- Published: Monday, 25 November 2013 01:02
- Written by coolshades
Best actor nominee says movie was a struggle—but worth it
War may be hell, but Jeremy Renner found that filming a simulated version of it in The Hurt Locker was not much better. His days in Jordan's desert while filming physically and mentally challenged him—and paid off with the ultimate reward: an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 2010. The Iraq War drama about an Army bomb-diffusing team garnered nine Academy Awards nominations, and took home six trophies, including Best Picture, Original Screenplay and Director.
Men's Health spoke to the actor in 2009, shortly before the movie was released about what he learned from his intense experience. Here's what else he had to say.
Q: What was it like filming on location in Jordan and Israel?
The flies in our mouths, those aren't CGI flies. Those are bugs in our mouths as we lay in a hot sandstorm. We were eating sand sandwiches all day. That wind whipping our faces isn't from a fan?that was real wind hitting us. I'm glad [director] Kathryn Bigelow let it be real. But at the time I was bitching and complaining.
Q: Tell me about The Hurt Locker. What was the process of revealing your character, Staff Sergeant William James, an Army bomb-diffusing expert who thrives on the thrill of danger?
It was a rare thing for me to come across. It made me so curious about what made this character tick. I knew the trajectory of what this guy was about because it was a film. I don't think I can ever know him completely, but I had a ball learning and growing with that character because he was fascinating. The circumstances really dictated who he was. We can be defined as human beings by actions because they're a bit more telling than someone verbalizing who they are. Actions speak much louder than intentions.
I read the script when I was shooting the thriller 28 Weeks Later and I just thought, "I want to be shooting this instead." I had such a strong reaction to his character. I'd write three-piece questions, answers and notes. I'd talk to Kathryn on the phone. I connected to him, I guess because he's a classic anti-hero—the type of character I truly love to play.
Generally, I try to play it as honest and truthful as I can—when I portrayed Jeffrey Dahmer [in the movie Dahmer], it was no different. I didn't know a lot about him, which was probably a good thing. I had to delve into what fuels him as a human being, what drives him to do what he does. It makes them more specific.
The same goes for each character I play—I ask questions all the time to make a character sketch. I come up with all sorts of psychological explanations that make sense to me. As long as I can make sense of it, then people can follow the character and do what they want.
Q: What is The Hurt Locker?
The Hurt Locker is a lot of physical and spiritual things. On the set, it just meant the outhouse. But the longer we were there, the more meanings it accumulated: The Hurt Locker could be that bomb suit; a casket; distance from the people you love. It became almost poetic.
Q: Speaking about informing the character: How did the bomb-resistant suit you wore for the role affect you?
It's about 100 pounds, and it was 125 degrees in Jordan, where we shot the movie. You don't think about heat anymore. You certainly lose 30 IQ points. We did a bomb test at Fort Irwin and I was cavalier about it like a jackass, doing jumping jacks, saying "Oh, this isn't so bad. No problem." I shouldn't have. In the suit you can't hear anything—all weight in your body is evenly distributed. Just getting on the ground is arduous, and they had us doing simple exercises like lifting a stack of paperclips. It took me about 20 minutes. There were some other physical tasks we did for about an hour. Then, you take off the suit and go to a chalkboard to do simple math, except you just sit there. You can barely do simple math. You dumb down in this suit.
Apparently I had a very specific walk in that suit. The heat conditions and the surroundings informed everything. In The Hurt Locker, there was no acting. We all trained as much as we possibly could, and there was so much we knew about the characters, but we weren't acting, we were re-acting. We were set up on a square-mile set and we never knew where a camera was. I don't remember learning any of my lines. I don't remember any of that. It wasn't that we were improv-ing the whole thing.
I have never been to war and I never want to go to war. I don't have the courage or the balls to do what these guys do. This movie was as close as I ever want to get. It was really intense and I'm glad it was. I'm glad we didn't shoot on a sound stage in Arizona.
Q: Did it affect your mental state off-screen?
It had a massive effect. The whole movie was the hardest thing I've had to do in my life. I didn't have to deal with death [like real soldiers], but it took a three-month toll. I became a recluse and had a hard time adjusting to home and not being in the Middle East. My girlfriend told me I had dead eyes. I was definitely in The Hurt Locker.