Locales help 'Bourne' to be wild

Chases through Tangier, New York present unique challenges

One striking aspect of Universal Pictures' "Bourne" franchise, starring Matt Damon, is its uncanny ability to transport audiences to far-flung locales, plunging them into a foreign city or country like few movies can. The third film in the series, "The Bourne Ultimatum," which opens Friday and is directed by Paul Greengrass, continues that tradition.

"One of the ingredients that make the movies work are those locations," producer Frank Marshall said. "We are in New York; we're not on a backlot. We're not playing Toronto or Pittsburgh for New York. We are in Tangier. You know it."

In the case of "Ultimatum," that meant pulling off two complicated chase scenes: one in Tangier, Morocco, the other in New York. The Tangier hunt starts off on scooters, switches to motorcycles, then turns into a foot chase — all through the streets of the ancient North African city.

Asked how many setups the sequence demanded, producer Paul L. Sandberg laughs. "You're in streets, you're in alleys, you're up and down stairways, you're on rooftops, you're going in and out of buildings," he says. "How many setups? Oh my God!"

The foot component sees the characters not only flying from one roof to another but from one apartment to another. "Window jumps were tough because when you get it right, you don't need more," Sandberg said. "But if you can't get it right in the first few shots, you've exhausted a stuntman or two, and then that's it."

The production shot first and second unit concurrently for three weeks in the city and had to bring most of its resources with it because Tangier doesn't see regular film work. On the plus side, city officials were more than accommodating to the production.

"In Tangier, I think there was a James Bond (film) that did a sequence there seven years ago, but otherwise they really don't have much filming. New York has got five crews shooting every day," producer Pat Crowley said. "So you can ask them to do more, and they'll cooperate more because there are few political prices they have to pay."

New York, on the other hand, is a city that can bind filmmakers in red tape, is awake 24/7 and demands to be control.

"Matt and Paul originally said, 'What we want to do is top the Moscow car chase (in "The Bourne Supremacy") with a car chase in New York,' " Crowley said. "And we just said, 'Please don't make us do it, it's too hard!' "

The car chase is all the more impressive because it appears to be tearing up the streets of Manhattan in the daytime, something rarely seen onscreen. A small army attacked the planning, then a bigger one invaded the streets, with filming taking weeks to complete. Damon even moved to the Big Apple for six weeks of the shoot.

But that doesn't mean some mirage work wasn't necessary.

"There's some cheating going on where part of the setup is very busy, and then you go to a place where you do have more control and you go in tighter, and you don't notice that the background has changed," Crowley said.

A scene where Bourne's car drives off a roof only to land on a lower rooftop of the Port Authority actually was shot on a roof in Yonkers because "the people at the Port Authority were afraid that the car was going to go through their roof."

"A 'Bourne' movie is actually like five or six movies, one in each city, you know?" Greengrass said. "You need a story in each one and try to concentrate on the physical characteristics and the environment, while keeping the actors focused on the overall story, and keeping the crew up for it."
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