November 11, 2011 -- Holiday Preview: Jeremy Renner (ew.com)

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Dressed in jeans, a gray sweatshirt, and a black San Francisco 49ers cap, Renner says he wasn't originally supposed to be in Ghost Protocol. A year and a half ago, he was talking to director J.J. Abrams about playing the widowed father in last summer's Super 8 (a part that went to Kyle Chandler). Renner didn't think he was right for the role, so he went back to Abrams' office to say thanks, but no thanks. Before he could, Abrams asked if he'd be interested in Ghost Protocol instead. Abrams, who directed the last Mission: Impossible flick in 2006, is a producer on the new one. He asked Renner if he'd meet with Tom Cruise right away. Before Renner knew it, Cruise and the film's director, Brad Bird (The Incredibles), were pleading with him to join the Impossible Mission Force and pitching him the movie, beat by beat. When they were finally out of breath, Renner told them he loved it. But he had a question: Why him? They said they needed an actor who had three qualities: someone who could be intimidating without looking like he's intimidating, someone who could hold secrets in his eyes, and someone who wouldn't be overpowered by Cruise. ''I went from turning down one movie to getting Mission: Impossible in three hours,'' says Renner, laughing at his dumb luck.

 

When asked why he was so eager to snag Renner for the film, Bird says, ''You're always trying to find the truth of the moment. And when you're doing a film that is more of a popcorn, crazy action movie, you have to find reality in some unreal situations and make them real. Jeremy's one of the few people I can think of who can do that.'' Cruise says he was impressed by something else — Renner's never-say-die tenacity. ''You look at his career and it's a lesson: Don't give up! Talent always wins and passion always wins. This business, you have to deal with a level of validation and evaluation, and he's someone who just kept going.''

 

In Ghost Protocol, Renner plays William Brandt, an IMF analyst who gets thrown in with Cruise's team after a bombing in the Kremlin forces them underground. (Simon Pegg returns as Benji and Paula Patton plays Jane.) Everyone involved in the film is twitchy about revealing more than that, other than to say that Brandt is a wild card whose allegiance may not be what it seems. One thing they will say, though, is that rumors about Cruise's Ethan exiting the franchise and Renner grabbing the reins are dead wrong. ''I signed on for three movies," says Renner. "If Tom wants to do another one, we do another one. It's not about taking over a franchise.''