Matt Damon Only Signed Up for the First ‘Bourne’ Movie Initially: ‘I Don’t Think Anybody Thought it Would Work’

Matt Damon has had a sprawling career playing different roles, from a Mathematical genius working as a janitor to that of a lone astronaut stranded on Mars. In between these roles, he also got a chance to play a CIA assassin who goes rogue and is hunted by his bosses for the dangerous secrets and information he is privy to.

The Bourne franchise, which, so far, has five movies, with Damon starring in four, is considered a big name in the spy/assassin genre. In a recent interview with GQ, Damon revealed that he had no idea that the movie would blow up enough to become a five-movie franchise.

Matt Damon, in a white t-shirt and black jacket with his side toward the camera, at the premiere of his movie 'Stillwater' in New York in 2021.
Matt Damon | Theo Wargo/Getty Images

What were the ‘Bourne’ movies about?

The Bourne franchise was originally based on Robert Ludlum’s fictional character Jason Bourne. Ludlum wrote three novels that were adapted into the first three movies in the franchise. These were also the most notable ones with Damon in the lead as Bourne. 

Paul Greengrass’ The Bourne Identity began the story when Bourne is found in the Mediterranean Sea with a safety deposit box number embedded in his hip. With his memory lost, Bourne begins his journey to discover his identity as CIA assassins attempt to kill him. With the help of a woman, he discovers many things about himself including his ties with the CIA, but he decides to sever them for good. 

In The Bourne Supremacy, after his wife is killed while in hiding, Bourne is convinced that the CIA is back for him. On the chase once again, Bourne finds out more about the men and the program which trained him to be an assassin and he attempts to expose the corruption within their system. At the end of the second movie, Bourne goes back in hiding.

The third movie, The Bourne Ultimatum is the conclusion of the story set in motion in the first film. The CIA continues to hunt Bourne but this time he finds an aide within the CIA and exposes the men responsible for his inhuman training and manipulation. He then disappears. 

The fifth movie, Jason Bourne, picked up the story in 2016. Damon reprised his role to learn more about Bourne’s past. 

Damon did not think there would be more than one ‘Bourne’ movies

The Departed actor recently revealed that he did not think there would be more than one movie. Damon was told that he would have to do the other two movies if the first one worked, but nobody thought that would happen, so he only signed on for one.

“We went over schedule on that movie and that’s always a bad indicator,” Damon said. “Usually it means the film is in trouble.”

The Bourne Identity got further delayed because of 9/11 and when it opened in 2002, it had to compete with Scooby-Doo and The Windtalkers. In its opening weekend, The Bourne Identity earned half of what Scooby-Doo did. For Damon and others on the film, even that was an unexpectedly great performance. 

Damon said that each week the movie outperformed their expectations.

“It was one of those movies that because it hadn’t been driven down anybody’s throats, because no one really thought it would be a hit, audiences found it on their own,” Damon said. “

This motivated the crew and eventually became the reason why the second Bourne movie was made. 

“The moviegoers made that franchise,” Damon said.

Damon chose to not return in the fourth movie

After the successful run of the trilogy, Damon decided to not come back for the fourth movie since Greengrass was not directing it. The fourth movie, The Bourne Legacy featured Jeremy Renner in a leading role. 

For the fifth movie, Damon agreed to return with Greengrass as the director. While the movie did make $415 million worldwide, the future of the film franchise is uncertain with Damon not very keen on reprising his role as Jason Bourne again.


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