Jeremy Renner talks about breaking both of his arms for a game of Tag

Jeremy Renner talks about breaking both of his arms for a game of Tag

Jeremy Renner calls from a medical office. We chat while he’s getting rehab on both arms. “I’m on my back in physical therapy right now,” he cheerily explains over the phone. “I hope you’ll be a pleasant distraction.”

Ironically, the 47-year-old action star didn’t fracture his right elbow and left wrist last summer playing Hawkeye in one of Marvel’s physically demanding Avengers superspectaculars, nor did he hurt himself making one of his violent, downbeat thrillers like Wind River. He was making a comedy that was designed to be a pleasant distraction.

“I screwed them up doing a stunt for this movie, Tag,” Renner admits. “Guess I shouldn’t do dangerous sports like tag. Stay off the playground!”

Tag, which believe it or not is based on a ridiculous true story, comes out this month.

It’s an ensemble piece built around the children’s game, only here it’s played by adults with seemingly limitless money, time and resources to chase one another around the globe for a month every year.

And Renner’s character Jerry seems to be the first among equals, as the guy who’s gone the longest without becoming “It”. The rest of the gang and some significant others are played by Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, Hannibal Buress, Annabelle Wallis, Rashida Jones and Leslie Bibb.

“It’s, like, almost the first Jason Bourne-style tag,” explains the sometime actual Bourne star (he was the protagonist of 2012’s The Bourne Legacy), perhaps by way of rationalizing his injuries. “It’s a true story. There’s a group of guys out there that have been friends since they were nine years old. They keep playing this game — it’s the only reason they have for them to keep getting together and keep their friendship alive, and not get torn apart because of marriage or jobs or relocating. There’s just something inside them that hangs on to this friendship that they’ve had for a long time.” Although the movie is, as Renner indicates, shot through with energetic physical comedy, the guys who have played the actual game for three decades, as explained in a 2013 Wall Street Journal article that became the film’s source material, are much more about devious planning than derring-do these days. Still, there seems to be more sweetness than competition at the heart of both the real game and director Jeff Tomsic’s cinematic interpretation of it.

“The film has this kind of Stand by Me meets The Hangover tone,” says Renner. “It’s a bit more of an action-comedy tone. It was a decent thing to get injured on.”

Although he wouldn’t say exactly what he was doing when his arms got wrecked, Renner was adamant last summer that his condition wouldn’t affect his ability to both complete Tag and return as Hawkeye for the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War, which went into production immediately after his Tag break (no pun intended) and is scheduled to hit theatres next spring.

“I’m not in too much pain,” he insists from the therapist’s office. “I’m working through it. I’m doing everything I should to heal up so I can do my job.”

At least one frequent Renner collaborator sounded more alarmed about his accident, though. “I know that when we film Avengers, our rig team is the best in the world,” notes Elizabeth Olsen, who plays the Scarlet Witch in the Marvel superhero franchise and co-starred with Renner in last year’s acclaimed Wind River. “And Jeremy’s stunt guy on this other movie he was making is a guy who is on our Avengers team. I get swung all over the place on ropes 30 feet up in the air, so it’s really crazy for me to hear a simple rigging thing got that messed up. If something happened to any of the rigs they put me on, I literally would not be here. So it makes me a little anxious.”

Fortunately for Renner, he’s proven himself adept at portraying more than just superheroes, though those do seem to be his bread and butter. His archer Hawkeye, a.k.a. Clint Barton, has been popping up in Marvel movies since Thor came out in 2011, there was The Bourne Legacy a year later and he has a recurring role in the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible series. But the Modesto, California, native has also been nominated for two Academy Awards, for his dramatic work in The Hurt Locker and The Town, and has further established his serious acting credentials with well-regarded performances in such movies as North Country, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Immigrant, Kill the Messenger and Arrival. And Tag is not his first comedy; Renner nailed a hilarious combination of naïve and corrupt in American Hustle and did a memorable guest stint on TV’s "Louie".

Despite all that, Hawkeye is the actor’s best-known role by virtue of the fact that Marvel movies are just so dang popular. And although he’s never been the flashiest Avenger in the universe — Clint even acknowledged in one of the movies that most of the others have superpowers or at least super suits, while all he does is shoot arrows — many fans were disappointed by his absence in and expressed grave concern about Hawkeye’s fate.

Whether or not Renner’s injuries were a factor in that, he remained positive — and funny — about what it all could mean for the character.

“Oh yeah, I’ll be good,” the actor says from physical therapy. “But you know, Marvel is famous for its fallible superheroes, so maybe they’ll write in a Hawkeye with broken wings.”

Tag Hits Theatres June 15th. Watch the trailer below!