Jeremy Renner said he seeks roles where he can "bring something three-dimensional and truthful and honest." (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)Link
Jeremy Renner portrayed real-life cannibal-serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the 2002 film "Dahmer," which earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination. (Peninsula Films)Link
In 2003's thriller "S.W.A.T.," Renner plays a former SWAT member turned mercenary. (Merrick Morton / Columbia Pictures)Link
In 2005, Renner starred in "Neo Ned," about a man in the Aryan Brotherhood who falls in love with a girl (Gabrielle Union) who believes she is the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. The film was a hit on the festival circuit. (Sharon Cavanagh / Kismet Entertainment)Link
In the 2005 Oscar-nominated film "North Country," Renner plays Bobby Sharp, a miner who harasses the women who work at the town's iron mine. (Richard Foreman / Warner Bros. Pictures)Link
Jeremy Renner, center, starred in "28 Weeks Later" -- the Juan Carlos Fresnadillo-directed 2007 sequel to Danny Boyle's breakout zombie thriller "28 Days Later." (Fox Atomic)Link
In Kathryn Bigelow's 2008 film "The Hurt Locker," Renner played Sgt. First Class William James, the leader of a U.S. Army bomb squad in Iraq. The film won a best picture Oscar, and Renner received a lead actor nomination for his role. (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment)Link
Renner plays a detective in the 2009 TV series "The Unusuals," a short-lived drama about dysfunctional NYPD cops. (ABC)Link
Renner plays thieving Jem Coughlin in the 2010 crime drama "The Town." The film was a box office success, and Renner earned supporting actor Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for the role. (Claire Folger / Warner Bros. Pictures)Link
Jeremy Renner played a secret agent in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." Renner says the franchise's frontman, Tom Cruise, was a mentor to him. "He was such an amazing mentor to me, and just so supportive and being so excited that I was doing some of these things," Renner said. "He gave me some really great advice about sort of how to treat your body, essentially, how to take care of yourself." (Paramount Pictures / Skydance Productions)Link
Renner worked with the same stunt team throughout "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" and his later action films, "The Avengers" and "The Bourne Legacy." "I love the idea of going to work and having to fight and learn a new skill set, whether it’s muay Thai or Kali or Filipino stick fighting," Renner said. "You learn things from the experts of the world, and maybe you continue it, maybe you hate it, but I looked at it as a great opportunity to kind of explore things things I would never explore." (Paramount Pictures / Skydance Productions)Link
Though Renner's Hawkeye had a brief cameo in 2011's "Thor," the character's first major big-screen role came in 2012's "The Avengers." "We’re pretty much introducing a new superhero character to everyone in a movie where there’s a thousand superheroes," Renner said. "There's a lot of unanswered questions, even for me. (Marvel)Link
"Just by his nature as a sniper if you will, as a guy who hangs out in rooftops in trees and takes out his targets from a distance... he's a loner and a lone-wolf kind of character," Renner said of his character Clint Barton, the Avenger known as Hawkeye. (Zade Rosenthal / Marvel)Link
Renner said a key aspect of his character Hawkeye was his relationship with Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. "The closest thing I could really link to was Scarlett’s character, Black Widow, because they have a history," Renner said. (Zade Rosenthal / Marvel)Link
Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner on the set of "The Avengers." Renner says he's not sure if Hawkeye will get his own movie. "There's always possibilities of anything in the Marvel universe," he said. "There's gotta be a want from people to see something like that. I don't know if there is. Maybe there is maybe there isn't. But who knows? We'll see." (Zade Rosenthal / Marvel)Link
Jeremy Renner stars in "The Bourne Legacy." "'Bourne,' to me, resonates because it's a little bit more for an actor to kind of cling on to," Renner said. "Because there's no fantasy in it. It's all based in reality. Even the stunts are all real. There's no green screen in that. It's visceral. It's authentic." (Mary Cybulski / Universal Pictures)Link
Rachel Weisz plays Dr. Marta Shearing and Jeremy Renner is Aaron Cross in "The Bourne Legacy." Renner called Weisz "one of my favorite actresses." (Mary Cybulski / Universal Pictures)Link
Renner said "The Bourne Legacy" was a "great match" for him as an actor, because "it's great action, but it feels like a small little movie; it's a very intimate movie in a lot of ways," he said. "I feel like I used my brain and my heart, and it was really, really one of the most fun shoots I got to work on." (Mary Cybulski / Universal Pictures)Link
Jeremy Renner signs autographs at the world premiere of "The Bourne Legacy" on July 30 in New York. (Dave Allocca / Starpix / Associated Press)Link
Jeremy Renner, star of "The Bourne Legacy," said he never thought he'd wind up acting in big-budget action movies. "Not by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "It kind of just fell my direction, and I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to learn something new." (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times).Link
With “The Bourne Legacy” hitting theaters this week and “The Avengers” and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” under his belt, Jeremy Renner has officially made the leap to Hollywood action star. The 41-year-old Modesto native also plays a bounty hunter version of the classic fairy-tale character in “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” due out in January. Hero Complex caught up with Renner earlier this summer to talk about “Bourne,” which opens in theaters Friday, as well as his role in “Avengers,” which comes out on DVD and Blu-ray next month.
HC: Before the last few years, you did a lot of indie films. Did you ever fancy you’d be an action hero?
JR: Not by any stretch of the imagination. It just sort of became opportunities that I don’t think anybody really would want to turn away. As long as it was in the realm of what I feel like I could bring something three-dimensional and truthful and honest, these are worldwide movies, which I thought was a great opportunity to be a part of cinema that people see. That’s interesting to me. Like “The Hurt Locker,” we didn’t know what the heck that was gonna be. And “The Town,” we had an idea, but who knows. You just never know. But these big movies like “The Avengers,” I couldn’t say no to, really, so I thought I’d explore that. It kind of just fell my direction, and I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to learn something new.
HC: Which of these films did you most enjoy making?
JR: They’re all different movies and exciting in different ways. Like “Hansel and Gretel,” I thought was really original content, a really original look and spin on that fairy tale. I’ve seen that one, and it is a lot of fun. It’s like “The Avengers” in a way. It’s the type of cinema where you go in, and you just get entertained, and you come out open-smiling and thinking, “That was a really great experience.” I’m not used to doing that kind of cinema. Usually it’s a little bit more emotional or psychological or something, so I try not to have too much expectation out of that. It’s OK to just go be entertained. That’s what I’m learning, because I haven’t really been a part of that for the last 25 years of my career. … “Hansel and Gretel” I think is also one of those things. It’s a bit darker, and it’s R-rated, and it’s not quite as light as “The Avengers,” and then “Bourne” had that blend.
For me, for personal reasons, it was exciting as an actor, as an artist, because it’s very smart, and it’s emotional. It has this fast pace to it, of course, and it’s great action, but it feels like a small little movie. It’s a very intimate movie in a lot of ways, versus the spectacle of these. Like say “Mission Impossible,” that’s a big, big massive spectacle, as is “Avengers.” And “Hansel and Gretel” not quite so much, but it’s a fantasy. But “Bourne,” to me, resonates because it’s a little bit more for an actor to kind of cling on to because there’s no fantasy in it. It’s all based in reality. Even the stunts are all real. There’s no green screen in that. It’s visceral. It’s authentic, and to me, that’s kind of where my heart and spirit as an artist reside, or at least where I think it does, so it’s a really great match. I feel like I used my brain and my heart, and it was really, really one of the most fun shoots I got to work on. And I worked with Rachel Weisz, one of my favorite actresses.
HC: They’re very physical roles. Was training a challenge?
JR: I love the idea of going to work and having to fight and learn a new skill set, whether it’s muay Thai or Kali or Filipino stick fighting. To me, it’s like college for life. You learn things from the experts of the world, and maybe you continue it, maybe you hate it, but I looked at it as a great opportunity to kind of explore things I would never explore.
HC: Are there things you learned on “Mission Impossible” that you were able to bring with you to “Avengers” and “Bourne”?
JR: Absolutely. I got to work with all the same guys for all the movies — 87Eleven stunt team fight coordinators. Robert Alonzo was my guy on “Mission.” I got to have pretty much all the same guys through all four of those action movies, from “Mission” to “Hansel and Gretel” to “Avengers” and then to “Bourne.” It ended up being almost two years of training with these guys. I just thought, “Wow, this is so great, and I just kept rolling into it. And then starting off doing the big action movie with Tom Cruise — he was such an amazing mentor to me, and just so supportive and being so excited that I was doing some of these things. He gave me some really great advice about how to treat your body, essentially, how to take care of yourself. I’d always been an athlete and physical, but he turned it into a whole ‘nother thing about how seriously important it is that you don’t want to get injured. So he got me really headstrong about taking care of my body.
HC: Will we see you in a Hawkeye movie?
JR: I don’t know. I think there’s always possibilities of anything in the Marvel universe. There’s gotta be a want from people to see something like that. I don’t know if there is. Maybe there is maybe there isn’t. But who knows? We’ll see.
HC: In “Avengers,” you sort of get to play both sides. What was that like?
JR: At the end of the day, 90% of the movie, I’m not the character I signed on to play. I’m literally in there for two minutes, and then all of a sudden… All I could really work on was the physical part of it all, because that didn’t change. That was just the biggest challenge to overcome in playing the guy. Also, we’re pretty much introducing a new superhero character to everyone in a movie where there’s a thousand superheroes. So there’s not a lot of back story or understanding we can really tell about who Clint Barton is, or Hawkeye, and is he working for SHIELD or not. There’s a lot of unanswered questions, even for me. And I was OK with that. At least I was still in the movie. And I was glad for that. The closest thing I could really link to was Scarlett [Johansson's] character, Black Widow, because they have a history. And that definitely plays in the movie, I think. And obviously, you can’t go into too much just because there’s so much story to tell, but you definitely get a sense that they’re connected, and that there’s something really, really important that ties them together. And I could try to summarize it, but it can go a lot of places. That excites me, though, that there’s room for other things.
HC: It seems like Hawkeye is sort of on his own team.
JR: Yeah, just by his nature as a sniper if you will, as a guy who hangs out in rooftops, in trees, and takes out his targets from a distance. Joss and I kind of talked about that. About how he’s a loner and a lone-wolf kind of character anyway, and a rebel. I don’t know if he’s really such a team player. He kind of does his own thing… but still with goodwill and intent. So yeah, as part of this big team, I don’t know how he fits in, but he’s really interesting because of that.
HC: Did you prefer playing evil Hawkeye or good Hawkeye?
JR: I prefer the good, because if we go to the evil part, or hypnotized or whatever the heck you want to call it, it’s kind of a vacancy. Not even a bad guy, because there’s not really a consciousness to him. The interesting part was being guilty about the bad things I did do when I was hypnotized. I think he’s already an interesting enough character. To really kind of take away who that character is and just have him be this sort of robot, essentially, and have him be this minion for evil that Loki uses. Again, I could just focus on the task. I was limited, you know what I mean? I was a terminator in a way. So yeah, fun stunts. But is there any sort of emotional content or thought process? No. That doesn’t exist in that time [that he's hypnotized]. It happens to be for most of the movie.
HC: Are you disappointed?
JR: You know, there are a lot of people in that movie. And a lot of important characters. And my character, I felt like if I can help serve story, then I did my job.
HC: At least you had the coolest weapon.
JR: It’s a pretty cool weapon, yeah. I mean, cinematically, it’s really interesting looking, and then the stunt guys all came up with this idea for close-quarter battles, using it as a staff and a weapon, and then all the arrow tips that they kind of got into — I thought that was really cool. So it’s like OK, he’s actually formidable. He’s got a little arsenal.
HC: And it’s all him.
JR: Yeah, exactly. It’s something plausible. He’s a human being. He’s not a superhero with superpowers, he’s just a guy with a high skill set. So I thought that was kind of interesting. And that’s why I was really kind of like, “OK, I think I could see myself doing that role.”
HC: What do you have coming up?
JR: I just did a movie with James Gray directing, and Marion Cotillard, who is one of my favorite actresses (again, some of my favorite actresses. Marion Cotillard and Rachel Weisz. I got to work with both of them right in a row, and that was a real treat for me). And Joaquin Phoenix, who is one of the best actors out there, in my mind. And I got to play a magician. It was great. It’s a beautiful story about the early 1900s in America when all the immigrants were coming through Ellis Island. Marion plays the immigrant, and she sort of gets sold out or pimped out by Joaquin’s character. It’s a terrible way to describe it, but in the simplest way, it’s about a pimp, a whore and a magician. But it’s a little bit more complex than that.
– Noelene Clark
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