Jeremy Renner on ‘The Town’, ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘The Avengers’

It looks like Jeremy Renner is quickly becoming the ‘It’ Guy. After making noise with his great work in The Hurt Locker, everyone is itching to work with him.

Here he talked to Speakeasy (a blog on the Wall Street Journal) about his upcoming and current projects: The Town, Mission Impossible and The Avengers.

On The Town:

The Wall Street Journal: You’re from Modesto, Calif.. What did you do to prepare a Boston accent for role in “The Town”?

I was kinda nervous about that. Accents can be a great tool to tell a story—but if you do it wrong, it pulls you right out of the movie. So I was freaking out about it. I was asking for an accent coach, but Ben [Affleck] didn’t want to do that. He kinda just sent me a bunch of ex-cons and prisoners on audio tapes. He said just listen to these guys—I don’t want a polished accent. Once I got to Boston I was hanging out in bars and there was information for me everywhere I looked.

I heard you were a criminology major for a short time at a junior college. Did your major help you prepare for this role?

No, it was one of those things where I was switching majors from computer science and I thought, I’m going to switch to criminology. I quickly found out you have to be like a beat cop and do all this stuff. The most experience I had in the criminology field is playing a thug as an actor. That was my first paid job. The police academy at the college was paying people to reenact the calls that potential cops would get. So I got to play thugs and people who were unruly.

What’s Ben Affleck like as a director?

The guy is so artistically smart. He’s great because of his acting experience—he set a really good tone on the set for his actors and for everybody. He made it very collaborative. It was like an acting class. He loves his actors. He really took care of us.

You worked with Blake Lively in this film, who plays your sister. Do you watch “Gossip Girl?”

I don’t really watch any TV, but she was great. She fought for that role. She deserves it. I didn’t have a whole lot of scenes with her and the stuff we did do didn’t make it to the final cut, but we certainly got to spend a lot of time off-screen together to enhance the depth of our brother-sister dynamic. It was a lot of fun. She’s a smart gal.

On Mission Impossible:

I’ve read that this is a kind of vice-presidential thing, where if Tom Cruise is unable or unwilling to serve in the franchise in the future, you step in.

Well, the limited understanding that I have—I haven’t seen a script—the idea is that if Tom chose to step out of the franchise, this character has the potential to take it over. I haven’t looked that far ahead. I find it interesting. I’m just focusing on this movie and that’s all I can focus on. That’s the intention but whatever the result is I can’t predict. They’re kind of reinventing the franchise a bit. They have their own sort of ideas. That’s also why I like it. I like Brad Bird’s take on “Mission: Impossible.” They’re also not going to number them any more—make it more like James Bond, where they just have names.

Who do you play exactly?

[Spoiler Alert!] It’s kind of like a reveal—seemingly a desk guy working for the secretary who runs the operatives. And things occur and I get thrust into this action and you come to realize that this guy was a pretty kick-ass operative. I can’t speak in detail because I haven’t seen a script. The idea is I become [Cruise’s] right-hand man.

On The Avengers:

What do you know about your character Hawkeye? Have you seen a costume sketch?

I’m blind to all that sort of thing. I know very little about the story. I know a little about the character and how I want to approach it. It’s a very physical character. I’ll be doing archery and training physically as much as I can. Then once I get a script I can dig into the heart of who this guy is.

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