November 11, 2011 -- Holiday Preview: Jeremy Renner ( - 3

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In a way, you can understand the speculation, particularly since Renner is now headlining The Bourne Legacy (although he's not playing Jason Bourne). It's a tricky career move for a star as freshly minted as he is. Not only does he risk being compared to, gulp, Roger Moore, but he's also about to lose his anonymity. ''I had to have a serious talk with my agent because this offer wasn't about a movie, this was about a life choice,'' says Renner. ''In Mission, it's a Tom Cruise movie. The Avengers is ensemble-y, but [Bourne] is a game changer. I thought, This is going to affect how I walk down the street. It's going to affect what happens when I go into a restaurant. I can't even believe I'm saying this, but is this going to affect the next 20 years of my life? As an artist, am I putting a nail in the coffin of my artistic sensibility?''


Renner knows that this is a nice predicament to be in. But he also admits that being suddenly in demand after so many years of struggle is surreal. The craziness began after The Hurt Locker started gobbling up critics' awards and he found himself on the handshaking circuit. Suddenly, heroes like Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall were slapping him on the back, while Sean Penn invited him out drinking. ''I guess it's like a club,'' Renner says.


Some who've worked with Renner say he's benefited from the fact that his sudden fame came so late. ''Someone told me that your growth is completely arrested at the day you become famous,'' says Ben Affleck, Renner's director and costar in The Town. ''It's a joke, but it's partly true. Jeremy came into his success with a lot of wisdom and a lot of work under his belt. He'd seen things come and go. It's hard if you're young to have the perspective on how lucky you are and how fleeting it is and how difficult this business is.''


Still, Renner says that he wasn't prepared for the tabloid scrutiny that came with the territory. For example, last January he threw himself a rollicking 40th-birthday bash at his home in L.A., where it was reported that Christina Aguilera passed out drunk on Renner's bed. ''She was there,'' he admits. ''But she wasn't passed out on my bed. Everyone was splayed out all over my house. There were 400 people there! During the Hurt Locker campaign, anyone I had my arm around or talked to I was f---ing, apparently. The gossip people are sick.''


Renner laughs at this, not just because those stories are so wildly inaccurate, but also because he can't believe that anyone's interested in the guy who was living on $5 a week not too long ago. So when he's asked if there's anyone in his life now, he can't help but crack up. ''No. Would it be nice to be with a gal? Yes. But how would I even do that? I've done five movies in a row! I've been traveling all over the world! I realize it's a high-class problem to have, but seriously, where would I find the motherf---ing time?''