Twitchfilm (via AICN) reports that Universal "is in simultaneous negotiations with both Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass for both to return to the Bourne franchise." Variety, however, did their own follow-up on the Twitch story, and reports that "sources with the studio are denying the story saying there is nothing going on between the studio and Damon and Greengrass." So what's true? Who's right? Neither site cites an actual Uni spokesperson, just "sources." Furthermore, Variety has a long history of being a studio mouthpiece, good for this sort of denial when information leaks out before a studio is ready for that to happen, while sites like Twitch pride themselves on getting inside scoops before the trades... but with a predictably shaky track record. So what's really happening? I'm afraid that I have no "sources" of my own inside Universal, but I'm going to give Twitch the benefit of the doubt here. Because Universal would be insane if they weren't always in some sort of negotiation, however informal, with Damon and Greengrass. Damon is the heart of their billion dollar franchise. Damon-less spin-off The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner, didn't live up to the Damon trilogy either critically or at the box office. (Though it wasn't a flop by any means, either.) And the spin-off deliberately left the door open for Damon to return to the series (as the title character) in the future. Damon, for his part, has said many times in the past that he wouldn't do that without Greengrass, who helmed The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, as well as Damon's Green Zone. (Green Zone was a flop, but might actually be the best Bourne movie to date despite not actually being a Bourne movie. Fans of the franchise should definitely seek it out.) So it only makes sense that the studio attempt to woo Damon (and Greengrass with him) back into the fold. I'd be willing to bet there are talks going on at some level, however informal.
The question is, what would such talks mean for the future of Jeremy Renner's character, former Outcome agent Aaron Cross? It was recently announced that Anthony Peckham had been hired to pen a follow-up to The Bourne Legacy again focusing on Cross. Frankly, the Damon negotiations don't need to have any effect on that. It would be entirely possible for the studio to simply spin off the Cross character into his own franchise, and call the next one The Cross Continuation or something more serious but suitably Ludlumy in nature. At the same time, they could proceed concurrently with more Bourne titles starring Matt Damon as the actual Jason Bourne. Win/win. Or, it's equally possible that they could manufacture a crossover, featuring both characters (agents of more or less the same top secret government program, whether it's called Treadstone or Outcome) in one film. AICN speculates that Peckham might be the lynch pin behind such an attempt, as he worked with Damon on Invictus. Doing press for The Bourne Legacy, that film's director Tony Gilroy said that such a crossover was his hope. Damon (who has a longstanding feud with Gilroy), however, seemed to dash such hopes last fall when, without having seen Legacy, he said, "from what I understand, it kind of relives [Ultimatum] from a different perspective. What that means, because they use our actors and characters, is that whatever they said [in Legacy] is true and so we'd have to acknowledge it in any Bourne movie that we'd do. And that makes it really tough. I don't think we can do the Dallas it-was-all-a-dream scenario." Perhaps by now he's seen the spin-off and realized that while Legacy does use the same characters, it goes out of its way (to the movie's detriment) not to seriously impact the events of the Damon films! So perhaps with Gilroy apparently not involved in this one, Damon would be amenable to working with Renner? (Surely Ben Affleck, who's worked with both of them, could take a brief break from his Batman training to put the two actors in a room together to hash it out?)
Together or apart, I'd certainly be in line to see more adventures of both characters. (I was disappointed by Legacy as a whole, but liked Renner in it.) But, like most audience members, I think, what I really want is more Bourne, and that means more Damon. I hope the studio does whatever it takes to bring Damon and Greengrass back on board. And while I'm hoping so much, I might as well reiterate what I always say in these Bourne film updates: I also hope they take the opportunity to go back to the Robert Ludlum novels, which Gilroy pretty much abandoned after the first act of the first film. There's all sorts of good material there for future films! (Read my review of The Bourne Supremacy here to get an idea of what I'm talking about.)
And one last Bourne-related hope: I hope someone writes a really good warts-and-all behind the scenes history of the Bourne film franchise one day. From the notorious troubles on the set of Doug Liman's The Bourne Identity to Greengrass and Damon's feud with Gilroy to Gilroy's displeasure with the aborted Treadstone TV series to Damon's displeasure with The Bourne Legacy, there would be loads of juicy material! But the great story in such a book would be how the franchise managed to flourish despite all that friction. It would be a story of overcoming enormous difficulties rather than succumbing to them, setting it apart from other Hollywood tell-alls of that nature.