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Trivia / The Bourne Identity

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  • Ability over Appearance: Matt Damon was surprised when he was offered the role of Bourne, because the protagonist of the book is a much older man. "But Liman told me he didn't want to do James Bond; he saw it more as a European La Femme Nikita".
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The Professor's Last Words are the Arc Words of the series, but many fans of the first three films don't seem to notice that the Call-Back to it in Ultimatum has one word changed.
    The Professor: Look at this. Look at what they make you give.
    Bourne (to Paz, in Ultimatum): Look at us. Look at what they make you give.
  • Billing Displacement: Clive Owen is given prominent billing, despite only about three minutes of screen time altogether.
  • Deleted Role: Judy Parfitt filmed a scene as a psychiatrist that was deleted. It's included on the DVD.
  • Deleted Scene:
    • Wombosi on a jet, telling the man who referred John Michael Kane (Bourne) to him that Kane came to kill him, and that he is going to find out who sent Kane. In the source novel's backstory, Cain was Bourne's cover name in Vietnam.
    • While on the way to Paris, Marie stops the car to get a look on a map. Then follows a discussion as to why Marie should bring Bourne to Paris as she doesn't know him. After some talk they get back in the car and drive on.
    • At the CIA headquarters a psychologist analyzes Bourne's motivations and gives her opinion on Bourne's condition and thoughts to Conklin and Abbott.
    • Bourne and Marie use the underground and talk about her cover identity for the Hotel Regina.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Matt Damon did extensive training in the martial art Kali and in using firearms to prepare.
  • Enforced Method Acting: A variation. Doug Liman wanted the camera operator to be late moving the camera, to create "an edge" to the cinematography. In order to create this effect, the op wasn't allowed to watch the rehearsal; therefore he didn't know which character spoke next.
  • Executive Meddling: Doug Liman kept getting memos from the studio asking for the final act to be more "like Tony Scott shoots". His response was that if they truly wanted that, they should hire Tony Scott instead.
  • Follow the Leader: This film set off a new trend in spy films, marking a shift from tuxedo-and-martini romps to stale-beer-and-cigarette thrillers that put an emphasis on the psychological toll espionage has on the people involved. Even the James Bond franchise shifted toward dirty-martini territory with the casting of Daniel Craig as a more troubled 007.
  • In Memoriam: The film is dedicated to Robert Ludlum and Claire Hammond, a colleague of director Doug Liman.
  • No Stunt Double: Matt Damon climbed down the last 30 feet of the building himself, without a stunt double. He called it "the most gruelling thing I had to do".
  • Promoted Fanboy: Doug Liman had been a fan of the novel since he read it in high school.
  • Release Date Change: The original release date was set for 7 September 2001. When problems with the ending arose, the date was pushed back to 31 May 2002. The release date was then pushed back again two weeks later to 14 June 2002, as the studio did not want the film opening against Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which featured the voice of Matt Damon.
  • Saved from Development Hell: The movie was first considered in 1983 with Burt Reynolds as Jason Bourne, and Jack Clayton directing. Due to Burt's busy schedule, the project was shelved.
  • Sleeper Hit: The film tested horribly and Universal delayed it for a year to do reshoots. When it opened, it was expected to die a quick death against Scooby-Doo and Windtalkers. However, reviews and word-of-mouth turned out to be quite positive and it managed to gross over $100 million at the box office.
  • Throw It In: The script had Marie screaming and crying after the assassin jumps out the window. Franka Potente opted to play it like she was in shock instead.
    • The dramatic face that Bourne makes as he gets up from the park bench was a real face that Matt Damon happened to make while watching the cameraman set up the shot. The director told him to do it again.
  • Troubled Production:
    • Universal and Doug Liman fought over pretty much every single creative decision. Liman, who had only helmed indie films prior to Identity, did not put up with Executive Meddling which created no shortage of friction between the two. The first point of contention was shooting locations, with Liman insisting on Paris rather than Montreal as the studio wanted. Due to Matt Damon not liking the rewrites they started shooting with and the constant feuding between Liman and the studio, writer Tony Gilroy had to fax new script pages to the set in the middle of shooting.
    • Universal constantly pushed against the restrained action and character-driven plot of the film. For one, they wanted the entire farmhouse sequence cut and in fact had it chopped from the script. It took Liman and Damon pushing back and badgering the studio to add it back to the film. Liman also received memos from the studio to shoot his action sequences "like Tony Scott shoots", to which Liman fired back that they should have hired Scott to begin with.
    • The ending had to be completely redone after test audiences complained that it lacked enough action, which Liman dreaded due to the spectre of studio interference. Multiple alternate endings were considered before they settled on one they could all agree on. By the time the ending had been reshot, Identity was $8 million overbudget and had been pushed back nearly a full year from its initial release date of September 2001 to July 2002.
    • And while nothing has been officially stated, it's widely assumed that the film's original beginning and ending sequences were changed due to the September 11th terrorist attacks occurring during production. While the film became a huge Sleeper Hit and influenced the spy genre going forward, Universal would replace Liman with Paul Greengrass as director for the next two Bourne films, not wanting a repeat of the troubles of Identity.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Brad Pitt was offered the lead role of Jason Bourne, but turned it down to do Spy Game instead. Also considered were Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
    • The opening and closing sequences were changed after 9/11 happened. The opening happened in Mykynos and the story was told in flashback. This was changed and although the ending still happened there, Abbott's character was removed.
    • According to Julia Stiles, Bourne was originally supposed to kill Nikki at the safehouse via Neck Snap. This was changed after principal photography to just having Bourne stare at Nikki and leaving her alive, which allowed her role to be expanded in the sequels.
    • Earlier drafts of the screenplay had Marie with green hair. Also she was an American girl with Purcell as a last name. Sarah Polley was the first choice for the role but she turned it down. Lauryn Hill was also offered the role.
    • Several different endings were considered. One in which all the Treadstone assassins converge on Bourne who is aboard a cargo ship. A pursuit occurs through the hold of the ship. Another ending was considered where Bourne is pursued by assassins on motorbikes with rockets. Matt Damon reportedly hated this scripted ending and refers to it as "that damn damn rocket and motorbikes ending." Damon felt the gun-blazing-style ending went against the reality and grit that the earlier parts of the screenplay had set up.