Jeremy Renner didn’t come to Hollywood asking to be the go-to leading man — he was just willing to put the suit on when Hollywood came knocking at his door. His portrayal of Sergeant First Class Williams James, an emotionally cut-off loner with a tough guy facade, in Oscar-winning picture The Hurt Locker set him on a path to being attached to blockbuster films attempting to recreate the depth of character in their protagonists, and granted sometimes succeeding. At this moment, Jeremy is officially involved with three different billion-dollar-franchises, and for a working actor, saying no to anyone of them would be absolute lunacy.
Despite the strongly negotiated schedule of this California-born actor, now a family man, he has managed to launch his own production company and is in the midst of releasing its first feature, called Kill The Messenger. The film is based on a novel of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb, telling his true life experience of publishing an article in 1996 as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News making serious allegations against the CIA and their association with known drug lords responsible for the import of cocaine into the United States. In his performance as Webb, Renner is able to bring his most heartfelt, nuanced character in years with help from a powerful supporting cast including Michael Sheen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael K. Williams, and Ray Liotta. Jeremy, during a rare resting moment at the Ritz Carlton New York, admitted to us a fondness for playing real characters, or “ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances,” and plans for his next passion project depicting “The King of Cool” Steve McQueen. But not before checking his phone to get an update on the 49ers game.
How are they doing?
They’re playing the Cardinals, who are ahead right now 3 to 0, but they just started.
Are you into Fantasy football?
I’m too much of a football purest to let myself get talked into that. I don’t have the time either. You can spend a lot of time on that.
This is your first movie as a producer from beginning to end, what did you learn?
To be honest I learned a lot during the process. It was the kind of movie I knew that wouldn’t just be offered to me. I had to push to get it made. There are a lot of people out there who just know me from the huge studio movies I’ve been doing recently, but it was The Hurt Locker that got me these roles, and that was a complex character. With my new production company I’m really looking to fill the gap in the studio system by getting movies like Kill The Messenger made. It’s asking new questions, it’s not going for mass appeal, and it represents the work that I want to do. I don’t want to be limited to just action films.
So what other roles would you like to play?
There’s a Steve McQueen biopic I’m trying to set up. There is no theme I like more than the ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances.
He was a pretty fascinating character.
Exactly, and even more interesting there is a lot that isn’t known about him, despite what an icon he was. He was almost too iconic. The people who are fans of him truly only know him from these images. What is the true story behind those images? That’s what we want to talk about. He was also a walking dichotomy in the way that he was one of the most generous people while being also incredibly stingy. To some people he was one of the warmest people around and to others, very cold. He was the antithesis of himself constantly.
It’s hard to picture McQueen without him being on a bike. Do you ride?
I’ve been riding for a while now. I own a Triumph Speed Triple, that’s my main bike. I also have a BMW and a Norton Commando. I like to ride alone. I love the open road. It’s one of those few opportunities where you really get to sit with yourself and hear your thoughts.
Do you have a favorite ride to do in California?
Anything up the coast is always the best.
I enjoyed your magic tricks in The Immigrant. Did you have to study long to pull those off? Do you still enjoy doing magic now that you’re done?
Magic was a great example of one of those experiences I got forced to have because I’m an actor and ended up enjoying. I never thought it would be anything that I actually found a passion for personally, but then I found myself spending three days of work just to figure out this one slight of hand trick. I started thinking, “Maybe my fingers were built for this.” It is quite fun. But do I have the time to keep practicing? Unfortunately no.
You have a couple projects coming up that I’m pretty excited about, like Mission Impossible. Is Tom Cruise going to deliver?
Tom Cruise is going to do whatever it takes to satisfy Mission Impossible fans. That’s what Tom considers his number one priority on these movies. I don’t want to get into real specifics but I can say that our writer and director Christopher McQuarrie is more inspired by 70s action movies. I don’t want to say he’s looking to bring a more grounded view but it’s going to be different. So far we’ve only done some stunt work and when we get back we’re going to really dive into the story more.
Are the stunts crazier or just as crazy as Ghost Protocol?
I think it’s going to be pretty hard to top that vertical leap situation, but you know that they are always going to be pretty tremendous and spectacular. Exciting to watch. We also have some new blood in the franchise as well with Alec Baldwin. That guy is so awesome man, even when he’s trying to be serious it’s hard not to crack up just a little bit. I get to do some fun scenes with him.
I’m excited that Damon and Greengrass want to get involved again. Having them back involved with the franchise makes it all more real in my mind, and I know that the fans have wanted to see our characters together. I’m just as excited as everyone else. I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, but first we’re still working on the Aaron Cross story, with Justin Lin, and I know that a draft has been finished there. I hear they’ve cracked a story on the Bourne side of it. Can’t wait to see how it comes together.
Justin Lin is directing some of the next season of True Detective. Could you be cast in it?
I’m thinking about it. Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn, I love them both and they’re both friends of mine. I think maybe I should get myself into one of those episodes. They can kill me. I’d be fine with that.