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David Strathairn on The Bourne Ultimatum

Published July 31, 2007 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Universal Pictures.
The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum

Didn't it seem like Bourne had finally gotten all the corrupt government types? They keep finding more to pursue him. In The Bourne Ultimatum, David Strathairn pops up in the wake of Brian Cox and Chris Cooper. Strathairn plays another leader of a secret government program who doesn't want Bourne to find out what's up.

Strathairn the New Governement-Type for The Bourne Ultimatum


"We came to sort of settle on the fact that he's not a consciously evil mastermind," said Strathairn. "If he were to be, that might tip the tone of the film out of the plausibility, the authenticity, the sort of gritty realism that is one of the great things about the Bourne movies. He may have grown up within this system, and for better or for worse, he is the point person now. Maybe how he's implementing the methodology can be considered evil, but to stay within the delineation of a corporate clerk for a company whose interests are sort of high stake interests. There's a lot of pressure on him but he's one of these guys who probably never was in the field. He was in administration, in policy, and he went down that alley to get to where he is. And where he is now, he has ascended to a place where he might feel now he is a bit of a Napoleon."

His willingness to dispatch an American agent like Bourne without due process may reek of current political figures, but even the actor does not want to take away from the fun of the movie. "There are a lot of allusions, and the fact that there is a display of technical toys available that are probably the ones they have discarded to the public, I think that in a way is topical. One of the reasons I think the film succeeds is that it awakens all this plausibility and potential topical terrain. Therefore it's entertaining on more levels than just a cut=to-the-chase good guy gets bad guy. To Paul's credit, it's that he has managed to evoke all these things in this film, and that Matt has made this man so human that you have various kinds of entertainment in this film. You've got the great chase, you've got the great actions, you've got all the plausible technology, you have people you care about, and you have a wonderful camera. The camera is a character in and to itself. But in terms of topical, what about all the cameras that London has, and CCTV and all the surveillance cameras that we see in our world today? It rings a lot of bells."



The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum

Ultimately, Strathairn's job was just to be the foil. It wasn't the sort of role that required a lot of research. "[I prepared] by watching the other two films, to see what sort of niche this character occupies, what this character contributes. And the back story as to whether he takes his kids to school or what is his favorite hobby, that really wasn't pertinent to what I had to do: basically stay on point with the chase. Your stakes are high, you've got to get this guy. If he gets home he can burn your house down. All those things could be applied to anybody in that kind of situation. So I didn't do a lot of biographical work like when I was researching Edward R. Murrow. That was a different creature altogether in that film."

However, The Bourne Ultimatum could get audiences thinking as much as Good Night and Good Luck. "I love that these questions are happening over an action picture. It's really great, and it's kind of a testament to what Paul has achieved and what Matt has achieved, what this trilogy has achieved. It’s great. The use of force, use of violence, use of trained programmed assassins to compromise a perceived threat for the sake of what? And I think that's where the equation for the discussion begins. For the sake of what? In this story, it is excessive and reprehensible because all he is looking for is himself. It's kind of mythic, kind of Greek, that here is a hero who is returning from the wars, who has been spewed out of some system to do its duty, and he is now becoming awake, and he is returning home. It's quite mythic, really great. He's not a threat, but they don't know that, but they should know that."

The Bourne Ultimatum opens to theaters on August 3rd.

For the trailer, stills and more movie info, head over to The Bourne Ultimatum Movie Page.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Universal Pictures.
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