It’s been a blockbusting summer for Jeremy Renner that continues with this week’s release of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, where he stars as right-hand man Agent Brandt. The 44-year-old actor scored a bullseye when he was cast as a reoccurring character in Marvel’s The Avengers franchise. He’ll be on the big screen again as ace archer Hawkeye in Captain America: Civil War next year but it’s often forgotten that he started out as more of a character actor, with intense performances in smaller films, often playing unstable characters. Here’s a list of Renner’s non-Marvel career highlights.
Renner made his breakthrough in this disturbing movie, where he portrays Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious serial killer. Renner’s “convincing, glassy-eyed portrayal” in David Jacobson’s psychological crime horror earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination. His work paid off big time: this is the performance that convinced Kathryn Bigelow to cast him in The Hurt Locker.
Neo Ned (2005)
Renner plays a white supremacist who falls in love after meeting a young black woman (Gabrielle Union) in a psychiatric hospital. She, by the way, believes she is Hitler reincarnated. Could things get any crazier? Though it sounds absurd, this film was a success: Renner won the Palm Beach international film festival’s best actor award for his performance in it. According to Variety, he gives “a captivating performance”, enabling audiences to sympathise with an easily dislikable and difficult character.
North Country (2005)
North Country is based around the first big successful sexual harassment lawsuit in the US. Renner has an important role in the film as Bobby Sharp, a mine worker who targets female staff members and whom Renner considers “kind of a despicable character”. Bonus: Renner very briefly has the chance to show off his singing talent.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Renner is best known for his leading role as Sgt William James in Bigelow’s Iraq war drama. It wasn’t Renner’s first army movie (he played a beleaguered military man in 28 Weeks Later), but it was certainly his most intense. In it, he is the reckless leader of a bomb-disposal team, whose lives he puts in danger. For his efforts, Renner received best actor nominations from the Academy awards, Bafta awards, the Independent Spirit awards and from the Screen Actors Guild.
The Town (2010)
“Welcome to the bank robbery capital of America”: Renner plays a troubled criminal in this crime drama directed by and starring Ben Affleck. He again gets inside the mind of a tough guy and makes him relatable : here it’s “all about brotherhood and loyalty”. He prepared for the role by visiting prisons and drinking beer with ex-cons and picked up another Oscar nomination for the trouble.