Jeremy Renner: 'Shooting Kind of Took My Soul'
We introduced you to Jeremy Renner in The Verge a little over six months ago, when the rugged The Hurt Locker star with the deceptively boyish face (he'll be 39 on Thursday) was still relatively unknown. That was then; now, Renner's moment has arrived. As Staff Sergeant William James -- a courageous, crazy, compassionate military technician who thrives on defusing bombs for an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit stationed in Iraq -- Renner has crafted a war film hero for our fraught times. It's a marvelous performance, both subtle and bombastic, and we therefore offer it up as another "For Your Reconsideration." Fresh off shooting Ben Affleck's second directorial effort and busily running the awards season gantlet, we checked back in with Renner to see how life has changed since the film's release.
What's your take on awards season?
It's pretty awesome. I feel great. A little run down and tired, but so fortunate. I realize every day how lucky I am to be doing what I'm doing. This whole awards thing is obviously new experiences, and I just take it day by day, meet a lot of cool new people, and we'll see what happens.
Have you put work on hold to focus on this now?
Yeah, it's pretty impossible to work right now. I just finished a movie three weeks ago, so the timing worked out pretty good.
That was The Town.
The Town, yeah.
How was working with Ben Affleck?
It was a lot of fun. We had a blast. It was like shooting a short film with one of your good buddies. He set a really good tone on the set, just really affable as a human being. He made it very pleasant for everyone.
Did anything about him surprise you or not conform with his public persona?
I always knew he was smart, because I'd see him on interviews and he was such a charming dude. And every day, I was surprised by just how smart he is. He's almost autistically smart, the guy is. It's ridiculous. And so experienced in the industry. He's obviously been through a lot, as an actor, as a writer, in good and bad ways. With that experience, he's very wise to a lot of things. And it's invaluable.
What's your part?
Ben and I play career bank robbers, and we're best friends. The movie is sort of a crime/romance/action movie, similar to something like Heat. He's trying to get out of the life of bank robbing, and I sort of refuse to let him go. It was a lot of fun.
It seems like The Hurt Locker has become more than just a movie -- it's become a sort of mental touchstone. Every time I hear about troop surges, or car bombings, it's the first place I go to in my head. I'm wondering, what's your year been like since it came out? Have you been approached by many soldiers?
That was another big surprise for me doing this -- when I do get approached by military, especially, because those are the guys that we wanted to portray in a good way. Those were obviously our toughest critics, and did they pick apart the film? Sure. But they get what the film means. I get approached by guys on the street, families of fallen troops. I support a group called TAPS, that supports families of fallen soldiers. And I realized how it's changed me so much just shooting it. I've realized now it's not just a moviegoer and a piece of cinema connecting, but a piece of cinema that affects people's lives. And that is not why I did the movie, let's just be honest. That wasn't my intention. But what a wonderful gift that has been given to all of us -- something that can connect civilian life and soldier life. I cannot take responsibility nor accountability for that, but it is happening, and it's a powerful, powerful thing.
It's kind of hard to take, to be honest with you, on the street. Because again, I can't be responsible for how they're affected. But I'm glad they're affected. It's so wonderful, yet so hard to take, when you got some guy who literally, almost creepily, comes up and stands next to me at the ATM. And he's a big dude, so he's kind of intimidating to me. He stands there, a stranger invading your personal space for about 30 seconds. That's a long 30 seconds with no one saying anything. And I could see the guy is having trouble talking -- his lip's quivering and he kind of starts crying. And he just wanted to thank me. He begins to tell me that he had just gotten back from Iraq, and he was EOD, and I stop him, and I say, "Look, my friend. Thank you, for your service. I didn't do anything." He just wanted to explain that if he ever saw me, he promised his wife that he'd come up and thank me; because it helped him a lot to explain to his wife, using the movie, maybe a fraction of what is going on over there, in a very visceral way. How does one really explain that? So it really helped him a lot, and he said it really helped his marriage, which was falling apart.
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