Edward Norton Interview For ‘The Bourne Legacy’
The narrative architect behind the Bourne film series, Tony Gilroy, takes the helm in the next chapter of the hugely popular espionage franchise, ‘The Bourne Legacy.’ The writer/director expands the Bourne universe created by Robert Ludlum with an original story that introduces us to a new hero (Jeremy Renner) whose life-or-death stakes have been triggered by the events of the first three films. Faced with the public and political fallout from the events of ‘The Bourne Ultimatum,’ the CIA decides to shut down “Operation Outcome,” the successor to “Operation Treadstone.” Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an agent of Operation Outcome, and Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a research scientist who helped create the Outcome agents, must find a way to escape before CIA agent Byer (Edward Norton) can have them assassinated. For ‘The Bourne Legacy,’ Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton join fellow series newcomers Stacy Keach and Oscar Isaac, while franchise veterans Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn reprise their roles. ‘The Bourne Legacy’ comes to cinemas August 10th in the US and August 13th in the UK.
We’ve known that there was something going on behind-the-scenes, it couldn’t have just what we’d seen in the first three films. Now with Byer, we’re really seeing the chess master….
Edward Norton: Right, I think when you think about those Russian dolls where there’s little ones inside of bigger ones, inside of bigger ones, inside of bigger ones….he’s the next level of Russian doll around everything you’ve seen in the first three Bourne films. It’s the next chapter, and in it Tony has kind of taken you one level wider so that you can see the matrix of programmes and agendas that was nestled within. Now you realise that there was a lot going on in parallel that’s going to be affected by it. And my character, he’s sort of the lynchpin of that. He’s the one that you realise has been keeping tabs on this the whole time and debating what he has to do and when he’s going to have to step in. It’s kind of fun in that way because it’s not an inauthentic left-turn, it’s like a direct line out of the backend of the last ones into this next sort of next chapters.
There’s a story rooted inside the chambers of government funded intelligence?
Edward Norton: Yeah. I see a theme running through all of Tony’s films that I think is timely and smart. He has been digging into the way that corporations have permeated our culture and threaten to compromise us from different angles. I liked that in ‘The Bourne Legacy’ he was exploring the way that power is exercised in the nexus between corporations and government…questioning who’s working for who.
Your character Byer, he’s not simply a “villain”. Would you say he’s a man who can let the morality or the ethics of the decisions that he has to make get in the way of what he needs to do?
Edward Norton: Yeah, I wouldn’t say he’s a “villain”, a villain is someone who takes great delight in terrible things. I don’t think that’s him at all. And I don’t think he’s casually doing the things he does. Tony has set him up as a person who’s extremely frustrated and extremely hesitant….not hesitant, but he’s thinking long and hard about trying to do everything he can do except the worst things. When it comes to the time that he feels like he has to do the worst, he looks like a person that a truck has hit. He’s not happy about it, but I think he sees it all as a part of the very difficult nature of the job.
Tony Gilroy’s coloured his characters in moral gradations. Though Byer is hell-bent on erasing “Outcome“, his motives, in his mind, are sound ones?
Edward Norton: Yeah. Tony hasn’t painted any heroes and villains in this, and even though Jeremy Renner’s character is having the worst week of all of them (laughs), he’s a part of this, he’s a willing participate in a system that comes with certain rules. And those rules are coming to bite him in the ass. All of the characters in this film are painted in shades of gray. But I think Tony’s created three characters who are all interweaved with each other in a system that he’s kind of suggesting has a lot of darkness in it. I think Tony’s really interested in the way that people have their best impulses co-opted by a system in many different ways, and I really like that kind of complexity. Everybody’s made certain compromises and certain rationalisations in and around what they do…my character certainly, but Rachel’s too and even Jeremy’s.
The three characters are a sort of triptych….
Edward Norton: Yeah, there’s kind of a triptych of Jeremy’s character, who’s one sort of cog in the machinery, Rachel’s character who’s another cog in the machinery, then my character. One is a soldier, one is a scientist and then one is the chess master in a away, the architect. And I think the film is about how all of these people have made a trade in some sense. They’ve made a Faustian deal to get to do what they do well, they all believe that they’re contributing to a greater good.
Was Tony Gilroy one of the main attractions of joining ‘The Bourne Legacy’?
Edward Norton: Right, I think the main draw for me was Tony Gilroy, because I’m just a big fan of his films. I found over the years that I’d see a film and I’d think it was really smart, then I would see that he had written it. ‘Michael Clayton’ just really knocked my socks off, I thought it was a really smart, great film. And sometimes when I like someone’s work that much, I think it’s just exciting to go with them where they want to go. So I was curious that he wanted to go back into this again because he can kind of make any film he wants right now. It was really interesting to me that he wanted to keep exploring and expanding this story that he had already worked on. So for me, mainly it was about being a fan of Tony’s and interested in servicing his ideas.
The flashback scene, that can be interpreted in a number of ways….
Edward Norton: There’s all kinds of ways to interpret it, you could interpret it as authentic commiseration, you could interpret it as manipulation, you can interpret it as a lot of things. I think the murkiness of what’s transpiring there, whether it’s a person who’s sincerely trying to help someone else, or whether it’s a person who’s trying to make sure that this person does what he needs him to do? I think that’s what’s cool about the way Tony writes, he’s not delivering you an answer, he’s making you, hopefully, dwell….and it’s more uncomfortable I think if an audience doesn’t necessarily have those questions answered for them, I think it’s a more unsettling experience if you aren’t sure what somebody’s intentions are.
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