Jeremy Renner on MI:4, Avengers, Bourne and Steve McQueen

From threatening to throw up on Tom Cruise to the rumored Hawkeye movie, Jeremy Renner tells all.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Now is certainly the right time to talk to Jeremy Renner. He’s joining the IMF team for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. We know he’s in The Avengers and playing the new spy in The Bourne Legacy. He’s even planning a Steve McQueen biopic. Renner wasn’t cagey with the press at all. In fact he had more secrets to keep about Mission Impossible than his other upcoming projects.


Is Brandt a good guy or a bad guy?

Jeremy Renner: I’m attracted to those kind of roles, that you could be good or you could be bad, and you just don’t know. I guess I just have one of those arresting faces that look like I want to beat you up or something. I don’t know, or whatever it is, but yeah, I mean, I like those parts. It’s revealed throughout the movie. It becomes like a B or C plot, I don’t know whatever number or letter you want to put on it. But it becomes a part of the character drama within the group, and then slowly revealed all the way, kind of throughout, the secrets that characters hold in general, and specifically Brandt. 


That makes it hard to call if Renner would be back for MI5.

I’m not going to tell you if I live or die, if I’m good or bad. I might create more questions than answers for you, but that’s what the character is. It’s one of those hinge/fringe characters. You’re not sure what’s gonna happen and that was the attraction for me. I can tell you that Will Brandt is a Chief Analyst for the IMF, the right hand man to the Secretary, which is always the voice, now a face finally in this movie, played by Tom Wilkinson. He hands out all the missions. [This] sort of buttoned up, sort of desk jockey, gets thrown into the mix of Ethan Hunt and two other agents, Paula Patton’s and Simon Pegg’s characters. Instead of having sort of a mission sort of dished out, circumstances kind of fall apart, and we’re thrown together and have to be together. It doesn’t mean we like each other, but we have to unite, and to overcome certain obstacles. And then within that spectacle of action and mission stuff, there’s an interesting character. 


Stunts are cool but he’s not jumping off the Burj Khalifa. But he’s looking out the window at Tom Cruise.

It’s one of those things, like if you get hit by a bus and you didn’t know it, that’s one thing. But if you see the bus coming and you can’t, you get paralyzed and you can’t move, and you just watch it come at you. It’s one of those things. Tom is out there, running around, doing his thing all over the building and we’re just standing there, sort of by the edge, and that is more terrifying. Once I hung out, 30 seconds of near vomiting almost happened, but then that went away and Tom was laughing, he’s hanging upside down. He’s all red-faced and he’s like, “Look at this view!” I’m like, “What are you talking about. I’m gonna vomit on you.” But once that went away, he was right.  It was like, “This is beautiful.”  I mean, it was just fantastic. And once all the fear went away and all that stuff, it became a really amazing experience. But before that, the anticipation of it all was terrifying.


Jeremy Renner’s Crash Course In Action

I mean, just stretching kind of winded me, starting this movie. So I had a long curve to get ahead. After The Town I didn’t do anything physical. I didn’t break a sweat for a year, until Mission. So I had to make up for lost time and spend like five hours a day learning certain disciplines, like Muay Thai and Filipino stick fighting and all this sort of random stuff that I never thought I’d learn, which was a blast. And then there’s stuff on a wire, you have to sort of prepare your body for, certain pick points and stuff, and trigger points in your body. I mean, I know much more about my body than I ever wanted to. It’s a very physical thing and you have to treat it like you’re a professional athlete.


Wait for it… how this all ends up in ‘The Bourne Legacy.’

Tom has prepared me for especially Bourne, but Hansel and Gretel and then The Avengers and now Bourne, for the sort of mental place to be when you’re doing an action sequence. Like in any professional sport, in America at least, if you get injured or you hurt your knee or whatever, second string comes in. That doesn’t happen on movies.  So you can’t get injured. It’s sort of getting on this really great program to really just not be in shape, but just prevent injuries. And Tom introduced me to some really great physiotherapists and that sort of thing, to prepare my body for that sort of torture.


An actual quote on ‘The Bourne Legacy.’

Bourne Legacy I’m currently shooting, yes. Because we’re in the middle of shooting it, I can’t say a whole lot about it but what I can clarify, there’s been some confusion that I was taking over for Matt. There’s no taking over for Matt. Matt Damon will always be Jason Bourne to that franchise. But the writer is consistent through them all, the same writer, and he’s also our director on this one. So there’ll be, for the fan base that likes that type of movie, it’ll be the continuity of that, the pace of it, the way it’s shot, just everything about it, you’ll know it’s a Bourne movie. There’s just going to be different faces. There’s going to be Ed Norton and Rachel Weisz, some of the most talented actors out there. But it’ll be just a different program, different spies, essentially.


That conversation with Matt Damon.

I mean, he’s such a cool, grounded guy that it’s sort of like how do you give advice to somebody on something? If anything, he said, “Just listen to your guys that know what they’re doing.” He’s worked with Dan Bradley who did all the action on all the Bourne movies. He’s actually our Second Unit Director on Mission so I was happy to know that he was part of this Bourne movie. If you’re doing action, you’re working with Dan Bradley. So he says, “Just trust that guy.” I’m like, “Oh, yeah, perfect. You don’t have to tell me. I’ve already worked with him. He’s awesome.” Because he’s going to ask you to do some really terrifying things and you can just trust that it’s all all right. 


Jeremy Renner’s take on Hawkeye.

I don’t do well with expectation, in my life, or I certainly can’t think about it in other peoples’ lives. All I can do is do the best I can do, and I’m consciously aware, like specifically in the comic book world, where there’s a built-in fan base to that. But there’s a little bit of leniency because there’s a couple different universes. There’s The Ultimates, and then there’s the old school version, you know. I wasn’t interested in wearing purple tights when I’m 50, so I love that they went the Ultimates route. But also, I wanted to serve the story and the script at hand that Joss Whedon wrote, and not bring a bunch of baggage, and where he came from, from Trickshot, and being a this and a that or whatever. What mattered to me is like Page One to Page whatever the heck it ended up being and serve that story. That’s what mattered to me.


Don’t read too much into his 'Thor' cameo.

It’s actually difficult because, you know, there’s not a lot to do, like say in Thor. It’s like, just stand in a bucket and hold my bow and arrow.  Well, what’s the character? I have no idea. I was thrown into that very quickly and am I trapping myself by anything?  I don’t know. So it’s a little strange. I don’t know if it’s a good thing. I mean, I don’t think I’d go about it normally that way, but it was certainly a different way to kind of go about taking on a role. It was so small and miniscule, just saying a few lines. I think I felt like it would be hard to screw up.


How about a 'Hawkeye' solo movie?

I don’t know. There are a lot of variables in that one: if they’d want to make one; what it would be about or anything. There’s a lot of things. I suppose if they all aligned, then it could be interesting, because I certainly like the character. But I don’t know what the future holds.


So what exactly does Hawkeye DO in ‘The Avengers?’

I mean, look at how many characters are in that thing. It was the ultimate challenge for Joss Whedon, who knows that universe so well. There’s no one better to write it.  I don’t know how you put that many characters in a movie like that. It’s immense. But you know, with that, you have to sort of pass the baton. You get to work with very few of them, because everybody’s got their own thing kind of going on. Someone’s in the air, flying around. I’m on the ground, shooting a bow and arrow and whatever. There’s a lot of things happening. So like I have no idea what that movie looks like. Like zero. Most of the time, I have a good idea of how it’s going to turn out because I’ve seen so much of it.  I have no idea. I feel like I might be an extra in it. I’m not sure. I wish I got to do more with them but I had fun with the people I did get to work with.


Life after Oscar (nomination)

Well, I’m not different, but a lot of things around me have shifted and some in pretty, pretty great ways. Artistically, there’s a lot more opportunities, bigger opportunities – bigger meaning big directors that you love their cinema. Or the quality of scripts, the amount of scripts, that sort of thing. That’s really shifted for me. And people just being aware of who you are all of a sudden.  People that you think you know, like for instance, some big movie star, insert somebody famous, and then all of a sudden, they say your name. What’s strange but really great.


The biggest franchise of all: Steve McQueen’s real life.

It happened because a script came around, and they asked maybe, if I wanted to look at it and potentially maybe play him. And I thought, “Ah, it’s interesting.” Obviously, I loved his movies, wouldn’t say like I was a massive fan of him, by any means. I’ve seen probably like three of his movies. But then as it came around and I started to study him more and realized wow, what a dichotomy of a human being. He’s really, really interesting. Outside of what most of him know him as, like the King of Cool or the coolest human being that ever lived or whatever it is. But he was also the most insecure guy that ever lived and all these other things that undercut what we know him as. So that was really interesting to me. I mean, I don’t care if that’s a fictitious character, or if that’s a real person. That’s just interesting to me. The script I felt like was just sort of a retelling of what everybody already knows about him. I didn’t know a lot about him, but it’s retelling the things I knew about him. So I thought that’s really kind of boring and didn’t do him justice, I think, for what I ended up learning about him. So that’s why we’re developing this thing, from these images that I saw. 


The secrets of Steve McQueen will be revealed.

For instance, there’s a photo of him, a butcher in the shop is bandaging up his hand. The movie set’s around the corner and he’s just preparing to do a stunt, or just did the stunt of the famous bike jump or whatever stunt it was. Everybody knows about whatever that stunt is. So why talk about that? I want to know what that conversation was between that butcher and McQueen in that butcher shop. That’s more interesting to me. I think an inside sort of look into his life as a human being is could be fascinating. So that’s what we’re exploring. James Gray is also, is actually the one writing that. I’d rather have [the movies] be the backdrop of his life, and to see what is it like to walk into a room and everybody stares at you because they know exactly who you are. Not a lot of people know what that feels like. So let’s let people into that world. I think that’s interesting. 


And playing Steve McQueen…

I haven’t seen the script. I’m already imagining it to be almost impossible, but I’d love to take on the challenge. It’d be an honor.