Jamie Larson and Sam Pratt have been leaking the news for weeks. Imagine my frustration, as a member of the Historic Hudson Board of Directors, knowing the whole story but not being able to tell it because Universal Pictures didn't want the news out there until the movie was released. But now, at the stroke of midnight on the day The Bourne Legacy is opening in theaters everywhere, I can tell the world that the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, also known as the Plumb-Bronson House, Hudson's only National Historic Landmark, plays a featured role in the movie. What follows is the official press release prepared by Historic Hudson.
The latest installment in The Bourne Identity movie franchise includes a star of a different kind: the Dr. Oliver Bronson House. A portion of The Bourne Legacy, directed by Academy Award‐nominated director Tony Gilroy and starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, and Albert Finney, was filmed onsite at the Dr. Oliver Bronson House last November. The film opens in cinemas nationwide on August 10.
Universal Pictures looked all over New York State for a suitable location for the home of the film’s Marta character (played by Rachel Weisz), a scientist and avid old house restorer. As Universal Pictures Location Manager Joe Guest noted in an email to Historic Hudson, “You know all too well what a special house it is . . . but I am compelled to tell you that we have looked at over a hundred other properties and we have still found nothing that is as captivating.” But even with Universal’s interest, and the promise of a substantial fee for the nonprofit Historic Hudson, putting a workable plan together was not an easy task.
Originally, Universal wanted to shoot major action sequences inside the house including a fight/chase scene and a character pouring “kerosene” (water) over the walls and furniture as part of an eleven‐week shooting schedule at the house. Historic Hudson carefully reviewed the filming request and organized a walk‐through with representatives from Universal and Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects, the firm leading the restoration of the house, to identify key areas of concern to the historic fabric. Engineers looked at the structural loads posed by having the large crew/equipment in and out of the house. In the end, Historic Hudson decided that filming simply posed too many risks to the fragile interior of the National Historic Landmark property and had the potential of delaying the ongoing Phase I restoration work. (The Phase I project was completed on schedule.)
A compromise was reached whereby the interior of the Bronson house was replicated at the Kaufman Astoria Soundstage (built in 1921 and itself in the National Historic Register) and the onsite filming limited to two days of exterior filming. Even with the more limited scope, this resulted in an eight‐day total shoot, during which the 150‐person Universal crew made a substantial contribution to the Columbia County economy. As part of the filming process, the entire façade of the Dr. Oliver Bronson House was digitally mapped using 3D LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) camera technology. The set crew took copious photos of the interior of the house as well, allowing the house to be meticulously re-created on the soundstage (down to the peeling wallpaper). Bronson house fans and architectural aficionados can compare the fidelity of Universal’s rendition of the house, created by production designer Kevin Thompson, to the glorious original. Spoiler alert: While The Bourne Legacy shows a certain building in flames at the end of a movie scene, said building is not a National Historic Landmark but merely a replica built in Staten Island.