Bourne on the fourth with Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass

Matt Damon looks set for a surprise return to the Bourne spy franchise which made him one of the best known faces in Hollywood after series stalwart Paul Greengrass came on board to write and direct a new instalment, according to Deadline.The two men are reportedly in early talks for a sequel to 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, itself the culmination of a trilogy in which Damon starred as an amnesiac agent on the run from the shadowy organisation which brought him into existence.

Greengrass directed Ultimatum and its 2004 predecessor The Bourne Supremacy, while trilogy opener The Bourne Identity had Doug Liman in charge of the cameras. The new film would mark the first occasion on which Greengrass takes on both writing and directing duties, according to reports.

The British film-maker’s return to the series has always appeared crucial to getting Damon back on board as Jason Bourne. The actor has said on a number of occasions that he has no interest in reprising his best known role if Greengrass does not also return.

In the absence of the pair, and with Ultimatum having brought the original trilogy to a natural conclusion, studio Universal released a non-Bourne sequel, The Bourne Legacy, in 2012. Starring Jeremy Renner as a new agent, it pulled in $214m globally - less than half that of Ultimatum - and picked up weak reviews compared to its predecessors. A sequel was set for 2016, with Justin Lin set to direct, but that movie could temporarily make way for the return of Damon and Greengrass, according to reports. Universal is, however, expected to eventually continue with both strands of the series.

The Bourne films are based on the novels by Robert Ludlum, though film-makers have departed significantly from the books over time. Greengrass’s decision to return is a particular surprise as the director said as recently as last year that there was nowhere for Bourne to go after he regained his memories in Ultimatum.

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