Jeremy Renner is not one to shy away from a challenging role. In what may be some of his best work to date, the actor plays journalist Gary Webb in “Kill the Messenger,” which he also produced.
Renner recently sat down with The Source Magazine to discuss his work in bringing the real-life drama to the big screen. “Kill the Messenger” hits theaters October 10.
Jeremy Renner: Now Jeremy, correct me if I’m wrong: This is your first film working as a producer.
Jeremy Renner: Yeah!
Why this film? Why would you say that Gary Webb’s story is an important one to tell?
Jeremy Renner: Well, it represented–this movie, because I got it in script form–it represented a lot of movies that the company wanted to put out there. These are stories that aren’t easy to tell, you know, and not unlike the Hurt Lockers and Towns, and things like that–movies I really enjoyed doing but, that work isn’t around, studios don’t make those movies. For that reason it was important. And also, there’s a lot of personal ties that I have and my belief systems that are kind of within that, in Gary Webb’s story. I like everymen and extraordinary circumstances, and David and Goliath sort of themed stories. And it’s a true story. And this really happened. It happened 70 miles from where I grew up and I knew nothing about it. And I thought, Oh, wow, okay, there’s a real reason to go do this now.
Well, touching on that, Gary Webb is not a fictional character.
Jeremy Renner: Right.
He is a very real person who, not too long ago, dealt with intense public scrutiny and, in 2004, committed suicide. For you as an actor, is there an added pressure to portraying someone who is a real person as opposed to a fictional character, especially someone from the, you know, very recent past?
Jeremy Renner: I don’t know if there’s added pressure. There’s, you know, easier parts of it because you have a lot of information about someone who existed or exists. But you’re also limited to what those truths are, so I can’t just say, Oh, he laughed at these things; he thinks that’s funny. I have to stick to truths that I know; it’s not unlike investigative journalism, you have to go out and dig for the truth. Some things are easy for me to find because he exists, and then, I couldn’t vary too far from those things. I had to piece together what I can piece together for him as a fully realized human being, you know.
Did you meet with Gary’s family at any point?
Jeremy Renner: Yes I did. I met with them probably the last week of shooting. Prior to anything else though, I had no contact with them. I know a lot of people like Rosemarie DeWitt who played Sue, she spoke with her, and Peter Landesman the Writer. I didn’t want to get involved in that; it might’ve been my own sort of feelings about how I might drudge up some stuff I didn’t want to drudge up for them.
How did meeting them go?
Jeremy Renner: It was pretty emotional–cathartic, difficult, uncomfortable, sweet, amazing. It became a very personal story to me after spending so much time in his skin and his shoes, especially the family element of it. That I loved the most.
What is the one thing you hope audiences take from your portrayal of Gary?
Jeremy Renner: I hope that they were invested enough to be angry or to be happy, or to feel something they didn’t feel before they bought that ticket; to think something that they didn’t think before they bought that ticket. I think there’s a huge value in that in cinema; going to see a movie on the big screen, and spending $11 or whatever it is nowaday to go see a movie and you can walk away with like, Wow, you felt something, maybe you learned something, maybe you–something. A bit of argument, debate, conversation, it’s a pretty amazing thing. That would be a big victory for me.