The James Clayton Column: Jeremy Renner, Mr Everything
As Jeremy Renner prepares to fill Matt Damon’s empty shoes in The Bourne Legacy, James salutes the actor’s irresistible rise at the multiplex…
One day I’d like to wake up and find myself floating in the sea off the coast of Marseille, completely unable to recall anything of my past life. It’d be nice to open my eyes in an amnesiac daze, drifting on the Mediterranean with no memories to trouble me.
It’d be a sweet chance to start afresh, separated from the attachments of a past identity. After spending a couple of weeks chilling with the fishermen who found me, I’d be on my merry way to collect all the cash and the fake passports in that Zürich bank vault (its number is laser-tagged on a bullet in my back) and from there the world’s my oyster. The set-up of The Bourne Identity is an ideal scenario to contemplate, indeed.
Of course, Matt Damon doesn’t seize the situation in such relaxed style, and instead investigates with extreme zeal in order to find out who he is (or was). Whereas I’d let go and embrace a clean slate, Damon’s character chases up the mystery and seeks to work out why he was floating off the French south coast, why he’s full of gunshot wounds, why he has exceptional combat skills and action hero awareness.
Thus begins the Jason Bourne movie series, and soon, Damon has hooked up with Franka Potente and is dashing around France discovering unnerving things about himself and the clandestine world of international espionage. He should’ve taken the gun from the bank deposit box. Actually, he should’ve just followed my plan, put the past behind him and spent his money on a new adventure that’d establish a happy, innocent new life. How about using the Zürich bank account cash to buy a zoo? Why, Mr Damon, that’s an excellent idea!
Regardless, audiences around the globe could probably do with undergoing the amnesiac affliction experienced by Damon at the beginning of The Bourne Identity ahead of The Bourne Legacy’s release. The new movie is the ‘Bourne film without Bourne’ and even though the title character’s presence is integral to the premise and the events depicted, that presence is going to be an invisible one. In The Bourne Legacy, Damon is playing the omnipresent invisible white elephant. (There was no room for said white elephant in We Bought A Zoo.)
Taking the lead instead, absorbing the viewers’ attention from here and hopefully helping them forget Damon, we have Jeremy Renner playing Aaron Cross. This is good news, because Renner is a captivating screen presence, a top-notch actor and someone who’s capable when it comes to portraying conflicted characters in intense situations.
He’s also emerging as a reliable go-to guy when it comes to working out what to do with franchises whose stars are going elsewhere. Not only is Renner now fronting the Bourne series as it goes forward for without Matt Damon, but it looks likely that The Hurt Locker’s leading man would be the hero of the Mission: Impossible franchise should Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt decide to retire. Renner played IMF operative William Brandt in Ghost Protocol, which did a lot of suggestive work and character building, all of which sets up future sequels perfectly should Cruise not return for more impossible missions.
Renner’s rise as a blockbuster performer has also been aided by his appearance as Hawkeye in The Avengers, which will no doubt spin-off into further sequels and possibly stand-alone adventures for SHIELD’s supreme marksman. Altogether, it’s looking good for our man Jeremy, and I think he should be applauded for completely conquering the multiplex in such subtle, stealthy style.
I also think that he should be crowned ‘Sequel Stringer King of Hollywood’. In this prestigious position he’d be accepted as the first person moviemakers approach any time they seek to make a franchise picture or a sequel. This system would be most effective in cases where the original concept has lost its original star name.
Many franchises would benefit from Renner’s presence and I wouldn’t mind seeing him as an ubiquitous ‘Mr Everything’ figure. Thinking about it, his involvement in potential sequels, prequels and all other sorts of spin-offs could produce brilliant results. Here’s a list of just a few film prospects that could effectively take old concepts further thanks to a little help from the ever-reliable Sequel Stringer King...
It’s quite common in the world of Marvel comics for major characters to fill in for other iconic heroes when they’re temporarily indisposed or have to go into hiding. There’ve been times in comics continuity, for instance, when Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) has been Captain America, and Iron Fist has done Daredevil’s job for him. I can see Renner’s Hawkeye fulfilling the same role and acting as a substitute in Avengers sequels and possible standalone Black Widow flicks when Scarlett Johansson is busy. (She certainly looked liked she had her hands full with Matt Damon and all those animals in We Bought A Zoo.)
It makes sense considering Renner (as Clint Barton) is already familiar with SHIELD’s modus operandi and has all the required specific skills. Plus, I bet Renner will look beautiful in a long red wig and that skintight sable stealth costume.
The veteran action ensemble is getting older, and fresh blood is desperately needed if this franchise is to keep firing in the future. At some point someone is going to cart away Stallone and company and confine them to the Shady Rest Retirement Home with Bubba Ho-Tep and, thus, a contingency plan needs to be implemented. Enter Renner (three years younger than Jason Statham) who’s undoubtedly got all the soldiering abilities and explosives expertise.
It’s also true that if you stare at his face long enough with 3D beer goggles and a very open mind, he looks just like Sylvester Stallone on a good day.
It is my belief that the return of the Home Alone series would make Christmas magic again and Renner would be the perfect man to step into Macaulay Culkin’s slippers for a radical reboot of everyone’s favourite festive funhouse franchise. Renner would, of course, now be playing Kevin McCallister as an adult who unfortunately has left himself behind while arranging his family’s holiday to Dubai.
Luckily, the pyrotechnics knowledge of The Hurt Locker and the criminal insight acquired on The Town come in handy when crooks come a-calling to steal the gifts he’s bought for his kids. Just like Christmas used to be, then, but with considerably more bang.
Renner is going to be a very busy man. If it gets too much, however, he could always hand the Bourne series back to the Matt Damon. At some point soon he’ll have had enough of mucking out that zoo.
You can read James' previous column here.