THE BOURNE LEGACY – Production Notes - I Watch Mike
Marta tries to outrun her pursuers. by trying to find a real location that would either inspire us or lead us to what we were looking for,” Thompson recalls. “Tony wanted to have a house that was a bit of a fairy-tale fantasy: a larger-than-life decayed minimansion that Marta invested in when she was in a relationship, a place she hoped to someday restore.” The kickoff to Marta and Aaron’s journey, the house is where the two realize that they must team up. “We found the magical house up in the Hudson Valley about two and a half hours north of New York City,” Thompson recounts. “It was built in 1815 and had a romantic, picturesque style. Although we looked at 150 houses, this one was by far the one that spoke most to us.” Unfortunately, their prized location, the national historic landmark known as the Plumb-Bronson House in Hudson, New York, was in need of even more rehabilitation than Marta’s fictional home. “About six weeks from shooting, the owners association told us that it was going to be impossible to allow us to shoot there,” says Thompson. It turns out that the structure could not support the equipment and crew necessary for filming. Thompson’s team quickly set about re-creating the interior of the house in precise matching detail. This included reimagining its parlors and vestibules, – 30 – magnificent three-story elliptical staircase, peeling paint and faded wallpaper on the stage at Kaufman Astoria. While unanticipated, building Marta’s house on a stage did offer several advantages, including greater flexibility and control with lighting and camera placement for DP Elswit’s equipment. “Having the three floors on the stage provided some great sight lines for action,” says Thompson. “It was a pretty photogenic set.” In the end, the production traveled to Hudson to film the exterior of the Plumb-Bronson House for a key scene with Aaron, but other scenes outside Marta’s home were filmed at William H. Pouch Scout Camp, a 143-acre site in Staten Island, New York. Unlike Plumb-Bronson’s surroundings in Hudson, the Staten Island location offered the thick woods that surround Marta’s home in Gilroy’s story. Among the many other New York area locations where the film shot were JFK Airport, The New York Times printing plant in Flushing, Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, and residential areas of Syosset and Old Westbury in Long Island. Frigid Waters in Calgary: Capturing the Canadian Wilderness After 12 weeks of filming in the New York area, the production decamped and left the city for an environment where the Bourne series had never before ventured: the untamed wilderness. For two weeks in December 2011, the cast and crew filmed in Kananaskis Country, a system of parks renowned for its spectacular scenery, in the Canadian Rocky Mountains west of Calgary. The dramatic Canadian landscape filled in for the Alaskan Yukon, where Cross finds himself as the story begins.
“We did a lot of scouting by helicopter,” recalls Thompson, whose locations included remote mountaintops, a frozen lake and a riverbank beside which his crew could build a log cabin, a heavily wooded area and a waterfall. “We looked all over Canada and found most everything within a 30-minute radius of Kananaskis.” One element of the Canadian shoot remained a wild card: snow. “Our location manager, who’s done a million movies there, said, ‘I can’t guarantee you that there’s going to be any snow,’” Crowley recalls. “So we had snow machines standing by, and we were ready to make our own.” But the Bourne crew enjoyed some luck: Plenty of snow arrived just in time for the shoot. “The day after we left, there was a warm wind called a Chinook that came through and melted all the snow,” he adds. “We didn’t hear about it until about a month afterward…and I’m kind of glad we didn’t hear about it until then.” The Bourne Legacy opens with an echo of the image that introduced Jason Bourne to filmgoers in The Bourne Identity: seen from below, a man floats motionless in water. However, unlike Bourne, who had been left to drown in the Mediterranean Sea in the first film, Aaron Cross is uninjured. After a brief moment of stillness, Cross reveals his incredible stamina: He has deliberately submerged himself in frigid waters in order to retrieve a canister left for him at the base of a freezing waterfall. To shoot this scene, the filmmakers did everything they could to keep their lead actor safe in the cold water. “We were concerned from the very first time that we saw the location,” says Crowley. “Even for just going in to his waist, we had a helicopter bring a hot tub there. We had a dry room that was heated. We had an ambulance standing by, and we had three or four people on the set whose specialty was hypothermia.” The initial plan was to shoot only part of the scene in Canada, with Renner in a full wet suit and in the cold water only up to his waist. However, just before rolling, – 31 – Renner removed the wet suit’s top. “He said, ‘Are you guys really ready?’” remembers Crowley. “And we said ‘Yup,’ and he said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’” As cameras rolled in below-freezing temperatures, a bare-chested Renner dunked himself into the icy water for a shot of Cross emerging. Fortunately, Gilroy and his DP got the shot in one take. Renner was game for the challenge. He recalls: “Cold is cold. If it’s 39 or 29, it doesn’t matter.” He was more unnerved that there was no way to acclimate himself to the experience without simply going through it. “That’s why I was so stressed about it. How do you prepare? I can prepare for a jump or a stunt. I can work out or do whatever stretch. But with this, you just go get cold. That’s it. You have to mentally go there.” Turns out that the water’s bark was worse than its bite. “Actually it wasn’t so bad; it was so bad up to the moment.” Cross is capable of supreme agility and endurance.