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This story first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
A mix of talent and tough guy seemingly missing from Hollywood’s current runway of top male stars, Jeremy Renner, 41, is an anomaly among his peers. He is older than your average up-and-comer (Ryan Reynolds is 35), less pretty (compared with, say, Taylor Kitsch, 30), and rough and rogue in a way that makes one think of Daniel Craig or even a young Harrison Ford. But while his peers might beat him in a Handsome Man Contest, the Modesto, Calif.-raised Renner dwarfs them in accolades with his Oscar nominations, first for 2008’s The Hurt Locker and then for 2010’s The Town.
“He’s like George Clooney: When he hit it big, he was no wunderkind,” says Tony Gilroy, co-screenwriter and director of the fourth Bourne movie, The Bourne Legacy, which will be released Aug. 3. He adds that Renner — who joined the film after the 10-year-old venture turbulently lost its lead Matt Damon when director Paul Greengrass pulled out (Damon later lambasted Gilroy’s first Ultimatum script in a December interview calling it “unreadable,” adding: “This is a career-ender. I mean, I could put this thing up on eBay, and it would be game over for that dude.”) — is the type of actor who’d “seen a lot of less talented people make it and not them. Now he has pride of ownership and an eagerness to hang on to it.”
Awards and buzz are one thing, box-office performance another as The Hollywood Reporter‘s executive editor, features, Stephen Galloway discovers in this week’s THR cover story:
RENNER RECEIVED SIX FIGURES FOR ‘AVENGERS,’ BUT A BIGGER PAYDAY LOOMS
Even though Hurt Locker was gaining steam at the time, Renner received a mere six-figures for Avengers (he also did a cameo in Thor), but will get more if Marvel exercises its option to star him in up to six other films. As for Bourne, if Renner continues with the franchise (he’s agreed to two more films), the $5 million he received for Legacy will zoom to an asking price of $10 million-plus — and might reach as much as the $20 million Matt Damon received for the series’ most recent outing in 2007.
ON TRYING TO KEEP HIS PERSONAL LIFE PERSONAL (AND THOSE PESKY GAY RUMORS)
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?”
ON HIS TWO LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS
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. 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?’ ”
WHAT REALLY WENT DOWN DURING THE THAILAND KNIFE FIGHT
“It was a silly, tragic accident that happened to this guy,” explains Renner, noting that he had gone to Phuket for a break when an acquaintance made a comment and “got attacked in a bar fight at 4 in the morning. He was saying stuff, and 20 people jumped on him. I was in flip-flops. I don’t do bar fights. Did he deserve to get stabbed and almost murdered by 20 people? F— no.” (Six local men were arrested.)
WHY HE WAS ATTACKED ONE CHRISTMAS FOR WEARING A SCARF
Renner tells the story of how, on Christmas Eve a few years back, when he was with his family in a bar, “This guy chokes me with the scarf I was wearing. He called me a fag ’cause I was wearing a scarf! Then he shoved my sister and I got behind him and I choked him out — put him to sleep.”
WHY RENNER HESITATED BEFORE TAKING ‘BOURNE LEGACY’ ROLE
“It was a game-changer in anonymity,” he says. “I had to consider how this was going to affect everyone I love — especially myself. The star thing, the celebrity thing is new to me. I don’t want to be a good celebrity, a good f—ing star. I want to be a good human being.”
THE ADVICE TOM CRUISE GAVE HIM DURING ‘MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE’ FILMING
Renner prepared intensely for The Avengers, training for six weeks in hand-to-hand combat and Filipino stick-fighting and keeping in mind the advice Tom Cruise gave him while making Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: “Since you are doing all your stuff, there is no second string and you have to do due diligence not to get injured.”
THE ON-SET INJURY THAT SENT HIM TO THE HOSPITAL
On Bourne, “I got injured kicking a table and missing and hyper-extending my leg! I had to get an MRI.” He also hurt his arm, which “will be f— ed up for a while. I can’t really grab anything” with one hand. Ditto on Avengers. “He’s an amazing fighter — his fight work is wonderful: precise, heroic, and you seldom have to double him,” says director Joss Whedon. “But one day he just turned wrong and his whole body shut down. He could not do anything. He was in enormous pain, and we had to shut that sequence down and shoot it a couple of weeks later.”
TOUGHEST CHALLENGE WASN’T THE STUNTS, BUT A NEAR-DEATH SCENE
For Bourne, Renner’s toughest scene did not include any of the significant stunt work that the film required. The most difficult thing was “being sick: I had to degrade to near death in the movie, where I had to shake for many minutes, and it looks like it’s nothing, but when it’s over I was more sore than I was the entire shoot.” Director Tony Gilroy called Renner’s performance “very explosive.” “This is the highest degree of difficulty, emotionally and physically,” he added.
RENNER IS EYEING BROADWAY
The actor may do a run on Broadway of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with his Avengers co-star Johansson, but only if Ridley Scott doesn’t hire him for his upcoming The Counselor.
RENNER’S AN ACTION STAR WITH A SOFT SPOT DEALING WITH LOSS OF HIS DOG
In March, Renner’s 8-month-old French bulldog, Franklin, died of a heart attack. For a moment, Renner’s eyes go moist because the puppy touches on the singular problem that has most bedeviled him the past two years. Says Renner, “He was my solution for being so lonely.”