May 10, 2007 -- Interview: Jeremy Renner on 28 Weeks Later (

Indie film favorite Jeremy Renner – whose credits include Monkey Love, Neo Ned, Dahmer and Love Comes to the Executioner, with the occasional higher-profile gig like Angel, C.S.I. and S.W.A.T. thrown in there, too – is back with a project that falls somewhere in the middle between indie and mainstream. He co-stars in 28 Weeks Later, the Juan Carlos Fresnadillo-directed sequel to Danny Boyle’s sleeper hit horror flick 28 Days Later. Renner plays Sgt. Doyle, an American soldier in London as U.S. troops prepare to re-open the city after the events of the first film. Only, the rage virus that caused so much hell is about to come back with a vengeance, and when it does Doyle must make some intensely personal decisions as he deals with a military doctor (Rose Byrne) and, more importantly, two children (Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton) whose survival is imperative. Latino Review caught up with Renner the other day as he walked through Central Park in New York City. The actor talked about 28 Weeks Later, which opens May 11, his career, and he previewed several upcoming projects.

How familiar were you, or not, with the first film?
Renner: I was actually a pretty huge fan of 28 Days Later. I’m not a huge horror fan, by any means. It actually rolled out pretty good in the States. It was a big word of mouth thing here. I think it did well in London, too. People were telling me, ‘Hey, man, do you remember Night of the Living Dead? With the zombies.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I love that. The Romero stuff.’ They’d say, ‘You’ve got to see this movie 28 Days Later because they’re fast and they’re terrifying.’ And then, after I saw the movie, I realized that they weren’t really zombies. But what really terrified me about that movie was how plausible it was. I had that fear prior to that movie coming out. So I was always a big fan of it, and I have always been terrified of some sort of genocide happening. I mean, come on, look back at history. We have the Plague. We have, in even more recent history, AIDS and SARS and bird flu. You think about those and they’re actually very passive diseases, and then you look at a viral zoonotic disease like rabies, which is an aggressive disease. That’s not so far from the viral disease in the movie, and not so far from reality. So I ended up being a fan of the first film because of the plausibility of it.

Sgt. Doyle is a soldier with a conscience. Frankly, in the film, there’s not a lot of that. Most of the military characters are gung-ho and by-the-book and they don’t exactly do the smartest things. He sees what’s going on and he helps Scarlet (Byrne) and the kids. How pleased were you that you’re playing one of the brighter, more human characters?
Renner: That was definitely an important part of me wanting to do that role. It could have been played very differently. Someone could have played that as really gung-ho and shoot ‘em up. Who knows how else it could have been played differently? But I felt like there was something for me to do, that the character actually went somewhere, had some sort of arc and made some sort of change.

Much of the sequel, like the first film, is set in a London that’s been decimated. What did you make of shooting on location in London at off-hours and with hardly anyone or anything at all in the streets?
Renner: A lot of those empty London shots were done early in the morning, at 4 or 5 or 6 six in the morning. I didn’t mind it at all. It was fun. The best part of shooting in London was that it was like a really good sightseeing touring the whole time. We shot in so many locations, in places that you’d actually go as a tourist to see. So I got to work and be a tourist at the same time. Plus, because we were a movie production and we were there at these strange hours, it was like having sort of a VIP pass to London. They were shutting down bridges and all these other places. That was pretty awesome.

How did you enjoy working with Rose Byrne, Mackintosh Muggleton and Imogen Poots?
Renner: They were great, man. That’s who I spent most of my time with, and we definitely felt like a family. It’s a difficult thing for a 12-year-old to play one of the leads in a movie, and Mackintosh was wonderful. Imogen, she’s more professional, I think, than anyone I have worked with. She’s dead-on, man. Dead-on. And Rose Byrne and I, we tried to give it a go. We had a good time. Poor Rose, she came into this job literally at the last, last, last second. So we sat down and talked through a lot of stuff we wanted to do as the characters. We rehearsed and she got caught up on a lot of things. So a lot of our time was spent catching up and talking about what we wanted to achieve here.

How much interaction, if any, did you have with Danny Boyle early on? And he did some second unit directing. Did you work with him at all on the days he was around directing?
Renner: You know, no. I was kind of disappointed about that. He did get to do some second unit, but I wasn’t there working that day. And then I think he ended up injuring his shoulder. And also he was busy directing Sunshine and getting the final takes on that. So, actually, I don’t think I ever met him. He could be nine feet tall. He could be standing next to me. I don’t know him, unfortunately.

What was it like, between takes, to be surrounded by all the actors dressed up to look infected?
Renner: It was a bizarre sight. Initially they were terrifying. They’re chasing you and they’re bloody and they’re barfing blood on you. And then, between takes, they’re having a latte and smoking a cigarette and talking about their hangovers. I became disenchanted with them being terrifying very quickly after that.

What do you make of the finished film?
Renner: The only thing I can say about it is you’ve got to see it, man. I was really impressed with how Juan Carlos was able to have his own take and make his own movie, but still have this continuity from the first film to the second. I think he had help from the creative team that did the first one. They feel like the same movie, but very, very different. You could also not see 28 Days Later, I feel, and see 28 Weeks Later, and not feel totally out of the loop.

Give us a little bit of background. How and why did you get into acting?
Renner: I grew up in a small town where it wasn’t OK to have emotions, apparently. It was kind of a hick town. So I fell into an acting class accidentally in college. I was a criminology major at the time, I think. And it ended up being a wonderful outlet for me as a young man. There were loads of emotions and things going on in my head and my heart, and it was a safe playground for me to kind of explore those things. And then I continued on with it. I went to San Francisco. And for the last 15 years now I have been in Los Angeles acting and studying, though I don’t have much time to study anymore.

You have done a lot of indie films. If someone sees you in 28 Weeks Later and likes you so much they want to look at some of your earlier work, what would you steer them towards and suggest they check out?
Renner: I guess that’d be stuff that I’m proud of? I’m proud of Dahmer. I’m proud of Neo Ned. I just did a movie called Take, with Minnie Driver, that’s really good. I think 12 and Holding is a great little film. What else? I’m very proud of most of the little indies I’ve done and I’m going to continue on doing them.

You have several films coming up soon. Real quick, take us through Snappers, Take, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Renner: Snappers is with Dallas Roberts and Jeff Balsmeyer is the director. It’s character-driven comedy about these failed inventors who have a gambling problem. I call it acting in tandem because neither of these characters would exist solo. Their energy together is like one unified unit. Take is the one with Minnie Driver. That’s two separate stories, two separate characters, and in this one fleeting moment their stories and lives are changed forever. It’s about redemption and forgiveness. It’s sort of like 21 Grams meets Dead Man Walking. Jesse James has been talked about a bunch. I haven’t seen that one. I know I had a riot shooting it and I know with the creative team behind that it’s going to be a pretty fascinating piece of cinema. It’s going to be unlike any other Western anyone’s seen. It’s like a visceral, Terrence Malick-like Western. Don’t go into that expecting a lot of guns blazing and comedic lines. I think it’s the kind of film that breathes a little bit.