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Damon steps down from 'Bourne' franchise, legacy handed to Renner

LOS ANGELES -- Film franchises have seen prequels and sequels but when Matt Damon decided not to return for a fourth stint as rogue CIA agent Jason Bourne, producers opted for something different — the “same time-quel.”

“The Bourne Legacy,” the latest installment of the lucrative action franchise, opens in U.S. movie theaters on Friday, starring “Hurt Locker” actor Jeremy Renner.

Renner plays an entirely new character, agent Aaron Cross, whose own on-the-run story takes place concurrently with the events of 2007's “The Bourne Ultimatum” which starred Damon.

“It's not a prequel or a sequel; It's the same time-quel,” franchise producer Frank Marshall told reporters.

“There was a misconception that Jeremy was replacing Matt,” said Marshall. “That was the one thing we wanted to make clear — they're different agents. Bourne is still out there and Aaron Cross has now come in.”

The Bourne series, loosely based on Robert Ludlum's novels, launched in 2002 and the first three movies grossed more than US$945 million at the worldwide box office for Universal Pictures and made an action star out of Damon.

Damon played a CIA assassin with memory loss who tries to discover his true identity while evading the CIA, which is out to kill him.

“The Bourne Ultimatum” ended with Bourne evading capture while publicly exposing the CIA programs that trained him. In the new movie, the man responsible for creating those programs, Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton), decides to destroy six genetically enhanced agents — including Cross, a character who does not appear in the Ludlum novels.

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Actor Jeremy Renner poses for a photo as he walks the red carpet for the premiere of “The Bourne Legacy” in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Aug. 7. “The Bourne Legacy,” the latest installment of the lucrative action franchise, opens in U.S. movie theaters on Friday, Aug. 10 and stars “Hurt Locker” actor Jeremy Renner.(AP)

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