December 23, 2011 -- Man on A Mission (



It’s hard to know where to start when talking to Jeremy Renner, so much does the Artist Formerly Known as ‘What’s His Name Again?’ have on his plate right now. With no less than four major movies coming out over the next year – including Marvel’s much-teased, much-awaited The Avengers – Renner is clearly a star operating at the height of his power.

But just a decade ago, Renner was so poor that he was living by candlelight and surviving on a food budget of $20 a month.

Sitting today with ‘Day & Night’ in a suite in London’s Soho Hotel, Renner’s stature hasn’t just grown professionally. His biceps – and here I must beg forgiveness for my momentary lapse into Mills & Boon territory – are so big as to be bulging out from underneath his check-shirt.

He’s currently fighting-fit having enthusiastically taken on a tough training regime for his roles as ‘the new Matt Damon’ in The Bourne Legacy, which he’s now shooting, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the fourth movie in the Tom Cruise-produced-and-starring action spy franchise.

Renner stars alongside the Cruiser as a new and reluctant recruit to Ethan Hunt’s team, who have gone rogue after the IMF (erm, not that one; rather ‘Impossible Missions Force’, though, on second thoughts, maybe they are the same entity) is implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin.

The stakes are high for the film, and there are inevitable rumours that our Jeremy could ‘do a Renner’ã and inherit the franchise from Cruise in the near future.

First off, what I – what we all – want to know is what Cruise is really like. Is he, as many suspect, as mad as a bag of cats? “He’s so likeable and generous,” Renner gushes. “There’s no air around him like, ‘I’m a big movie star’.”

But even Renner would have to admit that it has been a difficult six or seven years for Cruise, and that his image and box office clout have taken a battering?

“There’s no stopping somebody’s will if they really want something, and Tom has a really strong will to work,” Renner deflects. “Whatever setbacks, whatever anybody wants to say in a negative light, that’s not going to stop a guy like Tom from doing anything.

“He always comes back. He takes chances. When you have that mentality it’s limitless what you can do. Some people will love it, some will hate it, but who cares?”

Renner seems to have a confidence and level-headedness that belies his three years in the Hollywood spotlight ever since breaking through with an Oscar-nominated performance in Kathyrn Bigelow’s multi-award winning The Hurt Locker (he bagged a second consecutive trip to the Oscars this year with his incendiary role in Ben Affleck’s The Town).

That self-possession is not just a result of turning 40 this year, though he doesn’t look it (“Must be all that smoking and drinking,” he quips).

Rather Renner has earned every moment of his recent success, having toiled in obscurity and struggling to make a living for the best part of 20 years. Californian by birth, Renner was two years into a college education that incorporated criminology and psychology when he discovered the campus theatre apartment, and got the acting itch.

He dropped out, and signed up to study at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco instead. He moved to LA, and worked mainly on stage before landing his first major movie role as a serial killer in the acclaimed Dahmer (2002).

The following year, he took on a mainstream role in the action thriller SWAT, opposite Colin Farrell, and the two became good friends. Indeed, the Dubliner introduced Renner as a Best Actor nominee at the 2009 Oscars, reminiscing, in particular, about a wild trip to Mexico, during which, Farrell revealed jokingly (we presume), the pair ended up spooning in the same bed.

Does Renner care to fill in the blanks? “Oh yeah, I remember a lot of that week,” he says, with a faint smile. “It was over Thanksgiving 2002. That was fun. He’s a good cat. It has been nice to have him as a good buddy all these years.”

Renner also seems to have something of a bromantic crush another Irish star, Michael Fassbender. “We share an agent, and he’s a handful of fun to go out with,” he says. “We’re dying to do a project together.”

His heightened profile has also meant more attention on his private life, which appears to both annoy and amuse Renner. “Anyone I ended up touching at the Academy Awards, I was [apparently] having sex with,” he says. “They had me having sex with seven gals and one guy, who’s my brother. Where would I find the time? If I pet my dog does that mean he’s blowing me? Come on!”

So is he single right now? “Yeah, I’m single,” he replies. “Again, where would I find the time? I’d be a terrible boyfriend or husband at this point.”

All these Hollywood A-list concerns are a far cry from those pre-SWAT days in the early Noughties. “Sure it was a struggle, but it is for a lot of people,” he says. “You need to have the endurance and perseverance to stick it out. I worked enough that it kept me afloat and courageous enough to keep going.

“The lowest point was in 2000/2001. That’s when I was pretty poor, and couldn’t even afford power. But knowing that I can live on $20 a month on food is a wonderful thing. I’m certainly not going to force myself to do something I don’t want to do.

“Even at that moment of living by candlelight I still wouldn’t do a job for money if I didn’t feel like I could do that job like I wanted to do it. It’s not in me.”

So let’s talk some of those upcoming movies, starting with The Bourne Legacy. “It’s not the character Jason Bourne,” he explains. “It has the same feel to it, the same composition, tone, and pace, but the characters are different.”

Then there’s The Avengers, the movie that assembles a range of Marvel superheroes including Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and Chris Evan’s Captain America. Renner plays Hawkeye.

“I’ve seen as much as you have essentially,” he reveals. “There’s not much I can say. It was very physically demanding.

“My part is pretty segregated from the other guys, but there were two days when all of us were there in costume. It was cool, but kind of nerdy and ridiculous. I mean, I was there standing around in costume drinking a cappuccino, while Chris [Hemsworth as Thor] was there with his hammer in one hand and a fruit smoothie in the other.”

Renner might be insanely busy at the moment, but he’s relishing the opportunities, an attitude and outlook he attributes to achieving success a little later in life.

“No-one can fuck with me at this point,” he explains. “It’s a wonderful sense of self to have: to have gone through enough hell, and success, and hell again to feel like I can really endure anything. Everything I have in my life I’ve worked my ass off for. So I really appreciate it and enjoy it.

“I learned a lot from Colin, who had the experience of having a lot of movies come out in quick succession. But he was a lot younger [having that success] then I am now, and whether it was him being younger or not, he got off track a little bit. I learned what not to do.”

Did Farrell advise him? “He didn’t sit there and say, ‘Don’t do this or don’t do that’,” Renner says. “I just kind of watched and observed him. I chimed in when I thought he was going a little too far or whatever. But he’s back and better than ever, and I couldn’t be more proud.

“It could have happened to me. What if The Hurt Locker had come to me at 25 or 30? How would I have responded to it?

“I really enjoyed the Academy Awards because I had certain friends who helped me with that, and had enough sense of self to think, ‘This is kick-ass. I can just stand here at this plateau of my life, take a deep breath, and go, ‘Wow. Fucking fantastic’.’”

Next up (March, to be precise) we’ll see Renner star opposite Gemma Arterton in the fairytale re-imagining Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. “It’s an action move with a fantasy element,” Renner explains. “I haven’t seen the finished thing, so we’ll see what it ends up being, but it certainly looks fun so far.”