Jeremy Renner had an incredible role model for his first large-scale action movie, he tells Steve Pratt.
OSCAR-nominated actor Jeremy Renner had help preparing for the action scenes in the latest Mission Impossible film from someone used to doing his own stunts – Tom Cruise.
“We treated the job of doing stunts as if we were athletes – we would ice our bodies like football players do,” he explains. “You have to be really on top of your game physically, just so you don’t get injured, because it can get very expensive for the production if you have to shut something down because you get hurt.
“Tom got me on a really great programme to stay in shape, but more importantly, he taught me how not to get injured. That was the best advice I got from him, which continued on all the way down to Bourne.”
That’s Bourne as in the movies starring Matt Damon. Except the next instalment will star Renner, who won Oscar nominations for The Hurt Locker and Ben Affleck’s thriller The Town.
Renner takes over from the leading role in the fourth film in the franchise, The Bourne Legacy. Despite the title, it won’t actually feature Damon’s character Jason Bourne. Instead, Renner reportedly plays Aaron Cross, an operative from a covert Government programme.
What with Bourne and playing Hawkeye in the superheroes action movie The Avengers, due out next year, Renner is becoming something of an action man.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol sees him as Brandt, who learns to be a field agent from Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. The Hollywood superstar taught him a thing or two about doing stunts on screen.
“I think he might have an iron stomach or something – he’s fearless,” says Renner of his costar.
“He really set a high bar on how to approach a movie like this. It’s like being a 14-year-old boy in the back yard playing. When do you get to do this as an adult? The opportunities are amazing. It was really, really fun.”
MI4 sees lone wolf Hunt forced to work as part of a team.
When a bomb goes off at the Kremlin, the Impossible Missions Force are blamed and the President initiates Ghost Protocol, effectively making the agency defunct.
Without any resources, Hunt tries to clear the agency’s name and prevent a nuclear attack, while leading a group of fellow IMF fugitives whose motives aren’t entirely clear.
Hunt is particularly suspicious of Brandt, an analyst pen-pusher with some rather surprising skills.
“There’s definite friction between the two characters and it does get heated,” says Renner.
The big budget film took the cast around the world, from Russia to India, via Dubai. Having made his name with his performance as a bomb disposal expert in Kathryn Bigelow’s film The Hurt Locker, 40-year-old Renner was wowed by the epic quality of making an action movie.
“The scale of what we were doing was huge, there were so many people on this film. It was a small city essentially, travelling around the world, shooting this thing,” he says.
Renner watched in awe as Cruise pulled off his most spectacular stunt to date at the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, as Hunt scales the outside of the 828m building using suction-powered “gecko gloves”. Compared to that scene, Renner’s later stunt where he throws himself down a fan shaft must have seemed a doddle.
“You know, I figured anything I was doing was a fraction of what Tom was up to, so when I was watching him do his stuff, I shut up, listened and learned,” he says.
The team of four – completed by Paula Patton’s agent Jane Carter – had to endure months of training with a stunt co-ordinator to build themselves up for the fight scenes.
As hard as he tried, there were inevitably knocks and bruises. “If you don’t get banged up then you aren’t working hard enough. When you’re in a lot of fights, swinging punches and getting thrown to the ground 15, 20 times in a row, you get hurt.
You just have to keep going.”
Renner was picked by producer Cruise and director Brad Bird, making his feature film debut after working on Oscar-winning animations The Incredibles and Ratatouille.
He went to meet them at the imposing Paramount offices in LA.
“There was no script, so they had to talk me through the movie and what the part was all about. During the meeting, I think I tuned out.
Their mouths were just moving and I was sitting there thinking, ‘this is so awesome, I’m in a room with Brad Bird, Tom Cruise and thinking about doing this movie’ “And they’re like, ‘yeah, it’s going to be great’ and I said, ‘yes, it sounds great, now I’m outta here, see you guys later’. Then I called Tom about 15 minutes later and said, ‘yes, of course I’d like to do it’.”
BUT he’s humble about his burgeoning career. “I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know what the reaction’s going to be.
But I’m having a good time doing them, that’s for sure,” he says. “I’m certainly not abandoning what I’ve done in the past. I’ll always continue to do small, interesting movies, that’s important to me.”
Right now, he just wants to have a holiday after doing five movies in a row. “I want to take a break and get some footing back to have the energy to go out and do the next job. It stresses me out to think far ahead and Mission is the most important thing to me right now.
“There are loads of things I’d like to do. I’d like to go fishing, I’d like to sit and eat a hamburger and do nothing. But we’ll see what comes.”
• Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (12A) opens in cinemas on Boxing Day.