September 2005 -- Jeremy Renner Talks About "North Country" (

Jeremy Renner (“S.W.A.T.”) has featured roles in a couple of upcoming big budget productions, including a co-starring role in Niki Caro’s highly anticipated drama, “North Country,” starring Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, and Sean Bean, and a part in the Brad Pitt film, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”

Unfortunately I had to pull out of covering the Toronto Film Festival, but thankfully About’s Horror Guide Staci Wilson was there to get the scoop on some of this year’s potential award winning films. Wilson snagged the following short interview with Renner about his roles in “North Country” and “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford:”


Jeremy Renner Explains “North Country:” “It’s based on a true story. I’m not going to say it’s a really true story…how true it is. It’s based on more than the book and I’m assuming it’s based on true events.

It’s based on a class action lawsuit taken against iron mines in Minnesota. And it’s about sexual harassment and it happens that she wins and it changes the workplace for everybody today. It’s pretty much Josey – Charlize [Theron’s] character – and her journey and difficulties going through experiences working in a work place where you’re not wanted. Which, mind you, is a horrible workplace for man – let alone women – to work on. It’s physically demanding and filthy and not a pleasant place to work. So it sort of has a boys locker room feel. A woman goes into this male dominated job and kind of creates a little bit of havoc for a lot of the workers there. They weren’t too keen on it.”


Jeremy Renner’s Character: “I play Bobby Sharp who works at the iron mine. He works in this area called the Powder Room. It’s pretty much where Charlize comes to work. He becomes her boss and they have a past. They were in high school together and had sort of kind of a fling. They share a secret that they’ve held for maybe 10 years ater or so, 15 years later, when they come to work this mine. He kind of inappropriately flirts with her. He thinks it’s harmless but it’s inappropriate in a verbal, emotional sort of harassment. [It’s] making light of the situation.”

Asked if he plays a likeable character, Renner said, “It’s hard to say. I used to get cast and play bad guys because I make them likeable. And I’m not quite sure. Maybe you’d like this guy but people usually hate this guy. But you might love to hate him. He’s kind of a despicable character.”


Renner’s Approach to Playing a Bad Guy: “…What [actors] do is because [the character] does horrible things, they make the person bad. And I mean their actions may be bad… Like for instance, there’s a scene where he really wants to reveal something or flirt with her or go out for a beer, but he does it in the wrong way.”


On Working with Academy Award-Winner Charlize Theron: “She puts in the work and she makes it seem effortless.”


The Cast of “North Country: “It’s a phenomenal cast. It’s unbelievable. There’s a lot of people that I didn’t know and then got to know their work during [the production]. I work mostly with Charlize Theron through the film and then a few other actors. Xander Berkeley is a character actor that is a genius. Chris Mulkey – just a ton of great guys and now great friends, too.

I remember shooting that courtroom scene at the end. It was such a big movie over such an amount of time, I didn’t see a lot of these people. Fran [McDormand] I saw a little bit. But I remember sitting in this courtroom. There’s Charlize, there’s Fran McDormand, there’s Sissy Spacek – three Academy Award winners. And here I am. That’s why I’m really like, ‘Wow, that’s a cast.’ Richard Jenkins, Sean Bean, everybody there. That’s what I’m so proud of of this movie. Regardless of if people enjoy this kind of cinema or not, there’s not a dishonest moment and the performances are flawless.”


Jeremy Renner on Working with Director Niki Caro: “She’s open to the actors’ ideas. She makes you feel like you know what the hell you are doing. Or like, ‘You’re right. Exactly what you’re doing. Fall on your face, do whatever you want to do. It’s right.’

Some people are very specific in what they want and they make you do exactly what they want. She knows exactly what she wants but she just lets you… She sets the stage for all the actors – even the day players and the extras – and it’s sort of like, ‘Have at it,’ and it’s f**king magical. Working with her is absolute magic.”


Not Everything Takes Place in the Mines or the Courtroom: “It’s pretty balanced. There’s so many relationships that Charlize’s character has between her parents, and then her co-workers at work, and then her struggles trying to get this thing going in court. Then there’s some light stuff. Hanging out outside the bar and actually how people actually live, and not so much confined in the mines or the courtroom. It’s not a courtroom drama by any means. It’s human beings and coming of age and this woman’s struggle.”


Jeremy Renner on His Character in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford:” “I play a character, Wood Hite, who is Jesse James’ cousin. And there’s probably like five guys, six guys in the James gang. The James brothers, Dick Liddil and Wood Hite. And, yeah, I think he’s the moral backbone of the piece. Maybe not the most charismatic, he’s kind of like a grumpy old man. Even though he’s an outlaw, he has some moral fiber to him.”


On Working on His First Western Movie: Renner’s never appeared in a Western or a period piece, and “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is definitely both. “You’re limited by kind of what you can say. The director, Andrew Dominik who did ‘Chopper,’ let us improv a bit. But he was really like on with the authenticity of the English language back in the 1800s,” explained Renner.


On Being Cast in “The Assassination of Jesse James:” “I knew that Brad [Pitt] was playing Jesse. I knew Dominik was [involved]. I loved his movie ‘Chopper’ so I wanted to work with him. I think every actor on it read for every role. It was this huge casting fiasco, really. It finally came together months and months later. They were pulling people off the street to try and find Bob Ford, you know, which is like one of the main characters in the movie. It was an epic sort of casting process. And then once everyone got locked in and signed on, it was fine. We can make this thing happen.”


How His Character is Involved in the Story: “He’s sort of a… It’s more of how he affects the story. It’s not so much who the character is; it’s how the character affects the story. There’s a lot of tension amongst Jesse’s gang. I get killed halfway through and Jesse comes looking because he’s his cousin. You know, it’s important. A lot of people in the gang are not related so having a family member go missing is [important]. He goes on a hunt to try to find him. But yeah, I die halfway through so it’s more about how he affects the story than when I’m there.”


The Potential Rating: “I know it’s really gritty, but that doesn’t mean we’re making an R film. There’s only a couple of bits that might make it an R. It’ll have the weight of an R film but it could be PG-13.”