January 1, 2012 -- Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol -- Jeremy Renner Interview (indielondon.co.uk)
- Published: Tuesday, 19 November 2013 05:03
- Written by coolshades
JEREMY Renner talks about his rise to fame from living on $5 a week as well as the two films that helped make him the movie star he is today [Dahmer and The Hurt Locker.
He also talks about playing Brandt alongside Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, working with director Brad Bird, being a perfectionist when it comes to stunts and some of his forthcoming projects, including The Avengers.
Q. Is it true that you lived on $5 a week?
Jeremy Renner: Yeah, $20 bucks a month, yeah… that was a time that I hold very close to me because it was a moment in my life that I had a lot of power, realising that my hand isn’t forced to do anything I don’t want to do. If I could live on $5 a week to eat… my monthly expenses bill was almost nothing. So, I was like: “Wow, I don’t have to take a job for money. I don’t have to do this for money. Wow, OK!” Even though it was really unpleasant… I mean, don’t get me wrong, living by candle-light and trying to find the positives in that… ‘it’s romantic, look at all these candles… nice’! It’s depressing and, at the same time, a freakin’ fire hazard [laughs] but it was also really empowering for me.
Q. And how has that changed for you now that you’re one of the most sought after leading men in Hollywood?
Jeremy Renner: I light candles because I want to have candles lit, not because I need to see! So, that’s changed. But nothing really has changed in me, just things around me and opportunities have changed and become greater and more abundant. But who I am and the thought process of it all is unchanged and unwavered.
Q. Can you pinpoint a certain turning point or has it been gradual?
Jeremy Renner: Well, put it this way, there’s been thousands of little milestones, personal milestones and then business milestones. I did a movie called Dahmer. It was a little tiny movie that not a lot of people saw but it got a lot of attention, especially within the industry. It also taught me a lot as an actor. I had three weeks to prepare for that movie, we were shooting it in 14 days, and that was something that I wanted to prepare for but couldn’t. So, I learned something about instincts and to trust those instincts and go with it. So, it empowered me in a lot of ways with the result that the movie got a lot of attention within the industry. It was a wonderful milestone for me and sort of led to SWAT, North Country and Jesse James and all those movies.
So, that was a big one and then The Hurt Locker obviously was a whole other milestone in a thousand different ways that I’m so grateful for and so ready for. I can think of a lot of actors that are ready to have a role like that but that role goes to Russell Crowe or any of those tremendous actors out there that are names. Those roles don’t go to guys like me. But it did. And I’m grateful for that.
Q. Why did it go to you then?
Jeremy Renner: Well, Dahmer was one reason, as Kathryn [Bigelow] admits. Interestingly, she opted to cast it with an up and coming actor that she felt had the capabilities to carry the movie but nobody famous. If Tom Cruise played the role, well I don’t know how many times Tom Cruise has died in a movie, so maybe you’ll never be afraid that he’s really going to die. So, first person you see die in The Hurt Locker is Guy Pearce, and you think he’s going to be the lead. And then my nobody’s face ass comes in and it’s like: “This guy is going to croak at any time!” So, it just adds an underlying tension throughout the movie and it was smart casting. It was also win-win for me and for Kathryn. She got what she wanted and I got what I wanted.
Q. Will you never die in another movie from now on?
Jeremy Renner: No, no, I like dying. In fact, I died in The Town… for those who haven’t seen the movie!
Q. Now that you’re options have changed and your career is taking off, how do you feel about the things that are available to you? Are there now things you can’t do and don’t get offered that you might be interested in because you’re too big a name?
Jeremy Renner: Oh wow, I wouldn’t know. I don’t know the things I don’t get. I have a lot of people that go through diligently things that come in and try to read and go through everything. They know the taste of things I like and if it’s interesting enough it doesn’t really matter the size of the budget or anything else. The content is the most important thing.
Q. What do you want to achieve as an actor? You’ve been quoted as saying ‘as an artist I’m putting a nail in the coffin of my artistic sensibility’ after you were cast in the new Bourne film…
Jeremy Renner: Yeah, ‘am I?’ is the question I have to ask myself.
Q. You say you also admire Tom Cruise and that it was great to work with him. So, do you want to be an action hero?
Jeremy Renner: Do I want to be an action hero? I don’t know. I’m an actor in some action movies. I like to be the reluctant action hero. How’s that? I like to be that. I don’t want to be an action hero. I don’t want to be a hero in anything. That, to me, has… I interpret that as something that seems very thin in character. A hero who calls himself a hero… I don’t know, that’s not the type of characters I gravitate towards or that I can connect with. For me, I like the idea of flawed characters and that’s all I look for – human qualities.
Q. How would you describe your character, Brandt, in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol?
Jeremy Renner: He is kind of a realist. He’s complex because there’s a lot of secrets that he’s holding and that he carries. He has a lot of weight. There’s conflicts that arise because of it. There’s a sense of… he’s kind of got an everyman quality about him that I think is really interesting. He’s certainly flawed.
Q. Is he a straight man for the humour?
Jeremy Renner: I suppose. The humour I think comes from the level of intensity of the action sequences and it inadvertently comes out that way. I don’t think they write it to be funny, otherwise it’ll seem campy and then that becomes cheap. If there’s any humour in the film I feel like it comes from real heightened circumstances with everyday sort of people inside of it.
Q. Well, a scene like the flare in the river being used as a distraction for the gunmen is self-mocking of the genre, isn’t it?
Jeremy Renner: Well, I think that’s a Brad Bird thing. He did that all the way through the movie with, like, the gadgets. Half of the gadgets don’t work. It takes the piss out of itself almost by not taking itself too seriously. But when it’s serious, it is serious with the action stuff – it’s high octane and it’s pretty intense and if you’re afraid, you should be afraid. But when there’s moments of humanity it’s free game and Brad Bird was a big, big influence on that. When you see the movie, there will be hints of The Incredibles all over it.
Q. Did you notice his animation sensibilities being applied to live-action?
Jeremy Renner: I don’t know if it came out of animation. My only fear with him coming from the animated world was, you know, does this guy have any social skills? Do you know what I mean? This is a guy sitting in a room talking to a computer and little cartoons for how many years! It takes a long time to make those Pixar movies. But when I met him he ends up being the funniest guy in the room and gregarious. He lights up the room. So, that feeling went away very quickly. What I did see from him was his attention to detail.
Whether that came from the animated world or not… again, I really studied The Incredibles after I started seeing the work on our movie and really saw how he had to compose a shot and within composing a shot where you put the detail and the attention and the focus can make it funny or tense… wherever you put the attention can really determine the tone of the movie. But that’s what he does so brilliantly in this movie. He was great at spending a lot of time finding the quirks and once you think you’re going in one direction, pulling the rug out from under you and going in the other direction. If this little gadget doesn’t work, well this one kind of works, or this one doesn’t work at all, or this one works and does weird things. He just kept you guessing, which is a really, really interesting sort of take on the series.
Q. Tom Cruise encouraged you to do your own stunts. So, which one was the most difficult?
Jeremy Renner: I suppose the stuff in the computer raid on the wire with the magnet suit… essentially, that was the longest and most enduring because I was hanging on a wire for a while. It got a little tiring. But I think what took the most timing and proved really the most challenging was doing all the physical fighting because for not a whole lot of screen-time it was months and months and months of hours a day spent fighting and learning something that I was so unfamiliar with. I’m not a fighter. I had to learn Filipino stick-fighting and Muay Thai and all these really interesting things that was fun. It made it fun to get in shape and we had to learn it in a very interesting way, too, because we had to be very flexible because there was no choreography. We weren’t sure exactly where the fight was going to take place… we just knew there was going to be a fight here somehow and some way. We’d learn it that day and have to get through it. So, we kind of learned the discipline of the fighting techniques that we all had. And we all had specific fighting techniques – Paula [Patton]’s involved more legs, Simon [Pegg]’s more judo and throws and I was more hands, fast-hands and things like that.
Q. Will that kind of preparation benefit you in your next movies?
Jeremy Renner: Yeah, I took it on into all of them.
Q. The Avengers? Are you still filming that?
Jeremy Renner: I did it. I’m in the middle of Bourne now. All that is tied into each other and Tom [Cruise] set a really great bar and gave me really sound advice on how to look at stunts and how to treat your body… what to do to prepare and how not to be injured.
Q. When it comes to The Avengers, will you be surprised to see your own action figure?
Jeremy Renner: Oh there’s one. The face looks a lot like mine. But I have a really small head. I look like Lou Ferigno. It’s strange.
Q. Going back to what you said about The Hurt Locker propelling you into a different place in your career, how about in terms of your life. I mean you said you haven’t changed as a person, or you don’t feel you have, but I presume life changes drastically. Do you have to let go of everything that’s been before?
Jeremy Renner: Well, there’s a lot of things that have shifted around me. I’m the same guy that I’ve known for a long time and I’ve surrounded myself with a solid base of friends and family that I hang on to. But when so many things shift around me there’s really no preparation except for the tools and mechanics that I’ve built and the belief systems that I’ve had over the last 40 years – to accept or make change things that are around me, to realise what I have control over and what I don’t. I have good realisation of what those are. It’s a wonderful thing, actually, to at my age have these sort of surreal things happen to you because the coping mechanisms and skill sets that I have now weren’t as strong or even built at all when I was 25. I’m able to really enjoy the wonderful things happening to me and that’s a great blessing.
Q. Do you find yourself being recognised in public a lot more? And how does it feel to be at something like Comic-Con, which must be a whole different level of fame and popularity?
Jeremy Renner: Oh, it’s always different. It’s not Comic-Con walking along the street by any means. You go to Comic-Con as part of The Avengers, when they announced the cast you feel like Bono or a rock star. It’s crazy. It’s the closest thing to whatever that feels like. You can do or say no wrong. It’s just a bunch of people that are really excited about that movie coming together. So, it was pretty amazing. You don’t get first-hand experience of that as a movie actor. The closest thing to it is maybe doing something on stage, where you get an immediate response from something that you’ve done or performed. But in movies or television you don’t connect with your audience. I mean, you do, but not one-on-one.
Randomly on the street, some guy will say: “Oh, I love that TV show that you were in!” But you’d be thinking to yourself ‘wow, that was like 10 years ago’. So, you don’t have that sort of immediate connection or reaction. You don’t know how people really truly receive anything that you do. Yeah, maybe they went and bought a ticket to see your movie… so, it’s a little strange that way. So, it trickles out more and more. It used to be: “Aren’t you the guy I used to go to High School with?” To ‘now I know your face and you’re an actor who was in this movie or that movie’. And now it’s ‘now I know your name and I hate you because my wife likes you’! There’s a thousand things!
Q. Will that get worse in two years’ time?
Jeremy Renner: Well, you could call it worse. Instinctively, reactively and knee-jerkingly I would say the same thing because I like my private life and anonymity. But it’s a high-class problem to sign that away to go and do some big fun movies that afford me to do a lot of other things with my life.
Q. Were you familiar with the character of Hawkeye before?
Jeremy Renner: Familiar with him… I was never a big comic book guy. I didn’t read them and I didn’t start to read them for the movie because it didn’t really pertain… I find out there’s an alternates universe as well, which is completely different. So, it got confusing and I just wanted to stick to the script at hand and kind of make that as honest as I could make it.
Q. Have you received any praise from other actors that you’ve appreciated?
Jeremy Renner: Wow, getting praise from my grandma is cool too. But when you get praise from someone you admire and respect who is in your field… if you’re a race car driver and another race car driver says: “Wow, you’re a badass!” It means it’s coming from someone that really understands what you do, so it’s a wonderful thing. And when you get praise from someone that you really admire it’s really surreal. I’m not very good at taking compliments. It’s better than getting slapped in the face, I suppose.
Q. We saw the trailer for Hansel & Gretel. What kind of film is that?
Jeremy Renner: What kind of film do you think it is [laughs]? Yeah, it’s based on the fairytale but it has a re-interpretation of where it goes from there… 15 years later. But that’s what I loved about it. It’s this brother and sister that got left in the woods, ate some candy on a house and then a witch tried to eat them and they killed a witch, end of story! But now, 15 years later, they’re a bit pissed off and now they have a life of killing witches. I thought that was a great concept. The movie should turn out to be a lot of fun. I haven’t seen it yet, they’re still putting it together, but it was a lot of fun to make.
Q. Are you a perfectionist? Do you like to re-watch your films and think you could have done something better?
Jeremy Renner: Oh no, no, you can’t change that. It’s only the stuff you can change that I get involved in. I don’t like to watch any movies that I’ve done more than once. I do watch playback on the day of shooting and when it comes to stunts I’m a perfectionist. I feel like if I’m capable of doing it, then it has to be great or perfect. I do not accept good or really good. I’m like if you can do better, then let’s do it. I’ve worked this hard to make it great, so let’s just not accept ‘oh yeah, it was really good’! I worked for four months on Mission: Impossible. So, I’m quite a perfectionist on the physical aspect of it but when it comes to the acting scenes, I’m pretty lenient, so long as I don’t cringe or feel it’s a dishonest moment.
Q. Are there any actors or movies that really influenced your work? If you had to name one of both…
Jeremy Renner: A Clockwork Orange and Sean Penn. Those are the ones that came to mind. I watched A Clockwork Orange a bunch and just thought it was a really inventive, strange tale and storytelling. It made acting look fun. And Sean Penn… I think he has really interesting movies throughout his career that he was able to do… movies that don’t get made nowadays unfortunately. I’ve always thought he’s a tremendous talent and still is.
Q. What about Steve McQueen? Is the Steve McQueen biopic you’ve been linked to still going to happen?
Jeremy Renner: I’m looking to get it going. James Gray is writing the script now and I’m really anxious to get my eyes on it and see what he’s come up with. Doing a biopic is really, really complicated and really hard. Anything that I’ve read so far – not from James Gray but other sources – I haven’t liked. There hasn’t been one done yet but if you’re going to do it why do it about things that everybody already knows about? Who wants to see a re-hashing of this cryptic tale of all the movies he’s done? Or the famous stunts that he’s done?
For instance, why I wanted to play this guy is there’s an image of Steve McQueen talking to a butcher… he’s like bandaging his hand up and I think it’s preparing to do that famous jump scene; if it’s not, it’s some stunt. But that’s what I want to know what that conversation is… not the actual stunt because everybody knows about that, so let’s get to know the intimate side or the behind-the-scenes kind of guy. That’s what makes a human being interesting to me. So, that’s kind of like the take that I would like to do and so we’ll see if there’s a possibility of that happening. I would be so honoured to try to attempt to play that.