The Massie Twins recently had a chance to sit down with Jeremy Renner, the star of the new action war movie The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and filmed on location in Jordan and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Massie Twins: Is the heat in Jordan comparable to the heat in Phoenix?
Jeremy Renner: Hot is hot. It doesn’t matter – it’s what you’re doing in the heat and if you can escape it. You can come in here in the air conditioning. I’m sipping coffee for Christ’s sake. I wouldn’t be doing that in the Middle East. Sometimes it was only 108 degrees. I’m just glad we weren’t in Kuwait where it was 135.
MT: We had read about the living conditions of the actors while you were there filming and Kathryn Bigelow’s decision to have you sleep in tents on the ground instead of in trailers, etc.
JR: I don’t know if that was so much Kathryn’s idea or…
MT: Maybe to toughen you up?
JR: …maybe. This was one of the first films shot in Jordan. They’re not used to having trailers and things. Everything was new; we were breaking ground. We were there because the king helped us out so much with the American artillery.
MT: Was it a controlled environment?
JR: No. No… maybe sometimes. We were in the middle of nowhere, three kilometers from the Iraqi border. It was controlled in the desert. But when we’re in a Palestinian refugee camp I didn’t feel like there was much control. In New York there are a lot of rats. In the refugee camp there are cats everywhere. And kids. Kids were like cockroaches – I like kids – but they were everywhere. There’s like one adult sitting on the porch sipping tea and 50 kids running around rampant. Then a herd of goats comes running through. It’s chaos.
MT: So how burdensome was it to wear the suit?
JR: It certainly was an experience. I had a love/hate relationship with that suit. I loved it because it was so awful. It felt like hell, but it was comforting. It was telling and informative about the character. Without that suit, the character would have been so much different – I wouldn’t have connected to it as much. There’s this whole philosophy, a lonesomeness about this guy in a moon suit. I’m not one to hang out in it.
MT: When I saw it, I thought, “what a badass!”
JR: (laughs) Yeah, it’s like when you’re carrying a gun. You just feel a bit cooler.
MT: How closely did you get to work with the real EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) specialists?
JR: Hand in hand. Not while we were shooting, but prior to. I got to spend a lot of time with the guys at Fort Irwin and off base as well – to get in their heads a little bit, get to know them personally, which was even more important. I had to learn all the rules so I’d know how to break them. That was one of the toughest things when I was hanging out with these guys. There’s no one really like the character of James.
MT: No one breaks the rules?
JR: No. Because you die. Why take the extra risk? There was one guy that they all knew of and had heard about that would literally go up to an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) downrange and kick it. If it didn’t go off, he won. There was that guy. But it’s so uncommon that it’s hard to connect. I’d break out the script and say “here’s a flaming car full of ordnance.” And they’d tell me everyone would run. The bomb techs and everyone would be out of there. Unless the president was in the UN building. That’s the only reason – then your life becomes nothing. It’s only realistic if there’s someone of great importance inside the building.
MT: That’s interesting considering how much of the movie looks and feels utterly realistic.
JR: Absolutely. I think you can pick it apart and put a microscope over anything and find flaws. We wanted to be as accurate as possible for EOD because we respect them so much. It trickled down from Mark [the screenwriter] spending time with them. He didn’t know anything about EOD – he’s a journalist. He writes this story then goes to Kathryn Bigelow, and now maybe there’s going to be a greater awareness about this really fascinating job. And we have to do due diligence to make it as accurate as we possibly can, and being that it’s a film, hopefully we can make it entertaining at the same time.
MT: It is indeed a side of the war that doesn’t get any publicity.
JR: Not that this tells everyone’s journey, but it gives a really good general sense of what the war is and what’s happening. It’s much more intense than what the movie portrays if that’s even fathomable.
MT: Considering that this is one of the most intense movies of the year…
JR: Yeah. My highest hopes are that the US military, especially EOD, dig this movie.
MT: And clearly a lot of other people already love it, looking at its accolades from the Venice Film Festival and more. People are appreciating the work that was put into it. Since you were a sniper in 28 Weeks Later, during the sniper scene in this film, did you ever want to take the rifle away from Mackie and show him how it’s done?
JR: (laughs) No. I knew Brian and Anthony from We Are Marshall, but I met Mackie when I was in the Middle East. But we were all aware of each other’s work and very excited to work together. We became close friends quickly and they’re amazing actors. I felt blessed to have this opportunity.
MT: There was a visible camaraderie amongst the squad that played spectacularly in the film.
JR: You kind of have to. Even if we all hated each other, we’d still be close because you go through turmoil together.
MT: How close did you get to a real explosion?
JR: We did in training. There was no danger there, though. These guys sleep with C4 under their pillows. I got to play with C4 and blasting caps and blew up a bunch of shit on base. That was pretty awesome. It was great. I would do it again.
MT: Did you get to do your own stunts?
JR: Yeah, if there were stunts. I kinda felt the whole movie was one continuous stunt. Unless there was a wide long shot. Someone else might get in the suit just to see the walk. But Kathryn said that the double didn’t walk the same as me, so I’d have to get in it. Fine. I’ll do it. I also didn’t want someone else sweating inside of it.
MT: Did you just have the one suit?
JR: There was probably another suit, but no one liked being in it. Kathryn would say the other guy didn’t look like me. He’s covered in a big puffy suit! Who cares! You just waddle in it anyway.
MT: We read that you had gotten hurt during filming. Is that true?
JR: Yeah. That sucked. I felt really bad. It ended up being a good thing because we all needed a break. It was the scene where I’m carrying the dead boy and I’m coming down the stairs. Since I had the boy in front of me I couldn’t see very well, so I fell forward with the real kid in my arms. My first instinct was to pull him in, so the gun hit my nose, I twisted my ankle and I couldn’t walk for a week.
MT: Battle scars.
JR: Yeah, everyone else got to go scuba diving. I had to sit down with my foot up in the air.
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