Jeremy Renner Says Taking on 'Bourne Legacy' Is a 'Huge Responsibility'

PHOTO: Actor Jeremy Renner talks with "Nightline" about taking on the lead role in the upcoming film, "The Bourne Legacy."
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Actor Jeremy Renner feels the weight of the "Bourne" franchise on his shoulders, playing the lead role in the upcoming film, "The Bourne Legacy," the first of the series to not star Matt Damon.

"It's a huge responsibility," Renner told "Nightline." "It doesn't change anything, however. If I work 10 days on a movie or I work 100 days on a movie, it's the same amount of commitment."

"The Bourne Legecy," which premieres in theaters nationwide on Aug. 10, is less a hand-off than a lateral. Renner is not playing Jason Bourne, a role held by Damon for the previous three "Bourne" films, but character Aaron Cross, a similarly Bourne-to-be-wild warrior. But it doesn't hurt to go into this box office battle with Renner, a two-time Oscar nominee, as the film's star.

"It's no secret what a massive search we had to find this character," director Tony Gilroy told "Nightline." "You also needed someone who is just bad ass. He just has to be that guy. There has to be a high level of integrity in it and in an interesting way. Jeremy had all those things."

Renner said he was "very conscious" of the fact that being cast in the next chapter of the series would change his life and said he took some time to consider whether or not to take the role.

"I initially was saying no in my head because I had to sort of go through a process, a personal process, with my family and not just jump at the chance," he said. "Because, of course, I wanted to -- this is a Bourne franchise."

Fusing high-octane chases with its building-a-super-soldier back story, "The Bourne Legacy" links Renner's character with a medical researcher, played by Rachel Weitz. Both are on the desperate run from their bent-on-destruction government.

"It certainly is high-speed chess," Renner said. "There is great intelligence to the material."

It's an overdue opportunity for the 41-year-old actor, who starred in "The Avengers" and got a first-rate action apprenticeship from none other than Tom Cruise when he was cast in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." Renner said Cruise told him to have a strong work ethic and prepare for action scenes to avoid getting injured.

Before filming for "Bourne Legacy" began, Renner said he practiced with the film's fight crew.

"You can't fake hand-to-hand stuff. You can't CGI it," he said. "That stuff has to look real authentic and so that's where most of the work went into."

With a few blockbuster films under his belt, it's hard to believe that this northern California native first came to Los Angeles to pursue acting in the early 1990s and struggled to find work. To make some money, Renner worked as a Lacome make-up artist.

"Great job," Renner said. "Kept my whole week free to audition or not audition and then on weekends I'd work a couple days and put make-up on hot girls."

He also said he turned down an opportunity to be a part of a boy band, but wouldn't name names.

Renner first became known for playing a serial killer, the title role, in the 2002 film "Dahmer." He was then cast as bomb expert William James in "The Hurt Locker" (2010), which won the Oscar for Best Picture and put Renner among some rarefied company.

With "Bourne Legacy" now the peak of an unusual movie career, where stars are typically formed in their 20s, Renner can look back without disappointment.

"It becomes a long, long, long, long hike up a big, big mountain and it feels a little bit more precious I suppose at the top," he said. "It's a great -- gratifying, blessed experience to feel."

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