January 24, 2013 -- Jeremy Renner, Reluctant Hero (ripitup.co.nz)

After years in the acting wilderness, Jeremy Renner finally emerged into the spotlight with starring roles in the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker and Mission Impossible – but at what price? The A-list actor tells a surprised Rip It Up “it wasn’t worth it.”

by Des Sampson

“You know, if I knew 20 years ago what I now know about acting, there’s absolutely no way I’d still be doing it for a living,” proclaims Jeremy Renner unexpectedly, midway through a chat about his latest project, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. “I certainly wouldn’t do it again.

“It’s not just that it’s been a struggle, although that’s definitely a part of it. It’s a thousand things piled upon each other,” he adds, sighing wearily. “So, if you’re asking me if it’s worth going through everything to get here, the answer is, no, because it isn’t.”

It’s an astonishing admission, given Renner’s recent critical acclaim for his Oscar nominated performances in The Hurt Locker and The Town, and starring roles in Hollywood blockbusters like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Avengers and The Bourne Legacy. On top of that, he even gets the chance to act out every childhood fantasy in a big-budget makeover of the Grimm Brother’s classic fairytale, in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, where he plays a gung-ho, gun-toting, witch-slaying Hansel alongside Gemma Arterton’s Gretel.

“That was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had because there’s something magical about that old world, fantasy thing where you’re living in the woods, riding on broomsticks and your job is to go kill witches with a shotgun and crossbow,” he admits, grinning. “One night we roasted a suckling pig over a fire and there was this big trough of beer where you just took a mug and helped yourself. I remember thinking; ‘I could live here, I like this world!’

“Ghost Protocol was fun too, especially doing the stunts, like the vertical leap out of the window,” he adds, smiling. “That’s one of the good things about doing blockbusters: there’s more opportunity to do action sequences and try out different things.

“But, the truth is, I’ve never strived to do these massive, franchise movies,” reveals Renner, in a conspiratorial whisper. “Luckily, I’ve recently found a few that fit my artistic sensibilities, so I’ve been happy to do them. But really, I prefer smaller movies, because they usually have edgier roles. Also, since there’s not as much money at stake, you can usually take a few risks and afford to tell an interesting story.

“Although I’ve never wanted to be in a blockbuster, I am a fan of them because they’re big, pop-corn entertainment and an important part of our society,” he concedes, shrugging his shoulders involuntarily. “But, as an artist, I prefer to do other, more meaningful films that explore the human condition.

“That’s why, when I choose a role, I have certain criteria I follow: it has to be three dimensional, it has to be conflicted – I’m always attracted to reluctant heroes – and there’s got to be some sort of complexity to it,” Renner surmises, animatedly. “In effect, my character has to be flawed because then it makes it human – makes it real – and therefore interesting.

“If the character’s not real, and therefore not believable, it means it’s not accessible to an audience. If it’s not accessible, then nobody cares about you, or wants to follow your character’s plight,” he asserts, passionately. “Also it’s more fun, as an actor, to play a flawed, anti-hero, who’s human. It’s something I can grasp, because I feel that’s what I am.”

Renner’s determination to only portray realistic characters, in meaningful roles, means he’s less than enamored by the more facile sides of the acting game, like fame, fortune, the paparazzi and celebritydom.

“I know it kind of comes with the territory, when you choose movies like Ghost Protocol or Bourne Legacy, but that stuff is a problem,” he acknowledges. “To be honest, that was a big part of the decision making process I went through before I decided to do both those films, because I knew that by doing big movies, like that, I’d be giving up that much more of my personal life and anonymity.

“However, as a 40 year old adult rather than a 20 year old kid, I think I’m in better position, with better coping skills, to handle that intrusion, and the random things that get thrown at me now, like the Academy Awards,” he suggests.

“Attending those awards was a whole new experience for me to cope with, but it was fine. If I’d been a youngster, I might have found it more intimidating,” reasons Renner. “But it’s the same with any issues, problems or obstacles that come across me now: they’re easier to handle as a 40 year old than if I’d come across them as a 25, or 30 year old.”

Despite his remarks Renner’s not completely disparaging about the privileged position he’s found himself in, or the accompanying acclaim and fame he’s acquired.

“Yeah, don’t get me wrong, being older and having the success now definitely makes me appreciate it more,” he nods. “I’m just enjoying the ride and my time, because it’s not a bad life. But I’m not going to let it go to my head, or get all glazed-over and googly-eyed about it, or the things that are happening to me, like the girls falling over me, the money coming in, or people wanting to talk about me.

“All of that doesn’t matter to me; it’s just part of being an actor in my current position,” Renner muses. “So, I take it as it comes. But at the same time I try and enjoy it as much as possible and not take it for granted, because I realise that it could all end tomorrow.”

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