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Why Isn't Matt Damon In The Bourne Legacy?

"The Bourne Legacy" is not the movie it was originally conceived to be. Before Universal cast Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, Matt Damon — who some fans might not have sen in a while – was supposed to return as the titular Jason Bourne. But Damon turned down the project because Paul Greengrass, who directed the last two "Bourne" productions ("The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," respectively), jumped ship. And, in his turn, Greengrass departed the franchise because Universal insisted upon setting a release date for the next "Bourne" production without finalizing a script, first.

In a 2011 interview with the Daily News, Damon explained why that was a disastrous move, saying, "It's a director's movie and I'm sorry, that's the first person you need, the director. I wouldn't do it without [Greengrass]. And he was ready to do one and they gave us a release date without a script, and he backed away. He just went, 'I'm not sure we can guarantee it's going to be as good as the other ones.' And that was enough for me to take a step back."

Ultimately, "Legacy" was written and directed by Tony Gilroy, whose involvement with the previous "Bourne" productions came under fire when Damon publically lambasted his first draft of "Ultimatum," the third installment in the franchise, calling it "unreadable." He has since retracted the statement.

The Bourne Legacy became a stopgap franchise entry

"The Bourne Legacy" garnered a solid box office haul, earning approximately 276 million. While it definitively surpassed "The Bourne Identity" (214 million), the inaugural 2002 "Bourne" production and the only other entry into the franchise to not be directed by Paul Greengrass, and did equivalent numbers with "The Bourne Supremacy" (290 million), it fell short of "The Bourne Ultimatum" by a staggering 168 million (444 million). And Universal treated "Legacy" accordingly, not as a failure but more as a stopgap that kept the franchise alive long enough for Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass to reunite on "Jason Bourne" in 2016. The fifth, and currently final, installment also technically failed to match the success of "Ultimatum" but by a much smaller margin, earning a cool 415 million.

 "Legacy" might be considered the critical pariah of the "Bourne" series but money doesn't lie. Audiences were almost as keen to see Jeremy Renner commit blockbuster espionage as they were to see Matt Damon — almost. Unfortunately for Renner, whose stardom was freshly minted by "The Avengers" only months prior, replacing a leading character seldom plays out well.

It should also be noted that, while Damon's return to the franchise marked a significant uptick in financial success, it did not see a similar rise in critical reception. Both "Legacy" and "Jason Bourne" were socially maligned. Still, there's always the chance we could get a new Jason Bourne flick. In a 2017 interview with the Toronto Sun, a hesitant Damon confessed that "Bourne" could come back again, if the story justified it.