- Published: Tuesday, 19 November 2013 04:50
- Written by coolshades
Jeremy Renner is more desk agent than field agent as William Brandt in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, but he gets to see more than his fair share of the action.
Here he spills the beans on what it’s like to be part of a big Hollywood franchise and what it’s like to work under Tom Cruise as the director and star.
How were you offered the role of Brandt?
I met up with Tom Cruise and Brad Bird and Bryan Burk, one of the producers.
They all had their own sort of take on what the movie was and gave me a general sense of everything and why they wanted me to be a part of it.
I couldn’t say no. I mean I was a fan of Tom and the franchise. With the machine of Paramount behind it, the great support system that they give, and then Brad Bird sealed the deal for me; I love his movies. There was no reason not to do it.
Would you say Brandt is a new kind of Mission: Impossible agent?
Yeah, definitely a new character. I think every character in this movie is new.
Even though Pegg was in the last one, his character has grown and continued on to be a field agent—not a guy behind the scenes.
There are so many things that are so different; I don’t want to draw a comparison to any of the other Mission movies. It being a Mission: Impossible is the only thing it has in common with the previous films – that and Ethan Hunt are the through-lines here.
There is great conflict and drama and a sense of humour within all the characters: That’s what separates it.
Of course it has the big action set pieces, and Mission: Impossible is known for those big action set pieces, but this has things even bigger and more intense and now it’s partially shot in IMAX, which is really more immersive visually.
But there’s time and care spent on the characters, as much as you possibly can in a big, fun popcorn movie like this so you get invested hopefully and then the ride becomes even more fun.
With Simon Pegg also having a much larger role, this looks like a much more playful kind of Mission: Impossible…
Yeah, certainly, but it balances it out because there is a bit of drama too when we’re yelling at each other and want to kill each other, and then there’s times that the intensity is so high.
But it’s good to undercut it with a little bit of realism. You know, maybe Tom Cruise’s character would be asking me to do this stunt and I kind of question it, like “Why do I have to do it, get somebody else to do it.”
What is it like working with Tom Cruise on this franchise? He is so much more than just its star. As a producer he is instrumental in bringing each new sequel together?
He is very inclusive, he makes you part of every stage of the process. I never felt left out in the cold.
I always felt like it was a collaborative effort, which is a wonderful thing to be a part of. You get to learn a lot and I learned a lot about him as a person. He couldn’t be more generous and giving of his time. But he also sets a really high bar that challenged me as an actor, and as an athlete.
He got me into a really great physical programme that obviously he’s been on, got me in the right mind set to be able to do the things I needed to do.
He would bend over backwards, do anything for any of his actors to make this the best experience, the best it could be, and I think he’d do it for anyone.
I certainly felt singled out, even though I know I wasn’t. He makes you feel that way. And Tom, he’s really, really gregarious and generous with his time. He just makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room.
How would you say this Mission: Impossible is bigger than the other ones?
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. You could make this a really intimate story as well and I think it’d be fantastic.
But this one has a big scale, and the places we go and the things we’re doing, the action set pieces were big, like the Burj Khalifa.
That’s a really big set piece. And the story, the scale and the stakes are really high, much higher than they have been in the other ones. IMF is shut down, it’s coming at it from a whole other angle. How do you get bigger than this?
With Tom Cruise so invested in the realism, doing stunts himself — including climbing up the side of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world — did you feel you had to do your own stunt work?
Absolutely, and he pushes you to do it too. There was the opportunity to do so many things physically that I’ve never done.
I had to get into really, really great shape and I was doing Filipino Stick Fighting and I didn’t know what that was and muay thai (a combat sport). I’m doing it for five hours a day, fighting, training and then doing all this stuff on a wire. I’ve never done anything on a wire prior to this and it was really great fun. I got to learn a lot.
That’s what makes the Mission: Impossible films wonderfully old-fashioned because they’re all the extremes of the real world, not green screen and computer effects. You’re going to go up the Burj Khalifa, and that reality sells it to an audience…
Right, right, the whole reality of it, and we’re all doing it. There is fantasy in it, in the circumstances of the plot: the Kremlin blows up, people die and their world’s ending.
But it is tied in with the reality of what we’re doing, and that is the great ride, the roller-coaster ride that hopefully we take the audience on for two hours.
It’s a really terrific film because of that sense of reality, the humanness of the characters. I know that when I go to the cinema, whether it’s a big movie or small movies, I’m an audience member too. I need to connect with somebody, or care about somebody or hate somebody. I need to get in there and I feel like they did a really great job with this one.
How much is this Mission: Impossible focused on being a team game with Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt as their leader?
They’re always going to have that kind of Tom Cruise stamp on them because he’s a force to be reckoned with, but he was adamant about it being a bit more of a team, a crumbling team or terrible team or wonderful team, whatever we end up being or not being…
He certainly wanted it to be a bit more of a collective than him just going on this journey and the audience following. Now it’s a little bit more splintered out.
With his background in animation what does a director like Brad Bird bring to a Mission: Impossible film?
It was definitely new for him, but you didn’t feel it from where I was standing.
He certainly is gregarious. You never know with a guy doing animation, who sits in an editing bay all da. You don’t know if he’s going to have any personality or he could be just sort of a half freak.
But when you meet him, he’s the funniest guy in the room, and loving, thoughtful, and smart as a whip.
He’s the guy who led the charge for us. I don’t know what his weaknesses were coming from animation, but I know his strengths for sure were what he put into his animated movie: the sense of character, the sense of drama and comedy that comes from those characters, the setting, the tone, the shape and the feel of the movie.
You feel that this is a Brad Bird movie. You feel he is at the helm of this thing and he’s a great human to be around.
Did you notice him borrowing a few tricks from his own animated spy movie The Incredibles?
I certainly felt like there’s a lot of The Incredibles in this movie. You definitely feel like you can take the last Mission: Impossible, The Incredibles and maybe a little Ratatouille and throw that against the wall then you get Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
We’re in a shape-shifting political universe now, in terms of who are the potential villains. How easy is it to make a spy movie in 2011?
We don’t want politics to get involved. It’s just sort of bad guys are bad guys, and it doesn’t matter what country they’re from.
But there’s also the technology factor where in the IMF there’s all these gadgets. In movies in the 70s there’s no cell phones. If there’s a bad guy coming round the corner you can’t just call the police, but now there’s technology for everybody.
So you have all this technology, but they undercut it in this movie where the gadgets don’t really work properly or they malfunction so there are a lot of fun things they did to keep it sort of updated but still realistic.
Did you have a lot of kind of technical dialogue?
Yeah, yeah I had a bit of that here and there. That was a little bit more Benji’s character Simon Pegg. He’s more the tech guy, I had to do more of the story plot point stuff.
Are you tech-savvy yourself?
I guess I’m aware, but I wouldn’t call myself savvy.
You’re currently shooting a Bourne film. How does it compare to Mission: Impossible?
They’re very, very different pieces of cinema, both meant to entertain.
Mission’s a bit more fun, more smiles in it, it’s a popcorn movie. They’re obviously both spy movies but very different, Bourne’s never been on a mission, you know what I mean? You never see him do spy-work at all. He’s always running for his life and that’s kind of what that thing is in a sense.
How far along are you with The Bourne Legacy?
I’m halfway through, I finish that at the end of February.
Do you consider The Hurt Locker as your breakthrough?
That was a major factor. Within the Hollywood community there’s been an awareness, to be involved in any of these movies is because of that.
Obviously they want a good actor, but they also want someone that they know can carry a movie and The Hurt Locker was a great example of I guess carrying a movie. A role like in The Hurt Locker usually goes to guys like Russell Crowe.
They don’t usually go for guys like me, so that was a great opportunity.
The Hurt Locker and The Town showed you as a character actor, and now you’re working on some very strong franchises. Is there any tension between wanting to do great character roles and then literally you’re on the run in these action films?
It’s more difficult, especially in the kind of Mission movie. It’s a bigger spectacle, a fun ride.
Most of the challenges are physical challenges, not the challenge of the role or really of the drama or the character.
Was The Avengers fun to make?
It was a lot of fun. Mission was a massive movie then The Avengers came round, and that’s a huge movie.
There are all these superheroes in it, passing a baton between superheroes There’s a lot of fighting! But that should be a big, fun movie.
It’s a whole other world. We’re dealing with other worlds, and other things like Thor and all. Mission has got that more, I’m not going to say it’s the most grounded movie, but it’s got a sense of realism to it.
We’re climbing that building. We’re doing these things. The circumstances might be fantasy but you know we’re doing real s**t. And when it comes to The Avengers that’s a bit more fantasy.
Surely one of the great pleasures of Mission: Impossible, like the old Bond films used to offer, is the chance to go round the world?
For Mission, we had some Moscow, we were in Prague, we were in Dubai, we were in Mumbai, and then Vancouver.
Most of those were splinter units, the main unit, main, main stuff was in Prague, Dubai and then stagework in Vancouver. They had a race sequence over in Mumbai real quick and then did a week somewhere in Moscow.
What is it like at the top of Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world?
It is twice the size of The Empire State. It’s surrounded by proper skyscrapers with 70 floors. There’s a lot of big skyscrapers round there, but they look like little Lego. Like a little model of the city down below you. It’s actually a beautiful building, and I hear they’re building one that’s going to be bigger than that in Saudi Arabia.
How are you with heights?
I’m okay with heights. I’ve been asked this question a lot lately. I’m not afraid of heights, I’m afraid of the jerk behind me wanting to push me off! Or the gust of wind blowing me off the edge, but the height itself, it ain’t a big deal.
It’s like standing on this coffee table and looking down.
How far out did you have to go?
Tom was out there on a couple wires, doing the harness work. He was laying back and I’m supposed to catch him, and I’m exposed to my lower groin.
I’m connected by a belt with a wire and I have to trust this wire is not going to break. If it’s not, if I don’t have that wire, I’m a goner.
Doing that the first time was a bit nauseating for about 30 seconds. After taking deep breaths, and triple-checking, quadruple-checking my wire is safe, I felt that I was like “Woo, this is awesome.”