It says something about the black-diamond level of difficulty director Tony Gilroy faces in casting a lead actor in the Matt Damon/Paul Greengrass-less next installment the Bourne franchise. All week, the steady stream of names flowing over the transom reads like a list of Hollywood’s most eligible young studs. The first batch of contenders, courtesy of Variety, was an eclectic group representing a wide range of age and experience: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, Garrett Hedlund, and Taylor Kitsch. Next came Deadline‘s panoramic portrait of actors competing for the role — Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, Michael Pitt, Oscar Isaac, Alex Pettyfer, Luke Evans, Joel Edgerton, and Josh Hartnett — which seems to indicate that Gilroy is far from narrowing the field and still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.
Even though none of these actors will be playing Jason Bourne (the film is said to focus on another secret agent within the same agency), Matt Damon is a tough act to follow, especially when it comes to bringing the tortured determination and hard-earned mastery necessary to anchor the Bourne franchise. He earned Oscar nominations for the tormented perfectionists he played in “Good Will Hunting” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” And he’s turned in a slew of overlooked Oscar-caliber performances in the years since. Oh, and he also happened to reinvent the action hero for the post-9/11 world.
So the prospect of making a Bourne film without him is a daunting one at best. Gilroy, the screenwriter-turned-auteur who adapted “Bourne Supremacy” and “Bourne Ultimatum” before moving into the director’s chair, is facing an especially tall order in finding a leading man who measures up to the precedent Damon set in the first three films of the franchise based on Robert Ludlum‘s series of books. Given our druthers, our dream casting for this role would be Clive Owen, who brings the right combination of menace, maturity, and mystery to set the role apart from other more heroic studs like James Bond, Jack Ryan, and Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt.
Of the group listed above, we’re partial to Michael Fassbender. And not to be unkind, but frankly the rest of the lot doesn’t seem up to the task. Gyllenhaal can be a decent actor, but he’s not a man you’d ever fear could kill you with a pencil. Maguire still hasn’t sufficiently shaken Spidey from his big-screen persona. The rest look like they belong at the kids’ table.
So now it’s time for you to weigh in: Who do you think has the true grit necessary to play Bourne’s heir apparent?