The Instigators Reunites Matt Damon With Bourne Director Doug Liman For Heist Comedy – Exclusive

The Instigators – exclusive

by Ben Travis |
Updated on

The last time director Doug Liman teamed up with Matt Damon, they changed cinema together. The resulting film was 2002’s The Bourne Identity, a spy thriller that beat Bond at his own game and began Damon’s most famous recurring role, amnesiac spy Jason Bourne. So when Damon approached Liman with the script for heist thriller-comedy The Instigators – penned by co-star Casey Affleck, along with writer Chuck Maclean – it wasn’t just to respark their Bourne magic; it was to give the script the same fine-tooth-comb treatment that Damon and the director had afforded to Bourne two decades previously.

As Liman tells Empire, Affleck and Maclean’s initial screenplay boasted a stellar role for Affleck in Cobby, a walking disaster who ends up way over his head in a plot to rob the mayor of Boston on election night. But Damon’s role of reluctant co-conspirator Rory wasn’t singing so loudly. “I was like, ‘Rory, is the least interesting character in the whole movie’,” the director recalls. “And Matt's, like, ‘I agree. So I'm bringing it to you. We got to do what we did on The Bourne Identity – you gotta get the whiteboard out, and we gotta figure this out.’” Twenty years after working the first Bourne into shape, Damon and Liman took exactly the same approach to The Instigators, treating each character in turn as if they were the central figure. “At the end of the day, it's Matt and I sitting in a room with a whiteboard, coming up with ideas,” Liman says of the process. “It doesn't get fancier than that – an actor and a director, trying to tell a good story and come up with a really great character.”

Together, they hit upon a new angle for Rory to complement Affleck’s Cobby. “Rory has no business being a thief, and he's teamed up with someone who's really incompetent and can't shoot straight,” explains Liman. “Matt and I were like, ‘It'd be more interesting if he didn't snap, and he's still that rule-abiding guy.’ He's that same guy who works a blue collar job, like a carpenter who measures twice and cuts once, very methodical, careful, by-the-rules. What if that never changes? What if he's that guy all the way through the whole movie? You've never seen that character in a heist.”

Whether Liman and Damon have hit on more Bourne-like magic together or not, audiences will soon find out – with The Instigators arriving mere months after the arrival of Liman’s Road House. “There was basically a month in between the last day of shooting on Road House, and the first day of shooting on Instigators,” says Liman. “So it was sort of like one big movie to me.” Call it a one-two punch, with actual punching. The Instigators comes to select cinemas and streams on Apple TV+ from 9 August.

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