All of that consistency leads one to believe that Renner is either incredibly private and on message or that the art of interviewing has become a little unimaginative. As it turns out, it’s the former: Renner is skilled at appearing to reveal a lot while protecting his private life.
That’s not to say, however, that Renner’s personal life is totally off-limits, even if the glimpses behind the curtain haven’t always been his choice. He’s had dalliances with celebrity tabloidism — TMZ was on top of the death of his dog for a reason, after all. There have been reports of romances with starlets, including Jessica Simpson and his Avengers co-star Scarlett Johansson (all of which he’s denied). And there were the stories about his raucous, star-studded 40th-birthday party last year. But even in the midst of it all, Renner has stayed decidedly out of any real gossip maelstrom. He lets it all pass by while still maintaining a mysterious edge. And there’s something about him that makes you feel like he’s constantly weighing the import of what he’s about to reveal.
“I’m pretty candid about what people want to talk about, but if I find things to be too personal, I don’t talk about it,” he says.
What he will talk about is his family. Despite his closeness with his parents and four younger siblings, he admits that their relationship became strained after he’d decided to try acting but was struggling to break through. His family, who all still live in Modesto, 300 miles and a world away from Los Angeles, didn’t understand the journey he was on.
“The blinders of a small town — there’s safety in that,” he says. “They were in the safe zone in the Central Valley, going to 9-to-5 jobs. They didn’t know the artist’s plight, and I didn’t know how to explain it to them.”
He didn’t know how to explain to them that he was, for a time, so broke that he couldn’t afford to pay his electricity bills and was living by candlelight. (And he certainly didn’t know how to explain it to women: “You try to put a positive spin on it, like, ‘Hey, this is so sexy — look at all these candles!’ ” he recently joked to Details.)
In 1998, his father went to the set of Renner’s first pilot to watch him shoot. It was day three of filming, and Renner had been training extensively to play an Olympic gymnast. But before he could film his pivotal scene, producers decided he looked too young for the part, and his role was recast. He was once again out of work.
Rather than force the wedge even further between them, however, Renner says that was a turning point in their relationship.
“I remember being there and my dad not being quite sure of what was happening, but for him to be a part of that process and be around for that event was really kind of monumental,” he says. “I was being fired for something where I didn’t do anything wrong. That was sort of the big change where they started to understand how strange the business was and learned as I was learning. And then it became a lot easier to talk about what I do.”