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Thoughts on Taste: Jeremy Renner

Shaun Tolson

Jeremy Renner is no stranger to on-screen danger. In The Hurt Locker, he played Sergeant First Class William James, the leader of an Iraq-based American Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad; in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, he played Agent Brandt, Ethan Hunt’s fearless and skilled partner; in The Town, he played blue-collar bank robber James Coughlin; and in The Bourne Legacy, he played black ops CIA agent Aaron Cross. But this is just a sampling of the edgy, fearless characters that Renner has brought to life on the silver screen.

When not on a Hollywood set, Renner might be seen speeding around the streets of L.A. on his BMW S 1000RR sport bike, or he could have a gun in his hands, working to improve his marksmanship on the firing range. We tracked down the 42-year-old actor—not always an easy task in itself—and asked him to divulge his favorite pursuits for living dangerously and for just living the good life.

Out of all the characters that you’ve played that have embraced dangerous lifestyles, is there one that you connected with the most?

“With every character, I identify with some part of me to them, otherwise I couldn’t play them. The one that was the closest had to be Sergeant First Class William James in The Hurt Locker.  The main thing was his tenacity and perseverance to do one thing really well, and the sacrifices that you have to make to attempt to do one thing great. I connected to him for my own sacrifices to want to be an actor. That blurred the lines.”

What’s the most dangerous thing that you’ve done off-camera?

“I’ve raced Ferraris at pretty high speeds on the track at Mont Tremblant; and I like to shoot weapons on a range. It’s live ammo, and there are a lot of people around, so any jerk who doesn’t know what he’s doing can make it pretty dangerous. Of course, any time you get on a motorcycle in L.A. is pretty dangerous.”

How do you approach dangerous activities?

“Things that I’m afraid of, I try to embrace. Most fears exist because of ignorance; fear and ignorance go hand and hand. Once you embrace something and learn about something, the fear dissipates. I’m not afraid of guns or weapons anymore, and it’s because I’m very knowledgeable about them.”

Are there any dangerous activities on your bucket list?

“I don’t really have a bucket list necessarily, but there are things that I’ve wanted to do that I haven’t done yet. To fly a helicopter was always a boyhood dream, or to go skydiving. Those are things that I guess you could consider dangerous, but they’re not life-threatening in my mind.

I’ve always had fantasies of wanting to climb Everest for Christ’s sake; but I think I’m getting too old to do that, and I don’t know that I have the time to train for it either. But as a young man, I always thought it would be really cool to do that.” 

How do you like to unwind at the end of a day? What’s your ideal indulgence?

“I smoke a pipe a couple of times a week with a nice cocktail. I love the smell of a pipe, and I love the idea of it; it’s a very Zen thing for me. My grandfather used to smoke a pipe; it’s a smell that brings back very good memories. 

Cigar smoke is very offensive, I think, even though I like the taste of it. But pipe smoke is really woodsy-sweet. It’s almost a leathery cologne. It smells like a sugary wood fire, and that’s what I love about it.”

What’s your ideal cocktail?

“I do have a bar at my house, but I don’t make frou-frou drinks. The one cocktail that I’ll make is Hendricks gin with a splash of soda, a little cucumber, and lime. That’s a very fine cocktail, whatever somebody might call it. But it has to be Hendricks gin.”

Why Hendricks?

“Some gin tastes like turpentine. Hendricks tastes the best, and it isn’t so harsh on the palate. Different spirits create different buzzes, if you will, and some gin makes people crazy. Hendricks doesn’t make people too crazy, I don’t think.”

What’s the most important element of your home bar?

“The most important thing to me is a nice cube of ice—the largest ice cube that will fit in the glass. If you have a really fine spirit, why dilute it with a bunch of crap? A cube of ice is the main thing that I’ll dilute a fine booze with, if anything at all.”

What’s your philosophy on being the host for a party?

“It depends on the type of party that you’re throwing, but you always want kick-ass cocktails or really fine spirits or good beer and good quality wines. A good playlist, too, because music is huge. If there are any duties that you need to do, give them to somebody else so that you can be with people and have a good time.

You don’t want to be running around throwing trays of cheese at people, you want to be with the people. So as long as you have good drinks and good music, you can’t go wrong. Delegate those other responsibilities to someone else. Otherwise, it’s just work; it’s not fun. Enjoy yourself.”

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