Jeremy Renner's Shot at Playing Hero

9:00 AM PST 04/04/2012 by Stephen Galloway
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Kurt Iswarienko
Jeremy Renner

The say-anything new star of "Bourne" wrestles a wolf, box-office hopes and rumors about his personal life as expectations mount on the two-time Oscar nominee to save one franchise (that Matt Damon left behind) and help jump-start another (Marvel's "The Avengers").

Now, Renner's personal fortitude will be tested, as will his true wattage. His ability to carry the film -- along with his Avengers role -- will factor in determining if the year's box office can maintain its incandescent pace, compounding a 20 percent lead over 2011.

It will affect the fate of three companies (Universal, Disney and Marvel). It will even spill over on Paramount's plans for the next Mission: Impossible, where he has been groomed to supplement what has been for more than 15 years Tom Cruise's one-man show.

Above all, it will prove conclusively if Renner is the star Hollywood needs him to be.

But he knows this course opens him up to the kind of scrutiny that comes with being a big star, the kind that he, unlike others, can't shrug off. For Renner, Internet speculation already has centered around whom he's dating (everyone from Jessica Simpson to Scarlett Johansson, if you believe the tabs) to his sexual orientation.

"I want my personal life to be personal, and it's not f--ing true," he says of the suppositions. "And I don't care if you're talking about things that are true, you're still talking about my personal life. How about I go peek in your window, take what underwear you wore last night, whose husband you were f--ing, and shove that in the megaphone throughout your neighborhood? How does that feel? It's none of your goddamn business."

He seems unaware of controversial remarks made by the Today show's Meredith Vieira in 2010, when she asked of his warm hug with Hurt Locker co-star Anthony Mackie, "Should I be worried?" She later apologized.

Notes Renner, who becomes passionate discussing this, but never angry or unpleasant: "Any person I touched during the Hurt Locker campaign, I was f--ing. They had me f--ing Kristoffer Winters, my brother," as he describes his live-in business partner, who restores houses with him. "Goddamn, I must be busy!"

As to his long-term involvements, he says he had one five-year relationship with a woman while in his 20s and another that ended two years ago after 4-1/2 years -- not helped by the fact roommate Winters continued living with them.

He met that girlfriend, Jes Macallan -- who, as her Twitter account reveals, married actor Jason Gray-Stanford (Monk) on March 17 -- when she was 23 and working at a film festival in Florida; subsequently, she decided to go into acting. "That was part of the issue," says Renner. "I was going through the Hurt Locker campaign and she's like, 'Where do I get headshots?' "

"We're outta gas!"

Tony Gilroy slumps in his director's chair, hunched in a tent next to a vast outdoor water tank in Sun Valley, Calif., calling to Renner as he bobs up and down in the dark waves.

He could be talking about his and his star's emotions after a grueling 90-day shoot for Bourne Legacy, on this, the last day of principal photography.

Over the past six months, Renner has had to wrestle animatronic wolves, race a motorbike across the oil-slicked streets of Manila and take out four guys in one no-holds-barred scene, while hopping to New York, Calgary, Alberta, and at last back to this water tank right across from the curiously named Vintage Industrial Strip Club, a venue for transgender performers.

But it's the machine that pumps bubbles, designed to indicate Renner is under a waterfall, that is out of gas, not the actor. Muscles rippling, naked torso revealing tattoos on either arm with the crests of his Irish and German ancestors, he waits until they're back up. Then Renner dives over and over, seizing a mysterious, cylindrical object that's part of a vital Bourne sequence. Twenty takes or more are needed for a shot that will last two seconds at most, until Gilroy and cinematographer Robert Elswit have precisely the speed and angle they want, and Renner does each one without complaint.

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