The Secret to a Great Sequel The Bourne movies are a rare Hollywood franchise. With each sequel, the critical praise grows. Oscar-winning director William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist and, most recently, Bug, talks about why The Bourne Ultimatum is a rare franchise success story.
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The Secret to a Great Sequel

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The Secret to a Great Sequel

The Secret to a Great Sequel

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Back now with DAY TO DAY.

At the movies, this is the summer of sequels, specifically part threes. There is "Ocean's 13," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Rush Hour 3," but nothing's getting the acclaim of the "Bourne" three-quel. It's "The Bourne Ultimatum," and it had the biggest August opening ever at the box office. And critics are even hailing it as better than the first two.


My colleague Alex Chadwick called up Oscar winner William Friedkin, who directed "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection," - by the way, he refused to make sequels of either one. Alex asked him why "Bourne 3" defied the laws of sequels and is actually good.

ALEX CHADWICK: Bill Friedkin, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Mr. WILLIAM FRIEDKIN (Director): Hi. Nice to talk to you, Alex.

CHADWICK: You've seen "The Bourne Ultimatum." What do you think?

Mr. FRIEDKIN: Oh yeah. Well, first of all, I think it's probably the best action film in many, many years. It's state-of-the-art. It blows almost everything else away that I've seen in the same genre. It's done with intelligence and taste, and it's preserved the conventions of the action film, which is, you know, tension around every corner and suspense and really convincing performances, a story that makes sense and has lots of twists and turns. And so it's a great example of preserving a genre. There aren't many. The only other one that comes to mind would be "The Godfather" and "Godfather II."

CHADWICK: But then a lot of people hated "Godfather III."

Mr. FRIEDKIN: Well, that's - I didn't care for it much myself. As much as I love Francis Coppola and his work, I thought that "III" was a kind of a misfire, but he's entitled to a misfire. These guys just made a great film and I have no stake in it. I have no oar in the water. I don't know any of these people. I know Matt Damon slightly. And I saw it with an audience last week and they were rapt through the whole picture. Nobody moved, nobody left the theater. At the end it got applause, and that's sort of rare today.

CHADWICK: How do you do that, to make these films get better and better, because my impression is you get one great film, you do a sequel, it's not very good, and then number three is just awful.

Mr. FRIEDKIN: You know, it starts with the intent of the producer, the director and the writer. Generally, on like the films that have - the sequels that have been made on "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist," which I directed, there was really no reason for those sequels, and I think that nobody particularly thought them through in terms of how can you bring something new to this story. But the first Bourne film was directed by Doug Liman, who did a very interesting and original job, made a terrific picture. And I have to tell you, I can't read the Ludlum books. I just can't get through them.

CHADWICK: They don't have that gift for clean, direct narrative that you see in the films, do they?

Mr. FRIEDKIN: No, and they don't have the strong action line. This is one case where I personally believe that the films are better than the book, and there aren't too many cases of that. But the fellows who make this Bourne movie, they're not guys who were just going out there to try to make a buck on a title. And they've said now that they're not going to make any more - these people - and I'm not surprised if they don't. The other thing is, quite often you don't have the original group to do the sequel.

CHADWICK: In this case, they changed the director for the second and the third film.

Mr. FRIEDKIN: Right, and even if it's a sequel to the last film he did, he's not going to phone it in. He's going to try and top himself, and I agree with you that he did.

CHADWICK: The director who did not phone it in - although he's talking to us on the phone - William Friedkin on the new movie "The Bourne Ultimatum" and the Bourne sequels. William Friedkin, thanks a lot.

Mr. FRIEDKIN: Good to talk to you, Alex.

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