Bourne Legacy' s Gene-Doped Superspies Aren't as Far-Fetched as They Sound

Posted: August 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

Actress Rachel Weisz interviewed researchers to develop her scientist role in The Bourne Legacy. Image courtesy Universal Pictures

In The Bourne Legacy, Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, a superspy whos been pharmaceutically tweaked to jump higher, think faster, punch harder, hear better and tolerate extreme cold. The surprising thing is, this type of gene-doped warrior is not a total figment of filmmaker Tony Gilroys imagination.

Filmmaker Tony Gilroy researched viral delivery systems while scripting The Bourne Legacy. Image courtesy Universal Pictures

Charged with devising a new storyline to extend the Bourne franchise beyond Matt Damons amnesiac spy character, the Bourne Legacy writer-director thoroughly researched what he calls the United States espionocracy.

Gilroy became fascinated with behavior modification through gene-doping, and now says the idea that government-funded scientists have gone far beyond steroids to produce a new breed of hypertough warriors isnt as far-fetched as it seems.

Im not a scientist but Im a real good idiot screenwriter and layman reader of science, Gilroy told Wired in a phone interview. There are different ways to introduce chromosomal changes to affect genomics. You can hijack a virus, put in what you want and use that as the delivery system. I got really interested in this idea of genomic alteration, where you go in on a chromosomal level.

To vet the films viral-modification premise, Gilroy and actress Rachel Weisz whose Bourne Legacy character tests viruses on black-ops agents met with scientists working in the biotech industry. We wanted reassurance that we werent doing anything too far-fetched, Gilroy said. We had some really cool conversations with someone who had a CV very similar to Rachels character, and this person confirmed a lot of what we were doing in the film.

Jeremy Renner plays gene-doped guinea pig Aaron Cross. Image courtesy Universal Pictures

Ive been staggered to see articles where you have the Olympics main drug-testing guy saying they dont know if theyll be able to test for gene-doping, Gilroy said. Im going, Holy shit! This is the cutting edge of athletic enhancement. Theres a legitimate fear in the sports world that gene doping is going to be the next turn of the wheel.

Eager to avoid sci-fi extravagance in favor of reported fact, Gilmore read bioethicist Jonathan Moreno, bookmarked Wireds Danger Room blog, studied the Washington Posts Top Secret America series, monitored Darpas ongoing supersoldier experiments and surveyed the teeming biotech corridor anchored by Marylands Fort Detrick research center.

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Bourne Legacy' s Gene-Doped Superspies Aren't as Far-Fetched as They Sound

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