was the reason I wanted to cast Matt. I know audiences have this idea of Matt, whether it’s Will Hunting or other people, he’s a guy who knows what’s going on, what he’s gonna do, where he’s headed in life. Certainly Jason Bourne always does. So we wanted to sort of take Matt, and that iconic persona he brings to his roles, and subvert that a little bit, subvert audiences expectations.

When we see Bill Baker first make his way to Marseilles in Stillwater, he is as much of a stranger to the town as Jason Bourne is to himself. The big difference between the two men is while Bourne can speak other languages and possess certain skills, Baker is very much feeling things out. It’s part of how he meets Virgine (Camille Cottin), a single mother who he asks to help him communicate and translate in the French language; and inadvertently their budding relationship leads to a huge set piece that Bourne fans are definitely going to feel at home with.

In one of Stillwater’s most tense sequences, Matt Damon’s Bill Baker is taking young Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), Virginie’s daughter, to a soccer game at the massive Orange Velodrome. Already keyed up with the excitement of how much bigger soccer fans in Europe celebrate their games, Bill notices something: a person of interest he’s been pursuing in connection to his daughter’s case is at the same game. When the match ends, Bill starts to follow this person through a crowded stadium, uncertain of what he’s going to do, and with young Maya still in tow.

It’s a scene that definitely invokes Bourne series vibes, in particular a moment in The Bourne Supremacy when Matt Damon apprehends Julia Stiles’ Nicky Parsons. While Stillwater’s sequence plays out differently, and sans interrogation, the crowded setting and Damon’s determination set the tone quite similarly. That scene in particular played into Tom McCarthy’s overall strategy for Stillwater, but it also acts as a pivot point for Bill Baker in general:

For instance, in that Velodrome [sequence], what I love about that scene, not to give it away, but you see a guy really torn. What’s he gonna to do? And as an audience member, we’re thinking, ‘what the hell’s this guy gonna do’? With Jason Bourne, we know what he’s gonna do. He’s gonna kick ass. With Bill Baker, not always the case, right? He’s like all of us, he’s trying to figure it out, he’s struggling to sort of overcome his own limitations, like we all have. I think that’s part of the fun, and part of the tension in following him through the streets of Marseilles.

With mystery, romance and family all mingling together, Stillwater has created a pool of tones that lend to the uncertainty presented throughout the story. It’s a movie that Tom McCarthy doesn’t feel he could have made until now, and with its current theatrical release, the audience can see just what the fuss is all about. Just be prepared to see why Matt Damon’s Bill Baker differs from Jason Bourne, and how those expectations may lead you to enjoy the twists and turns of this tale even more.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.