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Blowing the Whistle on Whistleblower Movies

Blowing the Whistle on Whistleblower Movies (photo)

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The covert meetings in hallways and parking garages, the warning threats, the for-the-role weight gain, the righteous speechifying — Steven Soderbergh mocks all of these standbys of the whistleblower movie in his new comedy “The Informant!” Inspired, on this week’s IFC News podcast we take a closer look at some of those clichés and the films that best embody them, from “The Insider” to Soderbergh’s own “Erin Brockovich.”

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Bourne

Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.


10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.


9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.


8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.


7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.


6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.


5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.


4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.


3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.


2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”


1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

Ugly People and Dangerous Men

Ugly People and Dangerous Men (photo)

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With the Venice Film Festival having just concluded and Toronto now underway, the award season’s wheels begin to roll with big name players, both indie and arthouse, making a showing, with Steven Soderbergh and Jennifer Aniston keeping things light at the multiplex.

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“35 Shots of Rum”
While Claire Denis’ latest film, “White Material,” is in the midst of a prestigious festival run that will take in Venice, Toronto and soon London, fans of the French filmmaker’s work can enjoy this delicate domestic portrayal of tenderness and devotion from last year that begins a small theatrical run here in New York. Set in a nondescript Parisian neighborhood, Denis’ film casually unfolds the dynamic of unspoken trust and mutual support played out between a stoic widower Lionel (Alex Descas), his daughter Joséphine (Mati Diop), and the makeshift urban family that circles the pair, in and around their cramped apartment building. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

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Toronto 2009: “Up in the Air” Flies High

Toronto 2009: “Up in the Air” Flies High (photo)

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Four years ago, a friend of mine came home from Toronto disappointed by the premiere of “Elizabethtown,” Cameron Crowe’s ill-fated, deeply personal story of a man coming home to bury his father. The director of “Almost Famous” and “Jerry Maguire,” Crowe was a true heir to Hal Ashby when it came to making melancholy and emotionally moving mainstream entertainments, yet when his cut of “Elizabethtown” (that was ultimately trimmed down in running time) failed to win over audiences here, it was hard to imagine when someone would attempt tp do so again.

“Up in the Air” will be easy to overpraise — it touches on larger themes of mass unemployment, cultural alienation and technology as a crutch. But ultimately, it’s really an expertly done character study that’s a dramatic change of pace from director Jason Reitman’s previous two films, “Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno,” comedies that led with their punchlines and landed the knockout with their heart. George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham is invested with the same degree of detail as Nick Naylor and Juno MacGuff, but he’s no spunky extrovert — he’s the guy who nurses a drink at the end of the bar, and is pretty comfortable with that arrangement. Bingham isn’t some happy anomaly content with shaking things up from time to time. He’s an enigma to nearly everyone around him.

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