8 Actors who could replace Matt Damon and carry on THE BOURNE LEGACY

Now we understand the landscape of 'The Bourne Legacy' spin-off (I guess that's the most accurate term), due out in 2012, we can start to officially play the prognostication card over which actor will replace Matt Damon and lead Universal's flagship franchise from here on in. We may not particularly be in favour of a Bourne movie without Damon (actually I am, especially from Tony Gilroy but only on the condition that it doesn't contain 'Bourne' in it's title) but it could have been worse... they could have hit the reboot switch and dumped continuity completely. So we most be thankful we aren't getting that, at least. Before every other website starts to literally make false claims post casting rumours, you can trust Obsessed With Film to instead outline 8 options this spin-off could go, casting wise. Expect a few of these names to crop up as 'rumoured' in the coming months as some sites try and gain unlawful hits before the actual casting, probably early next year, is actually announced. Mark Wahlberg - 39, one year younger than Matt Damon - 'Pick-up where you left off'Why: The most glaringly obvious, headache free, absurdly perfect choice to replace Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Mark Wahlberg has been around the action block more than any actor of his caliber working today, has distinct chops in this genre and is comfortable leading tentpoles. He's the same age as Damon and clearly shares a physical resemblance and similar acting style. Wahlberg is respected amongst audiences, has a big fanbase BUT and this is now a disturbing BUT.... they aren't looking for a new Jason Bourne. If it were me, I would have said 'thank you very much' to Matt Damon but if you don't want to return right now, then we are going to hire Mark Wahlberg to pick off from where you left off, and not give you the respect of essentially 'freezing' your character, in case you want to return in a few years. Instead, Universal have no balls and are hedging their bets, hoping they can entice Damon back at a later date if this spin-off thing all goes tits up. Big mistake. Why Not: Despite starring in many high-profile actioners, the many attempts to build a franchise around Mark Wahlberg have all failed miserably. Fox aren't scrambling around to make a 'Max Payne' sequel, Paramount won't ever commission a 'Shooter 2', and we never did see 'The Brazilian Job' did we? Outside of the action genre, 'Planet of the Apes 2' never happened either. In fact, no Wahlberg movie has ever won a sequel as far as I can see. George Clooney, 49, 9 years older than Damon - 'A refined Bourne'Why: George Clooneycan do anything, is a proven box office star, and would kick-ass in a conspiracy theory, CIA thriller/actioner. New helmer Tony Gilroy is George Clooney's kind of director. Sharing much of the same sensibilities, there work together on 'Michael Clayton' was extraordinary and I'm certain they will work together again, they would be stupid not to. I actually don't think Clooney will ever find a director outside of Stephen Soderbergh who he is so comfortable working with. The idea of leading a Bourne movie under Gilroy must be appealing to him. Why Not: Clooney will celebrate his 50th birthday in May, probably half-way through the shoot on 'The Bourne Legacy'. That's too old for a new chapter in an action franchise that will be aiming for a trilogy over this decade, one would think. Plus, Clooney has the pick of the Hollywood project pile, and might be unattainable. Add to that his friendship with Damon built up over the 'Ocean's' franchise would probably make him wary about stepping on his toes. Tom Hardy - 33, 7 years younger than Damon - 'An actor ready for his calling'Why: For a long time, he was the best kept secret coming out of Britain but a high-profile role in the biggest film of 2010 has changed all that. With 'Inception', he has suddenly become an actor on everybody's radar and it's no surprise that whenever I write a potential casting list - whether it be for a Jack Ryan reboot, The Riddler role in Chris Nolan's next movie or ANYTHING - his name is always there. An actor who always surprises and goes left field with his performances, and now after 'Bronson' and 'Inception' looks to have the confidence in himself to really take the next leap to being a leading man. I imagine this choice will be a popular one, and reading some message boards I already see that his name is being branded about for this. He's not a film star yet, despite his popularity, but this franchise could make him into one. Now that his 'Mad Max' movie has been delayed, his schedule for next summer is now free. Why Not: As I just mentioned, he is not a film star, certainly not compared to Matt Damon. He would be a riskier box office choice than say a Wahlberg or Brad Pitt BUT what they would get in replace of that is an actor who could bring something new to the table, and given his age, could easily give three movies to this character before the end of the decade. There's little negatives to why he shouldn't be there or there abouts. Idris Elba -38, two years younger than Damon, 'An actor ready for his calling - Part II'Why: Much of what I said for Tom Hardy, also stands for Idris Elba. His work over the past decade has finally started to bring him a return with the roles he is winning and you really feel this year with his performance in 'The Losers', that it was a defining turning point for him. He is an actor of great range and depth and would instantly bring credibility to this new direction. Why Not: Again, despite his popularity, he hasn't made a name for himself just yet. He is not the movie star Universal might be looking at. Add to that, he has also just won his first franchise gig, replacing Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross for a new set of detective movies, and may not be interested in playing two franchise characters that would make his t.v. commitments and other roles problematic. Angelina Jolie - 35, 5 years younger than Damon - 'A kick-ass, female driven, Bourne movie'Why: The biggest female action star on the planet, and the only actress you could imagine coming into this series and giving it a new lease of life. She has experience in this kind of role and has done nothing but impress, she feels legit as an action heroine far more than she did during the 'Lara Croft' days. I personally think she's getting better with every tentpole and is the kind of big name you imagine this franchise might need moving forward. Going with a female would show confidence in Gilroy trying to mould something different to what has gone before. Why Not: If 'Salt' was basically a Bourne movie starring a female, and with a sequel to that franchise likely before 2013/14, one might think she doesn't need this series. Certainly she doesn't need the money. Why carry on where another actor left off, when with something like 'Salt', you can create your own franchise and do it yourself? Also, with her busy schedule, she is probably unattainable. Brad Pitt - 46, 6 years older than Damon - 'A film star without a franchise'Why: A huge name, and an actor who over the last five years has exclusively worked with A-list or smart-minded directors. Pitt has molded much of his career on the great Robert Redford, and it's hard to deny that the 'Bourne' series shares a great deal with Redford's 70's classic 'Three Days of the Condor'. At this point it's clear that Pitt does the movies he wants to make, usually featuring quirky characters he can personalise. But... there was a brief period a few years ago when he was looking at 'Mission Impossible' esque scripts to start his own conspiracy thriller franchise, maybe this Bourne spin-off could be appealing to him? Why Not: Scheduling would be one. Plus his age, and friendship with Matt Damon. But like the Angelina Jolie thing, he could create his own franchise if he wanted it. He doesn't necessarily need the Bourne name to do it. Ben Affleck, 38 - two years younger than Damon 'Affleck's time'. Why: In a way he's already had a shot at Jason Bourne, and indeed before Matt Damon was even cast as the character. As the third Jack Ryan, Affleck's early attempt at a Hollywood leading man was unceremoniously cut short when 'The Sum of All Fears' was harshly received by critics, and his genuinely good performance in the film was overlooked. Did the franchise come too soon for Affleck, at a time when the industry were struggling to think of him as seriously as they do now? His performance in 'The Town' is proof enough of what this man can do (Not that I ever doubted it) and he could play a sympathetic Treadstone agent who just wants to get out of the system, better than anyone I would say. Why Not: It's well known he's best friends with Matt Damon, so without his blessing, it just wouldn't happen. Plus, Affleck has recently put himself in a very power position in the industry where he is usually at the very top of the list for when projects are offered out. Certainly at Warner Bros. he is one of their top directors and recently turned down 'Tales From The Gangster Squad' and even 'Superman: The Man of Steel'. So he's picky, but he is allowed to be. For Affleck to do this series, he would need to find something in the character and universe that appeals to him because he no longer takes jobs for the money. Will Smith, 42, 2 years older than Damon - 'Biggest movie star on the planet' Why: Around four years ago, Will Smith took the mantle of being 'the biggest movie star on the planet' away from Tom Cruise and his box office record is phenomenal. A great actor, a massive fanbase, Universal MUST talk to Smith, you feel. In 1998, he excelled in his own conspiracy thriller 'Enemy of the State' but has never returned to the genre, instead plucking for sci-fi themed tentpoles or those awful 'Bad Boys' movies. Why Not: Again, more likely to create his own franchise (though Smith already has a million of those) than star in someone elses, and indeed is more likely to carry on something like 'Independence Day' or 'I Am Legend' if he is looking at more franchise roles after 'Men in Black 3' Others I would have considered would be Chris Pine (but he's already locked in for Jack Ryan reboot) and Jeremy Renner (ditto - but for Mission Impossible). I would love to hear your thoughts on my picks, and hear your suggestions of who could replace Matt Damon as the leading actor for 'The Bourne Legacy'.
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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.