In one of the most memorable scenes in the film “The Bourne Identity,” released on this day in 2002, the amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) drives a vintage Austin Mini Cooper through the traffic-heavy streets of Paris to evade his police and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pursuers.
As the film begins, Bourne, an elite CIA-trained assassin, has gone AWOL following a failed operation. Suffering from amnesia, he struggles to find clues to his own identity, using his lethal skills along the way as his superiors and local law enforcement try to track him down. In Zurich, he meets Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente) and offers her $20,000 in cash to drive him from to Paris in her battered red Mini. Directed by Doug Liman and adapted from the bestselling 1980 novel by Robert Ludlum, “The Bourne Identity” takes place in diverse locations all over Europe, including Marseille, Zurich, the Alps, the French countryside, the Greek island of Santorini and of course Paris, scene of the famous car chase.
Beginning in front of the Gare du Nord train station, the scene was shot in a variety of locations around the city. “Buckle up,” Bourne warns Kreutz, before maneuvering the tiny stick-shift Mini at high speeds through narrow alleyways, across sidewalks, down steps and up one-way streets the wrong way. The chase ends when one of the police officers pursuing the Mini crashes his motorcycle into a Peugeot 405, and Bourne drives the car into a parking garage. “Bourne Identity” producer Frank Marshall told USA Todaythat filmmakers used five different vintage Minis to make the film, and that only one of them was left when filming wrapped.
The diminutive Mini Cooper, a British-made sports car first produced in 1959, was a fixture in spy films of the 1960s and 1970s, including the classic 1969 film “The Italian Job,” starring Michael Caine. In the 2002 comedy “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” a character also played by Caine drives a modern version of the Mini, now manufactured by German automaker BMW; an updated version of “The Italian Job” in 2003 also featured the modern Mini.