New Dad Jeremy Renner Talks Love and Strip Clubs (

The Academy Award nominated actor opens up to Mickey Rapkin about fatherhood, losing his virginity, and that one time he worked as a makeup artist


In more ways than one, Jeremy Renner was a late bloomer. Kicking around L.A. since 1993, long before The Hurt Locker’s surprise win for Best Picture—accompanied by his nomination for Best Actor—at the 2010 Academy Awards, he supported himself with a series of odd jobs between acting gigs. How odd? Well, he’s probably the only member of The Avengers to have worked as a makeup artist at the Lancôme counter. (Really.) But persistence clearly paid off in spades—and accolades. After scoring a second Oscar nod for his tightly wound work in The Town in 2011, the Modesto, California, native finds himself on the award trail again this winter with American Hustle, David O. Russell’s follow-up to Silver Linings Playbook. The film, a true-life con-man story, stars Bradley Cooper as a 1970s FBI agent working a sting operation, and Renner as the honorable (but duped) mayor of Camden, New Jersey. The period-perfect retro styling wasn’t the only change Renner encountered while filming Hustle. He and his girlfriend, model Sonni Pacheco, also welcomed a baby girl. Here, the 42-year-old actor talks fatherhood—plus strip clubs, marriage, and losing his virginity.


You once worked as a makeup artist. Was that to meet women?
In the theater, we had to do our own stage makeup. I figured I could tone it down and do it on hot girls all day. It wasn’t the case. It ended up being older ladies, which was just fine.
Did the job help you to understand women in a new way?
My philosophy on what makeup is…it’s very different from what a woman’s is. Makeup came from a very psychological place—of the peacock. You want a guy’s opinion on what looks good versus what you think looks good? That blue eye shadow up to your eyebrows does not. Let me try something else.
You’ve previously talked about downtime on movie sets and getting into trouble. Would you share a story from your single days?
I find myself in troublesome situations quite often. But I don’t get caught.
I read that a woman once bit your arm and sent you to the hospital.
Yeah. That happened.
Was it something you said?
No. It was something I didn’t do. I wouldn’t go to a barbecue at her house. I didn’t pay enough attention to her. I don’t know. It was a long time ago.
Okay. What kind of trouble would you get into? Are we talking strip clubs?
Yeah, I’ve frequented those. I think, strangely, a strip club can tell you a lot about the city you’re in. If you call a strip club “Tuna’s,” I’ve gotta go in there. Usually you’re not seeing the top talent around, but it’s not about that. It’s about the experience.
You have a lot of self-confidence. Where does that come from?
I don’t know, man. Obviously, my parents. I always felt supported and loved. Even though they were separated. I had a lot of freedom as a latchkey kid to go explore and fail and succeed and do it all over again.
What did their marriage teach you about relationships?
What not to do. Both of my parents have been married three times.
Three times? Why not just date?
My dad’s a grown-ass man. He can make his own decisions. I don’t really get involved in that kind of stuff. He’s gotta sleep with somebody. He can go on that journey again, if he wants.
Did he ever give you any valuable advice about women?
Yeah. We both studied theology and psychology, so we had wonderful conversations about human behavior and our own patterns and the bullshit that gets in the way in relationships. In every issue and problem that comes, let’s not point the finger. Think, Where did I go wrong? Where’s my part in it?
Is there anything you’d do differently about your first time?
Yeah, not do it again.
What does that mean?
It’s like puberty. You never want to do that over.
Think she’s told everyone in town that she took Jeremy Renner’s virginity?
I don’t know. I haven’t seen them in forever.
Wait, them?
They’re twins. Well, I was with one of the twins. [Laughs] I wasn’t pimping. I was older when it happened, too. Like, 18.
That’s not so old.
It’s not? Okay, good. To some of my friends, I was late.
You’ve had a lot of success flipping houses. Is it easier to manage a business partnership than a romantic one?
My knee-jerk reaction is to say yes. Men and women—there’s a lot of headwind in that department, and there are very different principles and emotions and outlooks. My girl is masculine in a lot of ways, even though she looks like a supermodel. That works out. A girly girl just doesn’t do it for me. I can’t have a conversation about your broken nail.
You had a baby this year. What do you hope to teach your daughter?
Compassion. Something a lot of people don’t teach.
Do you feel pressured to get married?
I’ve never felt that pressure. No.
Do you believe in the institution?
For some people.
But not for yourself?
I don’t know. It’s not necessarily something I often think about. It’s a whole other conversation. Don’t forget how the institution of marriage came about.
Is there a movie or a line of dialogue that gets love right?
Something from Braveheart. “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”
How is that applicable?
That’s love of life. Grab it every day. Because we’re all gonna die. It’s difficult to live that way. Most people are afraid to. Or can’t. I find it very difficult.
Who was your childhood obsession?
Lynda Carter.
Wonder Woman? Nice.
Oh, full on. She turns around in circles—with a lasso. Come on! Phenomenal. Her, and Olivia Newton John. “Let’s Get Physical.” Those would be my first two crushes.
What would you say to Lynda Carter if you met her?
I don’t know, man. You don’t know these things until you run into them. I’ve come across a few celebrities over the years who I’ve had admiration for. Some are dicks. Most of them are very interesting.
Your dad owned a bowling alley. Were girls into that?
No way. I wasn’t so much into girls at the time. I started bowling when I was three years old. I left bowling probably because of girls. It wasn’t a cool thing to do back then. Nor do I think it’s a cool thing to do now. It’s different for people who like to get drunk and throw the ball between their legs. Guys like me who grew up in a bowling center? We’re competing. It’s on.
You struggled early on in L.A. Were you dating much?
When you’re broke? You don’t date. You can’t afford to eat yourself. I didn’t have any money. I had my Ramen. And my mac-n-cheese. My donut holes. I couldn’t be bothered with dating. I was very focused on what I was doing. I had to take care of myself. I was in survival mode.
American Hustle is a con-man story. Did dating ever feel like a con to you?
I don’t think that’s a con. You’re putting your best part forward, not a false foot forward. I think there are some guys that bullshit their way into a vagina. But that’s not my style. I’m pretty straightforward.
You’ve got a Farrah Fawcett haircut in American Hustle. Has a woman ever complained about your style?
Yeah, but I don’t listen to that. It’s my hair. Like it or don’t. You know, most importantly, doesn’t it matter what we think about ourselves? And how we feel about ourselves? That becomes the feeling of others.
Do you remember the first girl who paid any attention to you?
It was probably in 3rd grade. Brooke something or other. I can’t remember her last name. She paid attention to me. So I said, ‘You gotta be my girlfriend.’ I walked her to her babysitter after school.
When you first came to L.A., you hung out in karaoke bars.
Because it was free.
What was your go-to song to impress women?
There were probably fifteen songs. Whatever I was in the mood for.
“Total Eclipse of the Heart?”
Nothing like that. It depended on how I was feeling. It has to be an emotional sort of thing for me to go do.
Is there something you want to teach your daughter about men?
Stay away.