LOS ANGELES -- "The Bourne Legacy" is a work of fiction, but the scientific, political and corporate partnerships it depicts are very real.

Tony Gilroy, a writer on the first three "Bourne" films and writer-director of this latest installment, spent countless hours immersed in military and intelligence research to tell the story of CIA assassin Jason Bourne.

When tasked with expanding Bourne's universe for "Legacy," Gilroy again looked to reality: Hundreds – if not thousands – of secret government and quasi-government programs funded by millions and millions of dollars with little oversight, all designed to build better weapons and better soldiers.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which performs research for the U.S. Department of Defense, is just one organization developing the kinds of programs that would fit perfectly into Bourne's world: Not just high-tech weapons and robotic prostheses, but advances in neuroscience to help reduce battlefield stress, hasten learning, improve analytic capabilities and even engender trust.

Bioethicist and University of Pennsylvania professor Jonathan Moreno explores the relationship between brain research and national defense in his book "Mind Wars."

"The improvement of soldiers' war-fighting ability, brain-machine interfaces and the use of drugs and other measures to confuse and disrupt the enemy are the sorts of approaches that are going to be developed over the next decades, driven by cutting-edge science," he writes.

Such advancements are at the heart of "The Bourne Legacy." Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, a super agent who has benefited from the government's top-secret medical research; Rachel Weisz is the doctor who helped develop the science and Edward Norton acts as the kingpin, a sort of corporate-military-intelligence hybrid, who tries to control it all.

Gilroy talked with The Associated Press about his inspiration for the story and why truth can be stranger than fiction.

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AP: How did you go about broadening the "Bourne" world?

Gilroy: There needed to be a pulling back the curtain, a much larger conspiracy. Edward Norton has his agency that he's carved out there at the center of the Beltway, and (we) found a niche for him in the military-industrial-corporate espinocracy food chain, found a good place for his agency to fit. ... It has all of the funding and all of the motivation and all of the secrecy that we would expect with a government program, but then it has all the lack of oversight, the human error, that we know always comes with everything. So we set Edward's agency there, in that sort of sweet spot there...

AP: Did you discover anything so far-fetched that moviegoers might not believe is true?

Gilroy: I wanted to keep everything really kitchen sink-y and crude and authentic and real and did not want to have it feel science-fiction, and I knew that what we were talking about is really on the way here or certainly a lot of people have it up on the chalkboard. ... The thing that seemed most applicable to me and that helped me most in my story was gene doping, genomic alteration. That was a little bit sexier and a little more on the horizon than some of the other things. It's kind of fascinating, in the last month, since the Olympics have come up, I've seen two mainstream articles – the scientists who are responsible for doing all the drug testing for all the athletes, that's their cutting edge. That's their next (question), how do we monitor gene doping. And they don't know how to do it and it's really fascinating. The scenario is they introduce chromosomal gene doping through a synthetic virus. And that's happening now. That's what Olympic doctors are worried about...

AP: Writing the three previous "Bourne" movies must have made stepping into the director's role more thrilling.

Gilroy: With the trepidation of not wanting to have people think that you're doing science fiction. We're not really going for any suspension of disbelief here, so it's a little bit tricky to try to convince everybody that this is really on somebody's menu.

AP: After all your research in this area, has anyone from the intelligence community ever contacted you, either admiringly or threateningly?

Gilroy: No. I have some other friends who troll the same sort of espionage porn that I do and dig around, and we always wonder if we're entering this number of search words all the time, what metrics are you entering into in some gathering site somewhere? I don't know. I don't think that's overly paranoid. But no one's ever contacted me.

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  • Universal Pictures Presents The World Premiere of THE BOURNE LEGACY

    This July 30, 2012 released by Starpix shows actors Jeremy Renner, left, Rachel Weisz and writer-director Tony Gilroy at the world premiere of Universal Pictures' "The Bourne Legacy" at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. The film, starring Renner, Weisz and Edward Norton, opens nationwide on Aug. 10. (AP Photo/Starpix, Dave Allocca)

  • Universal Pictures Presents The World Premiere of THE BOURNE LEGACY

    This July 30, 2012 released by Starpix shows actors Jeremy Renner, left, and Rachel Weisz at the world premiere of Universal Pictures' "The Bourne Legacy" at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. The film, starring Renner, Weisz and Edward Norton, opens nationwide on Aug. 10. (AP Photo/Starpix, Dave Allocca)

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    This July 30, 2012 released by Starpix shows actor Jeremy Renner signing autographs at the world premiere of Universal Pictures' "The Bourne Legacy" at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. The film, starring Renner, Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz, opens nationwide on Aug. 10. (AP Photo/Starpix, Dave Allocca)

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    Actress Rachel Weisz attends the world premiere of "The Bourne Legacy" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday July 30, 2012 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

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  • Tony Gilroy, Susan Gilroy

    Writer and director Tony Gilroy and wife Susan attend the world premiere of "The Bourne Legacy" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday July 30, 2012 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

  • Rachel Weisz

    Actress Rachel Weisz attends the world premiere of "The Bourne Legacy" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday July 30, 2012 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

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    NEW YORK, NY - JULY 30: Louis Ozawa Changchien attends 'The Bourne Legacy' New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on July 30, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

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    NEW YORK, NY - JULY 30: Producers Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley attend 'The Bourne Legacy' premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on July 30, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)