Jeremy Renner is a man in serious need of a cup of tea, a BEX and a good lie down.
For the past two years the Oscar nominated actor has been in high demand, making back-to-back action films (maybe you’ve heard of them: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Avengers). Now in Australia to promote his latest action flick (and perhaps his last for a spell) The Bourne Legacy, Renner might have seemed a little weary, but his passion for getting his character Aaron Cross is still palpable – just read down to where we discuss addiction!
Co-written and directed by Bourne stalwart Tony Gilroy, The Bourne Legacy niftily weaves Aaron Cross into the story of The Bourne Ultimatum, where Bourne’s actions to reveal Treadstone have a crippling ripple effect on the CIA. Edward Norton’s Eric Byer is brought in to clean up the mess, and Aaron winds up in the cross hairs.
I loved that the opening shot is the classic image of Bourne floating in the water – and it strikes me that it works as a helpful metaphor for you, because aren’t so much stepping into his shoes as swimming in his wake?
You can talk theme and metaphors all you want. That’s what I love about these kind of movies. You can alter the perception in someone’s eyes, [and change] what they see. It’s interesting. It doesn’t do anything for me! [Laughs]
I think that’s much more like, “oh cool, you got that,” if you’re Tony Gilroy, the writer-director, because that’s what he’s going for. With the water and what it all means. [But for me] it’s cold. It was freezing! [Laughs] That’s what I was thinking about.
That was another thing I liked about the opening – you get your The Spy Who Came in From the Cold moment, but in your case you were literally freezing! Did that test your metal?
It tested something! That’s for sure. Whether my heart is going to be working – it tested that.
Did you have to get all Bear Grylls?
I don’t know. Cold is cold, man. Some people do that for fun, I suppose. Crazy…Norwegians.
One of the strongest elements of the Bourne franchise is that spy is pitted against spy. And the opening scenes with Oscar Isaac were fantastic in that regard – is that something that gave you access to you the world?
Not so much the spy [world], but just sort of character stuff. That’s like a bomb under the table kind of scenarios. And Oscar Isaac is a tremendous actor. Each character, like Oscar’s character, and Rachel’s [Weisz] all very much informed me on how to dig into Aaron in a different way. Show to the audience kind of how he is and make him accessible. And that was one of [those scenes], [Aaron] was kind of wide open with Oscar’s character.
It strikes me that each generation gets its spy, and Jason Bourne is the James Bond of our time – but what does that say about our era do you think?
What does it say? Maybe our audiences are wanting something a little bit more authentic. And realism is also a form of escapism, because it’s hyper-real. Maybe it’s that. In the land of where flying cars and superheroes...that’s fun and dandy and all, but I think audiences are very smart. Maybe that [authenticity] is what they’re craving. That’s what I’m craving.
That’s interesting because you’ve done it all now. You’ve worked with a who’s who of directors: Kathryn Bigelow, Joss Whedon, Brad Bird, Ben Affleck, Tony Gilroy. But they all have a different and eclectic approach to the action genre – have you picked different reference points on how to create an action film?
I mean I’m not worried about being in an action film. I’m worried about creating a three dimensional character to help the director tell the story. They all work in different ways; we all have different stories to tell. So, each job is specific. Each job is its own set of problems and its own set of solutions. So it’s hard to kind of pick apart.
I remember I first spied you in S.W.A.T – where you stole more than a few scenes from Colin Farrell. Which side of the law do you prefer to play on?
I like to walk right on that fence.
Straight down the line? To keep people guessing…
Yeah [laughs]It’s human isn’t it? I mean every hero should be flawed. It’s very Shakespearean. Every hero should be flawed and every villain should have some sort of empathy or sympathy.
It’s great that you should mention Shakespeare, because I loved the Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead approach to this film’s storyline. Was that an exciting way to be slotted into the slipstream of the Bourne franchise?
That’s been made reference to only three or four or five times maybe throughout this entire press tour. It never came across for me consciously, but yeah – that and [Daniel Keyes’ science fiction short story] The Flowers of Algernon [have been referenced].
The possible analogy is from The Hurt Locker, where war is a drug, and here you’re playing someone who seems strung out on drugs. Walking that line of addiction, is that something that’s interesting for you?
No! It’s about surviving, darling; it’s not about addiction. It’s about not degrading, not falling apart - not dying. It had nothing to do with addiction. It would have been really kind of thin for me if it was. It’s kind of cheap and inaccessible as an audience member to watch someone jones for his next pill because it’s like, “who cares?” It’s more about not dying. He’s got to stay as he was built, or he’ll die.
That certainly makes the stakes much higher.
Yeah. The stakes are much higher. And there’s more accessibility to those stakes. That was one of the big, big things for me with this character, talking to Tony and [I] said, “look this can’t be like, weird, sort of conscious thing: I’ve just got to be smart, I’ve just got to be smart. Who cares? Who cares?! This guy has got to fight for his life.” It’s got to be about life or death. And that was really important to me.
And speaking of life or death, I guess you never really want Edward Norton gunning against you hey?
Well there you go – yeah! No. [Laughs]
He can certainly land a line. And he’s terrifying with regards to the banality of evil I suppose.
Yeah, or the moral conflict. There are certainly no villains or heroes in the movie I don’t think. There are a lot of shades of grey.
It strikes me that fashioning yourself into an action star has got to mean a world of pain. Or do you get any kind of muscle memory between films?
Well it’s not even memory. It’s like ‘wow,’ it’s been back-to-back without a day off for five movies. So it’s been a constant source of preparation for the next movie each day, for two years!
My goodness! You need a nap!
Yeah so now I’m doing nothing.
An obligatory gushing question about your costar Rachel Weisz. Please tell me she is as smart and as awesome as she seems?
Mmmmm…phenomenal. I love her. She’s as good as it comes. She’s tremendous.
And now next you’re playing Hansel [in Hansel & Gretel : Witch Hunters]? A complete departure?
Yeah something different. I don’t know, I haven’t seen it in a while, but I remember it being good fun. I’ve been talking about Bourne for so long. So yeah it’s a lot of fun, it’s a good sort of change from what I’ve been doing.
Are you looking for a change up after two years of back-to-back action films?
Yeah well I’m not doing an action movie, that’s for sure! I’m looking to take a nap!