Understanding the characters and the dynamics of their relationships can often reveal what kind of choreography is needed. But it’s no surprise prior to working on the film, Yuan was a fan of the Jason Bourne series for that one essential element.
“From the first one on, it was realistic,” Yuan explained to MMA Crossfire on the phone from Los Angeles. “I liked the fact that they used the Filipino style martial arts as well as the effective and kind of inventive ways of using the environment to accentuate the action, so I was very excited to be a part of that.”
Yuan is no stranger to the world of martial arts and fight choreography. He’s worked on many previous movies, including Batman Begins, in various roles.
Working with stunt coordinator Gary Powell and Matt Damon extensively, Yuan was tasked with mapping out the action – including Damon’s character Jason Bourne – to match the framework of director Paul Greengrass’ vision.
“On this particular film, he (Greengrass) wanted more of the bare-knuckle boxing, ” Yuan said. “The end fight between Bourne and the Asset (which was Vincent Cassel’s character), they have much more of a personal vested, personal animosity towards each other and so it was less about how flashy or technical the end fight was, it more about the personal animosity and the relationship and how it would inject itself into the actual action. It was much more visceral and emotional. That’s what was needed for that fight.”
Armed with the benefit of the green light to tinker, Yuan said it came in handy most prominently in the end fight scene, which took about two days to film. The clash between Bourne and the Asset evolved from several versions into the tunnel scene, replete with the lighting that resembled a life-and-death struggle.
“It’s always good to have a wider palette and be able to express and experiment,” Yuan detailed. “If for nothing else, only because you can come back and like a surgical tool cut out what might not be necessary and basically pick and choose whatever suits the environment or mood that the director wants for the film.”
Working with a willing and capable star like Damon didn’t hurt either.
— roger w yuan (@ryueire) July 19, 2016
“Matt’s one of the most intelligent most down to earth guys you ever want to work for,” Yuan said thoughtfully. “A pleasure. I have nothing but the highest praise for him. We played around with different ideas like knives, which didn’t make it obviously because of time constraints, also because the environment (of the scene) which was two individuals like gladiators fighting to the death. We originally wanted a pre-knife exchange. Very, very involved, very very smart, in terms of analytical, in terms of filmmaking, that’s what Matt is.”
Looking back, there were some key lessons that Yuan took from the Jason Bourne experience.
“Expect the unexpected, to adapt to the environment and to always be on your toes,” Yuan said. “It’s kind of the same thing as the Jason Bourne character. Utilize what’s there, whether it’s a newspaper, or a cork, a towel or a beaten-up old kettle.”
Yuan is a big MMA fan too, and he shared an in-depth perspective on UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor.
“I actually lived in Ireland for the past 15 years, before I relocated back to Los Angeles,” Yuan said. “I’m not a fan of McGregor’s volatile mouth – I understand why he’s doing it, he’s a salesman – but I am a fan of his movements, his ability to adapt, and his mentality of the warrior that he brings in as a fighter and how he fights at whatever weight.
“I love the fact that he actually trains outside of the traditional martial arts whether it boxing, grappling, boxing, tae kwon-do, or whatever his elements are. He has gone beyond to investigate his physical movement.”
“And I’m a firm believer in that,” Yuan continued. “Any type of athletic endeavour you actually have to push your body to challenge the limits of your flexibility, your agility and even your joint alignment. That’s something that he does that is actually very effective.
“It’s almost like to challenge yourself like wall-walking along the edges of your feet and test the strength of your ankles,” Yuan said. “Or walking on your wrists or fingertips or only with your elbows so that you’re actually strengthening your body other than the norm, which is powerlifting, basic calisthenics, basic weights and pushups, situps or even running.”
“It’s how you do it,” Yuan emphasized. “How you change angles, or doing a squat and changing the different joints you might accentuate, the flexibility points while you’re doing the squat.
“It’s really interesting to go through that aspect.”
Jason Bourne was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on Dec. 6.