Q&A: 'Hurt Locker' Star Jeremy Renner's True Grit
Posted: 07/03/09 10:48AM
Filed Under: Film
By SORAYA ROBERTS
In an era overrun by brooding action stars like Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner is a throwback. The all-American break-out star of Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (and TV's The Unusuals) is as ruggedly masculine and intrepid as the Hollywood heroes of the 50s. Renner has the same swagger and unapologetic confidence as John Wayne, minus the non-PC politics - he's even played a cowboy (in The Assassination of Jesse James).
And what would an old-school action star be without a war movie to hang his hat on? In Hurt Locker, Renner plays Staff Sergeant William James, the new leader of a highly-trained bomb disposal team in Iraq. His subordinates, Sgts. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), consider him reckless and attempt to control him while the city descends into chaos.
Sgt. James is the iconic war hero – that soldier who walks towards danger, while everyone else shrinks away from it. In the wake of unpopular Bush-era films about the Iraq war, an action star like Renner, who can rise up like a phoenix from those celluloid ashes, is the consummate symbol of "change" in Hollywood.
AOL spoke to the Hurt Locker star during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival about shooting in the Middle East, the bomb defuser's space suit ("Inside it's very peaceful, actually") and why he has gone back to television.
How did you find a balance between cocky and sympathetic for Staff Sergeant William James?
You're talking about results - those are things that I can't play as an actor. All I can play is what drives the person.
How did you know what drives him?
He's a fascinating character because of a lot of things you don't know. You can make up your own answers. I have loads of answers but I'm not giving them to you, that's for the audience. If I can create a performance that someone can care about without having to spell it out, then I think I did my job.
Did you talk to many bomb defusers? What were they like?
They're all pretty nerdy. They're all really smart brainiacs. You kind of have to be because in this suit you dumb down about 20 IQ points. The longer you spend in it the dumber you get.
What was difficult about shooting in the Middle East?
Ev-ery-thing. There was nothing easy about this job. Even getting food, the flies wouldn't even land on the food. The flies would cruise on by, look at the food and just keep on going. Everyone got sick. It was also hot.
Were people questioning you, as Americans, doing an Iraqi film?
It depended on where we were shooting. In the city [Amman, Jordan] it's very westernized for a Middle Eastern country. But sometimes we were shooting in Palestinian refugee camps. They'd see tanks roll by and they didn't know what was going on. Then we kind of took over towns, I feel kind of bad about that.
Some of the kids would hammer nails into two by fours and they'd go four stories up and drop them on us. I had a bomb suit on so at least it bounced off my helmet. It nearly hit Kathryn [Bigelow], though. But it's really harmless. Most of the people were very generous and welcomed us into their homes and treated us with the utmost respect.
Were you worried about Hollywood's Iraq film fatigue while making this movie?
No, I think this movie separates itself from those. Not that those are bad at all, I just think this is a story about three characters who do a real interesting job. It just happens to be in Iraq. It could be about bull riders for all I care - people with interesting dangerous jobs and why they choose to do what they do. And it's a great action movie - Kathryn rocks this thing out.
You're currently working on 'The Unusuals' for TV. Why did you decide to return to the small screen?
The Hurt Locker put me in the hurt locker - I was really kind of done with travelling. It made me ask a lot of questions about myself so I wanted to stay put for a while. I jumped on a show with some really great actors and maybe I can stay in a place for longer than three months.
It gives you time to reflect.
Just a minute, yeah. Just sustaining a relationship would be great.
The Hurt Locker premieres July 10 across Canada. To read Moviefone's interview with Anthony Mackie, click here.