Jeremy Renner speaks exclusively to this month’s Empire magazine about his role in the forthcoming role in The Bourne Legacy. Here's a valuable snippet of his thoughts on his role, plus some tantalising titbits of information about where the franchise is going now...
The actor, who has appeared in the third-biggest movie in history, Avengers Assemble, plays Aaron Cross in the film which runs parallel to The Bourne Ultimatum, just as the events of that film are exploding.
Jeremy Renner has followed Matt Damon into the strange world of Bourne
The Bourne Legacy begins around the time of the death of Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), the Guardian journalist who got wind of Blackbriar, the CIA programme creating perfect killers with behavioural moderation treatment, and was assassinated for his troubles. With a shooting in the centre of London not going ignored, and the resultant actions of Bourne (Matt Damon) and Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) to expose Treadstone and Blackbriar, Bourne and the shadier areas of the CIA have become headline news.
Treadstone and Blackbriar were just a tiny part of a whole web of secret government operations and the exposure of any part of that web threatens to dissolve the whole thing. So Ret. Colonel Ric Byer (Edward Norton), the puppet master pulling the strings of those who thought they were the puppet masters, elects to destroy any loose threads that could cause everything to unravel.
Jeremy Renner and Matt Damon teaming up for the next one - that's the director's dream
This he manages quite well, except when it comes to one agent of the Treadstone-like Operation Outcome, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), and one scientist working on the chemical compounds used to change these operatives’ behaviour, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz). When those two escape and find each other, the entire operation faces a new threat.
Renner’s recent progress has been extraordinary. Until 2008 he’d had indie success playing serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer in Dahmer and small parts in mid-level films like The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford and North Country. But he wasn’t getting any of the big roles.
The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning Iraq War movie, gave him that, and a profile. “That’s not a role that goes to a guy like me,” he says. “That’s a Russell Crowe part or someone like that. But Kathryn wanted to go her way and go small and just pick the right people for the film as she sees it, and I was given an amazing opportunity.”
The film pushed Renner into the realm of ‘hot actors’ and, introduced him to the man who he has now effectively replaced.
“I was at the Academy Awards for The Hurt Locker,” he remembers. “And Matt Damon was sat in front of me. He, funnily enough, had just seen The Town (for which Renner would be Oscar-nominated the following year), because he and Ben Affleck are best buds. I hadn’t even seen it then. So he saw the movie and he was like, ‘Dude! Dude! I saw the movie and it’s so great and you’re awesome!’ So it was a f**king funny introduction, just being at the Academy Awards and having Matt Damon in front of you telling you you’re awesome.”
Renner knew that committing to Bourne would mean putting himself front-and-centre of a blockbuster. “That’s a huge responsibility,” he says, drawing out the word huge. “I had to think about what that would mean for my family, my friends, my personal life. It shifts all those relationships in different ways. We can’t just go have a cup of coffee somewhere. So it affects what they’re doing and I had to consider that.” So how long did he spend considering it? “Oh dude, the length of time I spent considering it was less time than this conversation.”
Asked how Aaron Cross differs from Bourne, Renner chooses his words very carefully. If Bourne’s drive is to find out who he is, then what is Cross’?
“He’s coming from a completely different background to Jason. He knows exactly who he is; he signed up to this... He wants to be part of a team. I can tell you he was in the military then he joined this programme. He’s a person who wants to be part of something. He had nothing going on as a civilian so he became part of this military organisation. He just wants to belong and have a sense of purpose.” He pauses dramatically. “But then it’s taken away.”
All this means that Bourne Legacy is not a new beginning to the series, but a suggestion that the Bourne arc was just a chapter. There’s delight in producer Frank Marshall’s voice as he discusses the possibilities in this. By expanding the world of Bourne to include other programmes, this could open up like a Russian doll for an indeterminate number of films, in turn offering the chance to compete with the longevity of the series’ closest comparator: Bond. “You see there are several different programmes in the movie with different skill sets,” he says. “All possibilities are open. My dream,” he says, “is that in the next one we see Matt and Jeremy team up.”
The full feature and more pictures appear in this month’s issue of Empire Magazine, on sale on Thursday. The Bourne Legacy is out on 13 August.