Late last week, it was announced that two-time Oscar-nominee Jeremy Renner ('The Town') landed the coveted lead role in director Tony Gilroy's ('Michael Clayton') Matt Damon–less reboot of the 'Bourne' franchise. But now, Vulture brings word that while Gilroy and Universal are pleased with Renner's casting, the actor was neither's first choice for the part.
Gilroy, writer of all the 'Bourne' screenplays and director of the forthcoming 'The Bourne Legacy,' wanted to go with a little-known actor whose fame wouldn't "pull focus" away from the character, an assassin who experienced the same training as Jason Bourne. He wanted 'Animal Kingdom' actor Joel Edgerton for the part, but Universal worried that the handsome Aussie didn't have enough name recognition to carry one of its most important franchises.
The studio preferred big names like Shia LaBeouf and Colin Farrell but also considered up-and-comers Garrett Hedlund, 26, and Taylor Kitsch, 30, for the part. LaBeouf reportedly refused to screen test for the role, a requirement of Gilroy's, while other actors had scheduling conflicts with films they were already set to shoot. Waiting for the right actor wasn't exactly an option for Gilroy or Universal because the estate of Robert Ludlum, author of the 'Bourne' books, established a finite amount of time for the studio to make 'Bourne' movies. With time a pressing concern and the studio and the film's director locking horns about casting, compromise became the name of the game, and both parties could agree that Renner, 40, had the acting chops and action-star swagger to deliver as the film's lead.
The only possible conflict: multiple dueling franchises. With 'The Bourne Legacy' now on his plate, Renner is starring in three different action franchises. He co-stars with Tom Cruise in 'Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol' this Christmas and will play Hawkeye in Joss Whedon's Marvel Comics superhero extravaganza 'The Avengers' next summer.