Not widely known until just a couple of years ago, actor Jeremy Renner has used his Oscar nominations for both “The Hurt Locker” and “The Town” to springboard into high-profile roles in a slew of Hollywood blockbusters – “The Avengers”, “The Bourne Legacy”, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” and – of course – next month’s heavily-anticipated “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” opposite Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and Tom Wilkinson. I recently sat down at a roundtable discussion with the actor to talk about the latest entry in the long-running franchise, this one being helmed by acclaimed animation director Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant”, “The Incredibles”, “Ratatouille”).
Of course, Renner probably never expected at the time he signed on that he’d nearly be losing his lunch on one of the world’s biggest movie stars.
“It”s one of those things, like if you, you know, if you get hit by a bus and you didn”t know it, that”s one thing. But if you see the bus coming and you can”t, you get paralyzed and you can”t move, and you just watch it come at you – it”s one of those things,” he said of filming a scene in which he was forced to partially dangle outside a window in the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. “Tom is out there, running around, doing his thing all over the building. And we”re just standing there, sort of by the edge, and that is more terrifying. And then once I hung out, 30 seconds of near vomiting almost happened. …Tom was laughing, he”s hanging upside down; he”s all red faced and he”s like, ‘Look at this view!’ I”m like, ‘What are you talking about? I”m gonna vomit on you.’
“But once that went away,” he continued, “it was like, ‘This is beautiful.’ I mean, it was just – it was fantastic. And once all the fear went away and all that stuff, it became, you know a really amazing experience. But before that, the anticipation of it all was terrifying.”
Now if you don’t mind me backing up for just one second, I also, like Mr. Renner, have a half-fantastic/half-terrifying “Ghost Protocol”-related experience to share with you…
In anticipation of the roundtable, I was invited to screen a few different scenes from the film at the IMAX headquarters in Santa Monica last Sunday. Showing up at the agreed-upon time, I found myself puzzled by the lack of other people around, particularly people I recognized (these screenings are often populated with journalists from various other outlets who you come to know by doing this for long enough).
Not only that, but I wasn’t greeted in the normal way – you know, by a smiling publicist with gleaming white teeth sitting in front of a clipboard and a stack of press notes. No, see, there was almost complete silence in the IMAX lobby as I took a seat on one of the plush chairs and, unnerved, began fiddling with my iPhone as the other four people inside – three men and one woman, all talking somewhat apprehensively a few feet away – looked at me with puzzled expressions.
Was I in the right place? Well, surely, I thought to myself. After all, there was a giant “Ghost Protocol” standee just behind me, and this was the correct address…
Suddenly, one of the men stood up and walked over to one of the windows at the other end of the room – the soft glow from the afternoon light outside highlighting his decidedly anxious facial expression.
Are they here yet? One of his companions asked quietly.
No, not yet, he replied.
And that was when I began to get really nervous. I looked over to the man who had first barely greeted me as I walked in the front door as if to say: Just what have I stumbled into here, sir, and how in christ’s name do I get out of it? And yet, just like everyone else there, he wasn’t looking at me anymore – his gaze turned toward that front window, waiting, searching…for what?
I stood up and attempted to mingle. Everyone else had gotten to their feet, almost as a unit. Two of them introduced themselves to me and asked where I was from.
“HitFix,” I replied. “I’m from HitFix.” There was an odd sense that I was simultaneously reassuring myself by speaking the words aloud. They both nodded courteously at the name and then went quiet.
Suddenly, a car pulled up. Postures stiffened. I was frightened, quite honestly. I felt the urge to run and hide someplace. Everyone began moving, almost uncertainly, toward the glass front doors. I stood frozen in place, staring through them into the gray afternoon outside…
He appeared then, moving to open the door – smiling, of course, with that big, famous grin of his. Tom Cruise. Not just Tom, but Katie Holmes too, entering the lobby and then greeting each and every one of us in turn.
“Hi, I’m Tom,” he grinned at me as he approached and stuck out his hand. “Chris,” I said back, somehow afraid that he might suddenly turn on me and begin, I don’t know, screaming in my face and asking for my legal ID or something. Through the haze of my confusion, I began to wonder what, exactly, were Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes doing at the IMAX headquarters on a Sunday afternoon for a screening of only a few minutes of film, a film that he was in and had produced and that surely he’d already seen?
Katie, wearing a black dress and heels, impossibly tall, came up and introduced herself too, and I could’ve sworn a hint of recognition flashed across her face as we met eyes. Perhaps she remembered me from the “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” junket? If she did, would she say that she did? Would I be found out – me, an intruder who clearly didn’t belong in this place at his particular moment in time?
But then just as quickly she turned her back and began listening to Tom, who with a few simple words had drawn all attention in the room. We all laughed, I think, at the things he was saying, with that famous smile and that youthful, glowy complexion, though I couldn’t quite register all of it as I stood in complete bewilderment. This went on for a bit; we laughed some more. And then, just as quickly, we were being ushered into a nearby screening room.
I entered the black space as if in a daydream, shuffled along by the people who were now all clearly IMAX representatives, bewildered but seemingly hopeless to stall the forward motion of what was happening.
As I stepped inside and stared up at the rows of stadium seating, Tom asked where the best seat in the house was, and was quickly informed that third row, center was his best bet. I stood there, dumbly, in a half-circle of people I didn’t know, and then Tom started talking again, aggressively, asking questions of a man with a gray beard who had emerged as the spokesperson for the group.
How many IMAX screens will we be sharing with ‘TinTin’? he wondered, and How many total IMAX screens are there, anyway? and other such things. Question after question, in a blur, and I felt a sort of numb concern for the man fielding them, though I was secretly glad that it wasn’t me. Tom stated his belief, at one point, that IMAX was the future of cinema, or something of that nature, though someone reminded him that at $18 a ticket seeing a film in the large-screen format was currently out of reach for many American families. He nodded in agreement.
The conversation veered into 3D at one point, too, and Katie said something, once, just as she began fiddling with her long, brunette hair. A mention of Suri not liking the glasses.
And then with a word from Tom the conversation ended; he was ready to watch the film. As he and Katie turned to take their seats, I looked over at the man next to me, and, whispering guiltily, asked if they would be screening the entire film. He said yes, and then – resisting the urge to simply nod my understanding and promptly take a seat in the front row – I finally spat out the words I’d been meaning to say for so long but hadn’t quite been able to muster: “I think I’m in the wrong place.”
And I was; the press screening had been moved to 7 PM, only I’d been accidentally dropped from the email list and thereby hadn’t been informed. This was Tom and Katie’s own private show, see, and I’d crashed it through no fault of my own. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty at my luck (?) as I stepped back out into the dim light of the late afternoon, halfway thankful to have successfully extricated myself and halfway cold at having had my close proximity to the famous couple cut off so abruptly.
But hey, this thing is supposed to be about Renner, isn’t it? Silly me. Allow me to pick back up where I left off…and please, forgive the digression.