Tag Archives: Hurt Locker

Jeremy Renner for FLAUNT magazine

3 Sep

 

 

 

 It’s stupidly, indulgently tranquil here. The vibe: a little oily, a little awesome, and in turn, all else that’s been exhaustingly said about Hollywood’s pleasure-prism, the Chateau Marmont. In the garden, hunched over a floral-flanked patio table is actor Jeremy Renner. He’s sipping an iced coffee, thumbs glazing an iPad screen. Tucking the silly little it-item of the moment away, he shares on its merits; most recently it enabled him to view scouting stills during a meeting with director Kathryn Bigelow, whose Oscar-draped 2009 effort, The Hurt Locker, catapulted its lead, Renner, onto the laps of the filmic mainstream, earning him a Best Actor nomination.

The sun eases its skillful tongue an inch further, a probably fake-titted sleeve ornament prances by, and Renner, perhaps clocking her, perhaps not, moves the conversation forward with talk of his latest role as the charmingly irascible, wickedly fierce intimidator Jem in The Town—another Boston love letter directed by and starring Ben Affleck. The film is a stylish exercise in rubber-masked bank robbing, inner city Irish-American badassed-ness, addictions to vice far and wide, some docile romance, and a few chase scenes that delightfully leave one’s tummy feeling like it just braved the tilt-a-whirl. It’s all brought about with the added aide of loin-stirringly ambrosial bank manager Rebecca Hall, an inversely sexy, white trash barfly in Blake Lively, and “The Jaw,” or rather, Jon Hamm of ‘60s-era sex and advertisement tele-drama Mad Men.
Renner, with nearly two decades of film and television acting beneath his belt, most of which was spent cruising beneath radars, seems pleased with the early cut he’s seen of the film. “I call it the ‘cringe factor,’” he says of inaugural viewings. “As long as I don’t cringe at anything I’ve done, I’m okay. I was really hesitant to do the movie, but I’m really happy for Ben at this point, having seen it. Even while filming, I knew it was going to be something very special and interesting. He surrounded himself with really tremendous talent, and I like his thinking, and filmmaking, in general, and we ended up having the most amazing time shooting. It was so relaxed, really fun. It felt like shooting a short film with a buddy on the weekend.”
In The Town, Renner executes Jem’s accustom to rough edges and ingrained violence with a brutal and seamless performance. Still, the violently arc-less and socially deviant character resembles the Modesto, California-grown boy’s usual plate of biscuits. Willam James of The Hurt Locker wasn’t exactly a daisy-picker, nor was Jeffrey Dahmer—yes, the famed necrophilic cannibal—whom he portrayed in Dahmer, so reluctance to play another badass makes sense. “The part was something I’ve done quite a bit of,” he says, “and no one saw some of those movies, so I was thinking, I don’t know, how can I make this interesting? Then I talked with Ben, and my concern with him was, ‘What makes you think you can direct and star in and write this thing?’” Renner pauses, laughing, “And he was like, ‘I don’t know that.’ But every film has its obstacles, and he’s just got an easy way about him, which has come from a lot of his experiences through his journey in the industry, good and bad. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Renner also pals around with last issue’s Flaunt cover gent, Colin Farrell, on the regular, and cites him, in addition to Affleck, as someone whose experience in the entertainment industry has allowed him to “learn from other people’s mistakes. I just take the positive things and try to avoid the pitfalls. And sometimes you do step into a hole, and fall flat on your face, and hopefully you can learn something from that.”
As if on cue, a trio of fashion models cruises through the courtyard, clearly ready to sink into cocktails beneath the sun. Yet, they hardly turn heads, for this is the Chateau, and if you’re here, you’ve seen it all before. Perhaps to a point of detriment. Renner knows a thing or two about celeb indulgences, and their public monitoring. “Colin was very unapologetic for who he was,” says Renner. “And even though I’m like him in a number of ways, it’s none of the public’s fucking business, one’s personal life. Like this stupid thing with sex tapes and everything, and cameras everywhere, and Tweeting—whatever the hell that is—it starts to put such a different light on how you’re perceived. I’ve worked so hard to be looked at as an actor and to have my work speak for me—at least that was the intention. And to be respected. It’s much harder to do that nowadays it seems. People are more interested in something stupid—if you’re drunk or who you’re sleeping with. I mean we were just in Italy, and people were taking pictures of me and Channing [Tatum] with our shirts off. ‘Shirtless Studs in Ischia,’ or whatever. I’m like, ‘What? Really?’” Renner chuckles at the memory. “Of course, we’re both out of shape, haven’t had to do a movie and be in shape, on vacation, and we’re eating big Italian meals. It’s annoying. It’s an [upper] class problem, I suppose, but it’s still annoying.”
A comment such as this can only leaven a discussion of class themes in The Town, the title of which refers to Charlestown—a historically hard-bitten and shady Boston neighborhood where most of the film’s tomfoolery takes place. Alongside routinely shoving gun muzzles into the chubby throats of bank tellers, the film’s characters belly up to seedy venues that dually trade in Oxycontin, eat baked beans from the can, sport unsavory track suits, and are rather inflexible with speech particles. They’re lovable dudes, but you wouldn’t expect to see them queuing at the opera or comparing the co-op’s rice milks. What’s more, Rebecca Hall’s character, Claire, who unknowingly sleeps with her enemy, Affleck, is the story’s gentrification seed, a new arrival to one of Charlestown’s up-and-coming blocks.
“It’s really got nothing to do with class,” Renner denies, though, at the suggestion. “I always think that an environment dictates who individuals are. Look at The Town, the townies. These guys, at least back in the day, were criminals, bank robbers and so forth. And I think there’s something interesting about diving into that world that’s so unfamiliar to me. My character, for instance, doesn’t change throughout the film. He’s a product of his environment, yet I don’t look at him as a bad guy. Does he have malice? Is he kind of thuggish? Sure he is. But I don’t want to play the role where it’s aggressive to be aggressive. He reacts based on the love of his friends. And what’s great about the character, that I can connect with, is that loyalty, his brotherhood. There’s something really wonderful about that. Not the violence, but that someone’s got your back. It’s pretty kick-ass.”
It’s a nice thing about Jeremy Renner: the fuck-all swagger works across the board, really. Here, in the garden, sipping coffee over ice, he’s got a well-postured, warm, American West-bred blend of ease in skin, and he could probably beat you up if it came to it, and you hope it won’t. He’ll look you in the eye, be a buddy. Yet, the cool his characters’ lug about is, at this stage of his career, yet to be as agreeably centered.
In his films, stags hang out of the oft-bloodied mouth of his hardened face, at once strangely handsome and brutish; he’s the friend you fight to keep near so as to stay cool, yet worry you’ll one day wake up to him looming over your bed with a hatchet. And whether he’s coughing up blood into a 130-degree bomb suit helmet while tweezering Jihadist roadside wiring or filling New England pigs with lead, you more than often, despite it all, want him to win. In other words, he understands the complexities of tending to anti-hero roles. “It happens to be that all people are flawed,” he explains. “It’s hard for me to believe that someone is ‘good.’ I’m attracted to characters who are made three-dimensional by their flaws. That doesn’t mean they have to do bad things—rob banks, for instance—but there’s something really interesting, that I buy into, in cinema, where one attempts to do something good, but is inhibited by their flaws. Always doing the ‘right thing’ is boring, because it’s not real—that’s absolute horseshit.        And playing bad guys is sometimes far from who I am, but it can also be close to who I am.”
It’s wherewithal, or maybe it’s time on the planet, but there’s something else, almost fibrous, driving Renner’s curiosity for the dark, and perhaps enlightened, side. And surely, intensely channeling this toughness regularly teaches him a thing or two about himself. “I mean, if I stop growing, stop being curious, then why live?” he ponders. “A pool of complacency is death to me. I’d rather be six feet under. The Middle East changed me much more as a man than as an actor. I mean, being a California kid and getting to experience the Middle East, a culture and a community and a religion I knew nothing about… And the physical part of the movie turned into a mental and spiritual part with how far it pushed us. It certainly tested the limits as to where I thought I could go.”
Maybe this drive, this fiber, is Renner’s chasing of an artistic dragon? A voyeuristic, Freudian lure to that which brings him to the edge? An addictive death drive? “I don’t know that it’s addictive,” he says slowly, thinking it over. “But there’s certainly something about shooting a film like The Hurt Locker that is just balls-out, real as it gets. You’re empowered with a lot of control. It was living it more than I wanted to live it. It was just down and dirty and honest. There was no wrong we could do. And Kathryn’s doing another movie, and of course I’d love to do it, I’d love to work with her.”
After a slow gaze around the courtyard, Renner continues, “But [The Hurt Locker] is like being spoiled. You shoot The Town and that’s a different kind of spoiled. You think, ‘Wow, now I can just act!’ That’s the only thing to do, and still with a good result. You didn’t have to be tortured to pull off a performance.”
Out beyond the vine-laced walls of the Chateau, the Sunset Strip farts upward its nasty, stalled, lunchtime stank. The stank meets the sun, reinforcing our make-believe halo, our immunity to those grinding along outside the forcefield. The interview’s become a bit lighter now, a half hour in, and Renner is sharing on his love for heritage and history, signs of a slow-cooked unpretentiousness, perhaps enhanced by his childhood in a region of the globe where the oldest trees in the world live. “A sense of history or age to things is so special to me,” the actor says. “It’s why I love trees. It sounds strange but they’re the oldest living thing on the planet. So, I love history and things rooted in age, there’s something wise about that. In L.A., as soon as there’s anything that acquires a lot of history, they tear it down.”
There is a place, though, on the other side of the country where no one remotely resembles the models who walked by earlier and are now glancing at Renner from their own table, no Chateau, maybe few annual days of sunshine, and a deep pride in history: Boston. Renner, this history buff, cherished his time shooting The Town there. “Man, I loved Boston,” he gushes. “It’s incredible. There’s a lot of political history and so many students. Is it tough? Sure, but that’s a small part. There’s elements that are elegant and beautiful and rich and so forth. I was quickly invited into a club [of local Bostonians, and they took me] into prisons, and we hung out in their homes. I got a really quick education on the community there, especially Charlestown.”
Is the Charlestown of today like that which Affleck aims to project? “Well, even in Charlestown, we had to play the movie like it was more 1995 than today,” Renner says. “Because Charlestown isn’t a bad place. I mean, back in the day, it was one square mile built around a prison, and now that prison’s a school. There’s still the old school folks there, though. I mean there was a code of silence with the mayor, that sort of thing.”
So, Charlestown’s recovery sends us back to gentrification, or urban development, or whatever people getting in where they fit in is called these days. Why do rough neighborhoods turn? Is it strictly affordability? Is depravity fetishized by those looking to add edge to their otherwise soft-cuticled lives? “It’s always financial,” Renner asserts. “A place considered a ghetto or a lower income place becomes part of growth. That’s society. Now there’s strollers rolling through Charlestown. I mean, you see it in L.A. all the time. I build homes in areas where it’s inexpensive. I’m a developer, which I do with my brother.”
Firecrackers! Light bulbs! Because while some Internet trolling prior to this interview might have revealed that the Renners “develop” homes, in Hollywood, that more often means buys and flips. But this is different. Renner is fully behind this development, taking things from the ground up. And thus, back to history and heritage, as Renner mentioned earlier. “I just love architecture,” he shares. “I mean, you’ve got a great old 1908 bar established, and you yank it out and put in a shoe store? That’s tragic to me. That’s fucking tragic. There’s a lot of history in that bar. Now I build and refurbish old Hollywood homes. The house I’m working on now, Preston Sturges, a director in the ‘50s, used to own. We’ve now restored it to its glory days, which is awesome. I absolutely love that old Hollywood feel. We’ve done anything from mid-Century to Greek revival, all over L.A. We’re doing East Coast traditional, we’ve done French Normandy. We design the interiors, everything. We’ve done fifteen homes in the last eight years.”
Renner puts as much passion into homebuilding as he does into acting, and there may be more passions in other elements of his life, in things yet to be unearthed. “The older I get, I realize the less I know,” he admits. “Surely I’m more wise and experienced in some parts of my life, but I continually realize, ‘Wow, I don’t know anything.’ And that’s a wonderful place to be. Sure, it’s a little scary. In my early 30s, I had had certain experiences in life where I was pretty comfortable, and it prevented me from doing certain things.”
This blend of humility and openness doesn’t come about from Googling oneself, keeping oneself in the company of halter-topped teens, or allowing the acidic blogosphere their self-entitled prophetic musings. No, it stems from the fundamentals. And so this interview begins to wind down with discussions on family, on roots. “My father gets more interesting every single day,” Renner says, smiling at the thought of his old man. “He’s curious. He’s got a lot of patience and he makes me realize that’s why I don’t know anything. Because he [maintains he] knows nothing. And of course he [knows things]. Of course I do. But he remains open to things. Maybe something that was right isn’t right anymore. There’s something really inspiring about that.”
For those without patient fathers, or two lucrative skill sets, curiosity might be the last box to check on a list of self-ascribed character traits. What lends to this absence in people? Where or when do we lose our intrigue? “I think fear comes to shut down curiosity,” Renner ventures. “When you think you know the answer, when you get jaded. If you allow yourself to be jaded by an experience, that can really shut you down. Like, I’ve never been a big supporter of this city, for instance. There’s a lot of things I hate about L.A.: the lack of community, [it’s] a one industry town, or so it seems, the traffic. But I just focus on the good. And of course, the amount of opportunity here is amazing. I mean, I never thought I’d be a homebuilder. And here I am. Shit, I make more money doing that than acting! I came down here as a broke actor, and made my way as a makeup artist. I never thought I’d be a makeup artist. But hey, I made some good money putting makeup on hot chicks, and I thought, ‘This is amazing!’ And of course there’s the scenery in L.A., the trees, the mountains… The weather’s tremendous.”
We try to fight it, but it’s always back to L.A. Back to the mysticism of mirth and money, of artistry and artifice, of the unapologetic pursuit for that which might, be it via the Internet, prestigious awards, or hefty bank accounts, command recognition. Slurping the last of his iced coffee, Renner seems anxious to return to his job site up the street, where his contracted team awaits his approval before its next move. But not before he offers a little insight on what’s plated for the coming months. “I’m going to play Hawkeye in The Avengers,” he says, shaking his head at what will surely be another testament of hard-assed cool. “But that’s isn’t until next spring. There’s a really tremendous cast, really exciting. I just met up with [Robert] Downey [Jr.] and [Mark] Ruffalo and the director and had a good chat. There’s no script yet, so we’re all kinda curious, and we’re like, ‘What the hell is it we’re doing? How is it possible we’re going to have all these superheroes in this movie? But it should be really fun.
“I haven’t worked since The Town,” he adds. “After the Academy Awards, I was so happy that we won, that we were even there… And then, [I was] really just relieved that it was fucking over. I can have my life back, and just do something that I’ve wanted to do. And that’s what I’ve been doing all summer. Like with Italy. Going because I want to go, taking a break from that whole side. I haven’t seen a movie for probably six months. But now I’m really itching and scratching to work.”
Outside, after parting nods in the lobby, the valet, in his tiny umbrella triangle of a shade, is slow to peel away from his Los Angeles Times. It’s the mellow lunch hour, far from the evening hustle, and there’s no need to break a sweat, make a show of hurrying to retrieve the ticketed vehicle. He strolls across the lot.
The hum of traffic is interrupted by another goodbye call from Renner, who’s casually strolling up the street toward the house where Preston Sturges perhaps once penned a masterpiece. He’s enjoying a cigarette. And whatever thoughts are working their way through his mind post-interview, he’s probably feeling pretty cool with whatever was imparted.

 

taken from FLAUNT magazine 2011

PHOTOGRAPHED BY:JÖRGEN RINGSTRAND
WRITTEN BY:  MATTHEW BEDARD

 

 

 

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