At the beginning of Jason Bourne, her fourth film in the blockbuster action franchise, Julia Stiles appears in near-total darkness. “Christian Dassault sent me,” she says in a voice so low she could be a man or a woman. That password admits her to a hackers’ headquarters in Iceland. Within minutes, she has broken into the CIA’s mainframe and stolen top secret files, unleashing the action for the rest of the film.
In the nine years since Stiles and Matt Damon last joined forces for a Bourne movie, both their characters have been living “off the grid”. The change in Nicky Parsons, who began in 2002 as the neat CIA analyst Nicolette and appears in Paul Greengrass’s new film under the hacker code name Knightrider, is dramatic. Not only has she gone rogue — smart, wild and threatening — but, under cover of a riot in Greece, she lures Bourne out from hiding, in the film’s single most impressive sequence.
“It seems a little bit exploitative for me to say this, but I get chills when I think about the scenes that I was in,” she says at the UK premiere.
“Paul Greengrass has a knack for setting an action movie in a world that is very familiar to us. He can keep the political issues and the environment very timely and relevant. He wrote it a year ago. But it feels shockingly familiar given all the protests and violence that we’ve experienced in the United States.”
Stiles first read the script of the 2002 film The Bourne Identity — or at least, the parts she was allowed to see — when she was in her dorm room at Columbia University. She was 19, and already enough of a teenage star that going to college was in itself an unusual move. “I remember thinking: Doug Liman was a really interesting director. At that time he was more of an indie darling,” she says now. “And I thought it was really intriguing that Matt was going to play this action hero, because at that time he wasn’t an obvious choice”.