Interview: Director Doug Liman talks ‘Covert Affairs’, ‘Bourne 4’ and 3D

USA Networks’ new series Covert Affairs doesn’t premiere until July 13, but The Flickcast was invited to Toronto to check out the set and talk to some of the cast.  There’s too much content to put in one post so we thought it was best to break this up over several articles.  Getting things started is this interview with Covert Affairs Executive Producer Doug Liman.

Even if you haven’t heard of Liman but are into the spy genre there’s a high probability you’ve seen one of his films.  Liman directed the first of the Bourne trilogy films and produced the other two.  He also produced Mr. and Mrs. Smith and is currently working on Fair Game; the true story of CIA spy Valerie Plame Wilson whose identity was revealed by the White House to allegedly discredit her husband.

With all that on Liman’s film resume it’s no surprise he was drawn to a TV series about spies.  Ultimately, however, it was working on Fair Game that became the driving force behind Covert Affairs. According to Liman:

“…in doing the research for Fair Game, we got access to a lot of current and former covert officers with the CIA. And most of the material that we were learning about had no place in the movie, unless I wanted the movie to be 10 hours long. And so we had this huge treasure trove of just sort of cool factoids.

And you know, that stuff is, you know, it was just like the perfect timing to be developing a TV show in the same arena at the same time, because we’ve just taken all the research that, you know, wasn’t appropriate for Fair Game and just channeled it right into Covert Affairs.”

While at their core Covert Affairs and Fair Game are about the CIA both spin the material in completely different directions. While Covert Affairs plays to the strengths of the CIA and what they do to protect the nation, Fair Game definitely represents the Agency in a moment of weakness.

This distinction was not lost on Liman as he explained the differences:

“And in fact, the whole factoid of the show is that when Fair Game got green lit, Dave Bartis called me up and said, you know, ‘The CIA was not going to be supportive of us making Fair Game, but they’re very supportive of Covert Affairs. Even though Fair Game, at the end of the day, really does celebrate the CIA. It’s, you know, it’s just a moment in time that people would rather forget.”

What may be most interesting aspect about the situation Liman was in with both projects was that he was effectively playing double-agent; researching one show the CIA supported while investigating another the Agency really wouldn’t.  Even Liman himself made the comment, “So I had this sort of rare opportunity to spy on the CIA.”

When it came time us to ask Liman a question I could have gone one of two ways with it: continue the discussion of Covert Affairs or go out on a limb and dig for information about a possible fourth Jason Bourne film.  In the split second before I had to speak I realized what our readers really wanted and fired off my question:

The Flickcast: I’m going to put you on the spot for a second and ask is there any traction on Bourne Four, and what are your thoughts on making it in 3D?  That’s partly in jest.

Doug Liman: Traction on Bourne Four – and what’s my thoughts on what?

FC: 3D.

DL: Oh.  I have to say, you know, the project I’m talking about doing, there’s, you know, the usual tone of discussion of 3D.  I’ve been wearing 3D glasses quite a bit in the last couple of weeks.  You feel a little in-I’m in LA, and I’ve been having meetings with studios.  And basically at this point, studio executives are wearing, like, bifocals where the lower part isn’t for reading.  And literally, you know, there’s so much 3-D going on that it’s almost silly.

So you know, you feel silly, because – it’s one thing to be in a movie theatre with popcorn, it’s another thing to be, like, in the middle of the day with a bunch of business executives putting on your 3D glasses.  Still can’t quite get used to that.  And, you know, there will eventually be a Bourne Four.  It may not – you know, it may not be Matt Damon.

You know, but there’s no way in this climate that we’re in, you know, sequels are the most – the safest bet a studio can make.  That Universal will eventually prevail and find a way to get a fourth Bourne made.

So there you have it Bourne fans, a fourth film is likely but may not involve Matt Damon.  The concept seems so foreign it’s a little hard to take in.  Nevertheless, I have no doubt fans of the series, me included, will welcome another installment.

Make sure to check out The Flickcast as we continue our coverage of Covert Affairs, which will premiere on USA Network, Tuesday July 13.

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