Q: A few years ago when you spoke about the first movie you were adamant that you wouldn't do another one?

M: Yeah, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t.

Q: What made you change your mind?

M: Well, what I said then was that I didn't want to do it unless we could make it as good as the first one, because there are so many sequels that are disappointing.And just for me as a movie fan, if I go to a sequel to a movie I really liked and I feel like it was made cynically, as a money-grab by the studio, I end up really resenting the studio and the filmmakers that made it, plus it's just very hard to make a good sequel.

I had a friend who said something really funny to me. He said "you have to be very careful about the sequel stuff because there've only been three sequels in history that are as good as or better than the original. He said the New Testament is better than the Old Testament, Huck Finn is better than Tom Sawyer, and The Godfather II is better than The Godfather.

Q: Who said that?

M: A good friend of my family. So I did say that and I guess what changed my mind was…well, there were a couple of things. First of all that Paul Greengrass wanted to do it. Once I started to talk to Paul about what his vision of the movie was and heard not only his enthusiasm but also how he intended to do it, and keeping in mind that Bloody Sunday was one of my favourite movies of the last decade, I felt like it was something I couldn't say no to. And on the script side, just to give you a thought of where my head was, because I don't know if you can write this without giving out a lot that happens in the movie, there were three tent pole moments in the movie that I thought were really bold for a sequel like this. One occurred in each act - in the first act it was that Franka's character died in that horrible way.

In the second act it was that I shoot a woman in the face in cold blood which is not something that is commonly done in Hollywood mainstream movies. And in the third act, I go to the daughter of those two people that I kill and attempt to atone and I thought that was a good thing, to take what looks like a classic revenge story, turn it on its head a little bit, and leave with this message of this guy finding another way.

And the final shot in Manhattan of a man walking into a crowd and joining humanity again in a way.

Q: Did you approach your character differently than in the first one?

M: No it was pretty similar. It was interesting. I'd done it with a play before. I'd done a play again and played the same character on stage before, but never in a movie. And it was really helpful I guess. For the first movie I had about six months to prepare which is a really long time considering you can get a play up in a month. So six months to get all the research and all the stuff done is plenty of time.

I had so over-prepared for the first one and I kind of knew what worked and what didn't really work that I had an easy time getting ready for this one. Physically the most important thing that came out of the first one was an idea that Doug Liman had, which was that the character should walk like a boxer. He should stand and have the bearing of a boxer.

And neither of us really knew how to achieve that, except for me to start boxing, so I boxed for six months and it really changed me, not only physically but I don't know if it's a more self-assured gait or the way that you just kind of stand and listen to somebody.

But it really had a subtle impact on that and I thought it was really right for the character so that was the first thing I started doing. I started boxing for about three months before we started.

Q: How about from an emotional standpoint?

M: Yeah, I really like the character. I kind of feel that I'm in the same position that I was in in the last one now, where I'd like to do a third one but I don't want to do it if it can't be as good as the second one.

Q: Is there going to be a third one?

M: I'm considering it, but I do feel like I did last time. I'm very happy to leave it at this. I'm really happy with how it came out. It was a lot of pressure for the creative team who was behind it throughout the shoot because we all shared that feeling that we didn't want to make a disappointing sequel to a movie that we really liked, so there was more pressure than usual.

So now that's gone because I feel very happy with the way the movie came out. To go and do a third one we would really have to get a great script. And it's hard because I don't personally know where to go with the character at this point. I don't know how to draw him back into that world at this point.

The third book is called The Bourne Ultimatum and he feels to me very much like he's given his ultimatum at this point. But who knows. Maybe there's a rocket scientist who can figure it out.

Q: Isn't this about revenge?

M: I think it starts off about revenge, but I think eventually it's about atonement and about an attempt at redemption. I think it certainly starts as an exercise in revenge but shifts after the second act as he goes into Moscow.

Q: How did shooting this movie affect you emotionally?

M: Actually it was kind of an intense role and I think the impact that had on me personally sent it the other way. I felt like I had a certain allotment of happiness and sadness in any given day and I'd spend the sadness and anger at work and I'd go home and I was pretty happy.

Q: Was it like therapy for you?

M: I guess so, maybe a little bit. I just get excited, for instance in these studio movies, generally the larger the budget, the more simple the characters become. Once you go north of a certain number, the studios generally don't want to take risks.

If they're spending a lot of money on a movie, they want everyone to understand that the good guy wears the white hat and the bad guy twists his moustache and that's about where we're going to leave it because we put a lot of money into this thing. But this is a studio that allowed us and endorsed us to make this guy much more complicated than that.

He's a deeply flawed character and they didn't back off that, so I was in a good mood going to work every day because I had something to play, I had something to do. You know, rather than twiddling my thumbs through a bland good guy role.

Q: How did the shooting go this time since in the first one there were some problems?

M: The shooting went really smoothly this time. We had a lot of problems in the first one, well, not problems but Paris is a very tough place to shoot. They ask for permits. You have to file six weeks in advance. You have to tell them exactly where every truck is going to be parked.

And they make it hard to shoot there and they can, it's Paris. But Berlin was incredibly accessible. We shot for four or five months there, in fact we shot a lot of the Moscow stuff in Berlin because we found it to be so accessible.

Q: How did you like it over there?

M: I loved it. The only drawback to living in Berlin at that time of year (we were there November, December, January, February) and as you know - there's not a lot of sunshine!

You can start shooting there around 9:30 in the morning, Oliver Wood, our cinematographer, was absolutely in love with the light because it stayed steady. It was overcast every day. But we'd lose it about 3:15 or 3:30pm and every day he had this gleeful look on his face and he'd just go "I love it here! I love it here!" Everyone else was missing the sunshine!

Q: Do you feel like a European since you've been spending so much time there?

M: I've been there a lot. And I did The Brothers Grimm over there this year in Prague, so yeah, I just came back after about 13 months of being there.

Obviously with the first movie and with Ripley I was there, so I've spent a few years of my adult life over there but I love it. I really could spend plenty of time there actually.

Q: What's your favourite city?

M: Tough to say. I've had great experiences in a lot of the cities. Tough to say what my favourite was because they're all very different. I like Amsterdam. The canals were gorgeous. It was a great city to walk around in. Of all the cities in Europe, Berlin felt like the city that in fifty years people would be talking about the fact that they were there, because there's so many things changing there.

There seems to be this cultural imperative to unify, and you see that in the architecture and the attitudes of people there, it's palpable and there's a lot of energy there. I really like Berlin a lot. And Prague, I feel like I could live in any of those places.

Q: What skills have you learned from the movies you've made?

M: For Ripley I learned to play some songs on the piano and I never really played them again and there are a bunch of things I've learned that have been relatively useless in my life, but the good thing about this movie is that all those things, especially the driving, are all practical, they all really do help me in my regular life.

I think I'm definitely a better driver than I was. Then again, there are a lot of things I learned that I'll never do, like driving a car at high speed and pulling on the emergency brake.

Q: But that's useful in L.A.!

M: It might be useful in LA if I'm ever in a high speed chase. You never know!

Q: In the last few years we've seen so many movies about memory, from Memento to Eternal Sunshine. What's your relationship with your own memory?

M: In terms of my own memory, I don't know what to compare it to because it's the only one I have! I’m sorry I can't remember. (Laughs). I do think about memories, I try to live in the present and try to find a healthy balance between the two. In terms of films that have come out recently, I haven’t seen Eternal Sunshine yet because it wasn't open overseas when I was there.

Memento I loved. There are a lot of great amnesia movies. It's an overused convention in movies, I think, because it's such a great plot device for a writer, rather than having a narrator you just rob your character of their memory and as they start to gain their memory your audience learns things with them.

It's a really useful tool for a writer and that's why it gets used so much.

Q: What was the most dangerous stunt, the one on the train or the car chase?

M: Starting with, my trainer's name is John Stalworth and he's from LA. I did as many of the stunts as I could, going back to the first movie, just because of the way I look. I never would've been my first choice for this role and I was really worried that people would feel that my being in thee movie would take people out of the movie, so we decided early on that I should try to do as many of these things as possible to make the performance more believable; to allow the audience to suspend their disbelief.

So we carried that through on this one and the whole stunt team encouraged me to do absolutely everything that I could which was great. But having said that I don't want to be one of those actors who says 'I do all my own stunts' because those people are full of shit and if there's anything that's at all dangerous they get the professionals to do it.

Q: The water scene must've been quite dangerous?

M: I don't know if that was the most dangerous because you can pass out under water and survive for a couple of minutes and there were safety divers everywhere, so I don't think my life was ever in danger underwater.

But that is the most nervous I've ever been shooting because to drown is a very human fear. So I worked really hard with one of Dan Bradley's team who's an expert diver, and after work we did about ten sessions in a pool in Berlin and we'd go down to the bottom and he'd take my air tank away, and I practiced doing little tasks, just little mindless things to get used to not having air and being under water.

Because the real danger there is if you panic and you plant your feet and you shoot to the top you can get the bends and that is very dangerous. So even if you're panicking you have to stay under the water if you've been breathing off a regulator.

So it was a ten session mini-course in how not to panic and it worked. I never panicked. We shot that sequence in London in a special tank and I did never panic. But we shot it over two days and after the first day I woke up all through the night going [gasp] having these suffocation nightmares. So I was glad to be out of there!

Q: Are you writing again with Ben?

M: We want to write. We've been talking about it. The problem for the last few years is that neither of us has been off work long enough at the same time to do it because Ben's not shooting right now but I am finishing Ocean's 12 and then I'm going off to do a movie called Syriana with Steve Gaghan who wrote Traffic.

He wrote and is directing this one and it's very similar to Traffic in its structure - all these story lines converging around a topic but it's about oil and not drugs. I'm going to do that but Ben and I have been talking about it.

I've actually seen him a bunch of times in the last couple of days because we're doing some ‘Project Greenlight’ stuff. We picked the winning script the other night and we're picking the winning director tomorrow so we keep talking about it and it is something we want to do. We've got to carve out the time and commit to it.

Q: No outline, nothing you can talk about?

M: No and I'd tell you if there was. There's nothing.

Q: I'm wondering, I'm hazy as to who came first, Ben as Jack Ryan or you as Jason Bourne and is there rivalry between you? Could Jason kick Jack's ass?

M: No (there's no rivalry), because he can and Ben acknowledges that! I think The Sum of All Fears came out a couple weeks before The Bourne Identity but we were done shooting before they even started. The Bourne Identity had a very long post production because the movie had some holes in it, some stuff we had to go back and reshoot.

We had two full sessions of reshoots on The Bourne Identity so the post production lasted over a year, I think it was almost a year and a half. I was the CIA guy first.

Q: Can you talk about your role in Ocean's 12 as well as the other movie you're doing, The Informant?

M: Sure, in Ocean's 12, I play Linus Caldwell again, the pickpocket from Chicago and the basic plot is that a master thief in Europe, played by Vincent Cassell, gives our names to Terry Benedict, Andy Garcia's character. And so we're basically all caught at the beginning of the movie and this master thief does this because he wants to challenge us, he wants to prove that he's the greatest thief in the world and we're just a fluke.

So we're forced to compete with him because we have a certain amount of time to get Andy his money back or we're going to go to jail or worse, so that's the premise of the movie. So we go off to Europe to start pulling jobs to pay back Terry Benedict.

And The Informant, the Steven Soderberg movie, is based on a real New York Times best selling book that came out a couple years ago by Kirk Eichenwald. It's a true story about a corporate whistleblower named Mark Whittaker who's an incredibly fascinating guy who basically wore a wire for two years as a high level executive at Archer Daniels Midland who were in a price fixing scam with some other huge international corporations.

Whittaker wore a wire for a few years and collected information. It turned out that he had a whole agenda of his own and he possibly had some mental health issues.

The case is kind of built and it unravels and it's a pretty amazing true story.

Q: As you as unpredictable a boyfriend as Jason Bourne?

M: I hope not. Uh, no. I think I'm far more benign and predictable.

Q: How do you make sure that the character is still interesting in the sequel? And what makes you happy?

M: Okay, for the first part, that's a good question and well, there are a couple things. One is, he goes through something completely different, so the emotional journey the guy goes on this time is totally different, which basically allows me to play the same character but in a totally different state of mind which is challenging.

And also in this case, just structurally, I had conversations with Tony Gilroy, the writer, very early, because in the construct as it is, he wanted to clear with me that it was okay that I was only going to talk in about four or five scenes in the movie.

And that to me was one of the fun challenges and I said 'that's exactly why I want to do it' because the real trick would be to do a movie where you're the central character, but you really don't talk and at the end of the movie nobody really notices that. And that was a different challenge from this one compared to the last one.

And what makes me happy? A lot of things make me happy. But I think I went home happy every day on this movie because I felt good after every day's work. I was really excited about Paul and what he was doing. It was a very different experience from the last movie where we had a lot of troubles throughout production, you know, things can go wrong in production.

This production seemed kind of blessed, it went very smoothly the entire time so there was a lot to be happy about at the end of the day.

Q: Do you feel like this is a thinking man's action movie and what do you think about it?

M: I'm thrilled about it. I hope that's true. It is a genre movie but I like any movie that I think is good no matter what the genre and again I felt there was a lot to play in the movie for me so I was never bored or felt like everyone else was getting to have all the fun.

I really felt like every day I went to work; it was a struggle to have a through line and keep the character consistent and believable and to go on that emotional journey, so I'll be happy if people like this movie that much, that'd be great.

Q: Did you have a say in choosing the director?

M: I had a lot of say in this one because I wasn't contractually obligated to do it and they couldn't do it without me, so I had a meeting and I had a really good experience with the studio on this one because they allowed us to do a second round of reshoots which was very costly for them even when the movie--the first Bourne Identity—was testing well. Which is an indication that the movie is going to do well.

And we asked them, for creative reasons, if we could have more money to shoot some other stuff because we knew we could make it better and we said that “we don't know if that will make you more money, but it will make the movie better” and so they let us do it.

Having worked with some other studios, that was very rare and very good of them. In the initial meetings we had very friendly meetings talking about the possibility of doing another one and it was in one of those meetings that Paul's name came up and we all agreed that if we got Paul it'd be the best thing for the movie. We were 100% in agreement that he was the person for the job and if we were lucky enough to get him it would be a big step towards me signing on and them greenlighting it.

Q: Are you a new kind of action hero with a brain and a heart?

M: What's my opinion on being the new kind of action hero? I doubt that these two movies will mean that I only do action movies now, and I've never wanted to do the same kind of movie over and over anyway so my theory on it all is that I'm going to try to dodge the labels and keep doing what I'm doing.

I really like the fact that I can do a movie like this and then turn around and do Ocean's 12 or Syriana or Stuck on You. It's that that makes it interesting to me, things constantly changing is what makes me like to go to work.

Q: We keep seeing pictures in magazines from Ocean's 12 of you and Brad Pitt having diving competitions and sipping champagne on a yacht. Can you comment, are you having competitions with your Ocean's 12 co-star?

M: It's life for us. I'm working every day this week on Ocean's and that's the first time that's happened on the duration of the shoot so far.

The most I've gone is four days a week of work which compared to Bourne, we were on six day week standard and I was six days a week for the length of the shoot. So it does feel like a vacation in that sense but you have to be careful because there is hard work. I got called up and I have a 6 page scene to do tomorrow with Julie and Don Cheadle and Scott Caan, so you still have to keep your eye on the ball.

Q: How do you select your roles since you said that you want to do different things?

M: It's usually the exact same three things: the script, the director, and the role, and if I get two of them that's usually good enough, but definitely those are the three things, and as you mentioned, the chance to do things that are different. That's the fun part of it, but at the same time if roles are very similar, for example I did Rounders after Good Will Hunting, and some people said “it's Will Hunting playing cards”, but five or six years later if you look at the movie Rounders in a vacuum, I still really like the movie and forget it's close to Good Will Hunting.

So even if movies are similar I don't mind doing them back to back.

Q: You seemed quite comfortable with German and Russian in the movie. Do you speak any other foreign languages?

M: Well, I never learned either of them. The Russian was harder for me to get the pronunciation right.

Basically I figured out on the first movie that the best way to do it was to get my mouth moving in the right way when it was photographed and then go into a studio and loop it and stand next to a person who was from whatever country who spoke, whatever language I was speaking, and that worked really well the first time, so that's what we did this time.

I speak, I think, just German and Russian in this one and we had two people come in when we looped the voice of the additional dialogue recording. I just stood there and they browbeat me with the line until I said something that sounded remotely Russian or German. But still the hardest one ever was French for me.

I have the worst French accent in the world and I think it took me an hour on the first movie to say one line that the French dialect coach agreed sounded like French.

Q: Do you speak any foreign languages?

M: I speak some Spanish but I haven't spoken really for about sixteen years. I don't speak very much.

Q: You said that you couldn't see yourself as Jason Bourne. Which actors would have you picked for that part?

M: Well, because he was written older in the book, I thought there were a group of actors who were older than me, anyone from Russell Crowe or Brad Pitt or George, any of the kind of people who would seem to me to be more obvious choices to play him, especially given that in the book the character is 40 years old or something, and at the time Doug offered it to me I think I was 28 and I looked 14 (laughs).

Q: Are you a workaholic, what drives you? And can you say something about working with Terry Gilliam?

M: I think it's still hard for me to turn down work if it's really good because for so many years I was desperate to get a job and couldn't, so I think it's anathema for me to turn down work if I think it's really good.

I swore I was going to take a nice break between Ocean's and The Informant and then Syriana popped up. And it's not a big role I have in Syriana, I think I have about a two month commitment on that movie but it was just one of those movies that I thought was exceptionally well-written, really interesting and current, and I felt like I would have regretted saying no, as ready as I was for a break. So I don't know if it's being a workaholic as much as having common sense and feeing like these movies are really good.

And the last year I worked with some incredible directors and I think I would have regretted passing up any of those opportunities. And working with Terry (on Brothers Grimm) was exactly what I hoped it would be like. It was great. He shot mostly wide angle lenses. It's kind of mad. If you're in a close-up you can hope for a 17mm lens in your face, maybe a 21.

It just absolutely takes in the entire world. And the production designer is a guy named Guy Diaz and he's going to be a superstar. He helped build the look of this world in a way that was just mind-blowing. It really is straight out of Terry's brain. And even walking around the sets, there were huge sets, we took over five of the six stages in Prague and built an indoor forest, built a village on a part of the backlot that had never been used so that Terry could shoot 360 degrees.

There were trees put in places where you couldn't see the cityscape in the background. It was just a massive kind of beautifully designed set and Terry just got in there and played with it. We shot for 110 days I think, which is long, so we were in Prague for six months total. It really was everything I could've hoped for. He's so passionate about what he does, becomes so deeply connected to what he's shooting. I think that's why some people on the studio side say he's crazy.

He's far from crazy. He's a true artist I think.

Q: If you don't go on vacation, what do you do to relax, how often do you see your family and do you still owe your mother for that parking ticket she paid for you?

M: I still owe her! I just saw my family a couple days ago. I'd say the one drawback in my job is trying to facilitate primary relationships in your life and put as much energy into them as you can. That's a definite drawback. The good news is that even though I can't come home, they come and visit, and often get a lot more exposure to the cities I'm shooting in than I do because I'm always on a set. So that's nice.

Boston's a city where people don't normally leave once they live there so I think for Bostonians to come over and check out Europe is pretty fun. For vacation, honestly if I get a vacation I'm going to go sit on my couch in New York because that's the one place I haven't been in a very long time. I feel like I've been everywhere else. This movie took us to India, Berlin, Moscow, Ocean's was in Amsterdam and Rome, Brothers Grimm was in Prague, yeah, and I'm going to New York for my vacation (laughs).

Q: Are there any places where you'd like to go?

M: There's quite a few. I'd like to spend more time in Argentina. I'd like to spend time in Costa Rica. I'd love to go back to Mexico, Brazil. I've never been to Africa so I'd really like to go there…the list goes on.

Q: What's the yellow bracelet? (he wears one on his right wrist)

M: Oh, Lance Armstrong is selling these for a dollar on his website and he's trying to raise 6 million dollars for his foundation so all the money goes to cancer research.

Q: Did you pay the dollar for it?

M: Someone actually gave this to me. No, I didn't give the guy the dollar. You have to send it in to the website.

Q: Can you talk about the fight scene?

M: You mean in the house with Marton Csokas? He got the best of me. I got whacked in the face once. In the beginning of the fight when we're thrashing against those blinds in the window we were kind of wrestling each other around and I tried to lift him up at one point and my back just went completely, so I had to sit out a couple of the shots in that fight because I was trying to stretch to get my back back in order. Marton's a big guy.

He really worked hard on that fight too. I love the way Paul shot it. His style is to make everything feel observed rather than staged or theatrical and that fight's a really good example. It's really violent and brutal and messy, as it would be.

But Marton came in and worked really hard on the choreography to get it right.

Q: How often do you get disappointed when you go to the movies?

M: More often than not I'm disappointed with the big summer fare. The higher the budget they aim for a lower common denominator in a way. I had this conversation with my father. We were driving in New York over Christmas and we were passing all these bus stops with posters for movies and after about 20 blocks he said "I haven't seen one poster for a movie that I want to go see." And I said, "Dad, if you see a poster for a movie that you want to go see, someone in the marketing department should lose their job because they don't market movies to 60 year old men, they market them to 13 year old boys, particularly the big ones!" So when I choose a movie it's with that in mind. In a genre movie, try to make it smarter, try to make it different, try to make it interesting and try to make it be about the character.

In both of these movies we wanted to have them be character-driven action movies where the action grows organically out of the story so you're not setting your watch by the next explosion.

Q: But nobody dies. M: But nobody dies and that's the difference between porn movies and action movies! (laughs).

Q: Do you approve of porn movies?

M: I'm feeling like I can. What I want to do is a character-driven porn movie. It's all going to be about the characters. And the porn's going to grow out the characters. And it's going to serve as character development.

Actually Doug once said to me that he wanted us to be the first director actor team that made the porn version of the actual movie because you know how movie titles get porn titles? Doug suggested that after the first movie, he and I make The Porn Identity.

Q: Have you ever turned down anything that became a movie later?

M: A ton of them, yeah. Well, I don't want to tell you because they were all smart moves on my part but I'd feel bad because somebody did do the movie and it did come out...

Q: Anything you've regretted turning down?

M: Nothing yet. Nothing I've ever regretted turning down.

Q: A superhero movie?

M: No, I'm sick of those movies. I don't think there's a superhero I'd really want to play.

Q: You looked good running. Did you do special training for it?

M: Thanks, I think they cut out all the shots where I look really goofy running. No really, I saw some of them. Franka actually said to me that I should videotape myself running. Because she did that for Run Lola Run and because she said she hated the way she ran she really worked at it, and I've never seen anyone run better than the way she did in that movie, it was the coolest.

But I thought about that when I was running. I was trying to run in a way that was maybe less natural for me but looked better (laughs).

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