Bourne Legacy star gives Phl a thumbs-up

Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) - May 1, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ask Jeremy Renner about the Philippines and he will instantly light up, form a slight smile on his face and look back with fondness on the two months he spent in Manila (and in various cities across the country) while filming for The Bourne Legacy early this year.

“The thing that pops out of my brain mostly is the people,” the actor shared during our 10-minute one-on-one interview two weeks ago inside his suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. “The people in the Philippines are… it’s a third world country, the people are in such terrible, terrible poverty in some areas and they always have the big damn smile on their faces.”

“The kids are gorgeous. You’ve never seen more beautiful children — in terrible conditions in some areas, but they always have a smile on their faces.”

It is safe to say that Jeremy was bitten by the famous Filipino smile: The smile that brought Imelda Marcos worldwide fame years ago. It’s the smile that makes Manny Pacquiao’s every victory more meaningful. The same smile that Lea Salonga gives to the world at her every curtain call; the very smile that all our OFW ambassadors share all over the world.

“To me, people make the place. It is not the architecture; it’s not the landscape. The Philippines has the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen in my life. They have such beauty and they have such squalor; very polar in a lot of ways... but the people make it great.”

“The people were really so welcoming; so giving, and they spoke English so well.”

Jeremy met with this writer during the junket for his current movie, Marvel’s The Avengers, which is currently drawing record crowds all over the world and is projected to become the top-grossing movie of all time in the Philippines.

In The Avengers, Jeremy portrays Hawkeye, one of the seven superheroes assembled by Marvel in what this writer consider one of the best superhero movies of all time. He joins a stellar cast that includes Robert Downey Jr. who plays Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as the mighty Thor, and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.

Considered by many to be one of the finest actors working in Hollywood today, Jeremy first donned his rubber suit in a brief cameo in last year’s Thor. He was the first choice by Marvel president Kevin Feige for the part and writer-director Joss Whedon felt he was perfect, too.

“He was Marvel’s idea and my contribution was ‘Good idea!’” Joss told this writer during our own separate interview. “I can’t think of anybody who would be better suited for the role.”

Jeremy brings to Hawkeye a certain character depth that hints at a more explosive past and an unspoken affection for Black Widow, which should excite the core fans of these two Marvel characters. (And to further excite the fan base, Joss revealed his ambitions to give Black Widow and Hawkeye their own movies in the future.)

“There’s no good or bad for me when you play a character,” Jeremy explained on how he approached his character. “Behavior can be perceived as good or bad. If you are doing terrible things, or you a villain, per se, you hope to have some sort of empathy or sympathy for that character otherwise you are just a twisting-moustache bad guy.”

“Same on the other side for a hero: If you’re just a good guy; just do good things, everybody is falling the hell to sleep. Have a guy that’s flawed, a hero that’s flawed. It’s just common Shakespeare 101 or even Greek mythology.”

The 41-year-old actor received critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination for playing a tortured war hero in the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker two years ago. He has portrayed a serial killer and a CIA spy since then.

“These are the characters that I want to play. Heroes, they should be flawed — we call them antiheroes, that’s what I love to play. On the villain side, I have to find some sort of human quality… I have to find a way into this villain, if you will, to be seen as a human. And how do I play these guys? As a human.”

As Hawkeye, Jeremy invested more to his character that what one would expect — even if that would result to him getting injured doing some of his stunts. This dedication was part of the reasons why Joss thought he had the perfect actor for the role.

“You know, you don’t hire Jeremy Renner to play Hawkeye and then just say, ‘Go, carry a bow,’” Joss said. “You’ve got to find what makes him tick and you’ve got to find what he can do that no one else can do.”

Jeremy’s career is on a roll. After The Avengers, he is destined to become a bigger movie star because The Bourne Legacy is expected to also do very well when it opens in theaters a few months from now.

The only drawback of becoming famous is the level of recognition and public scrutiny an actor usually gets but Jeremy is already getting used to it that when he was in Manila, he was no longer surprised when almost everybody knew who he was.

“That’s a strange thing anywhere you go,” he noted. “Over there (in Manila), it was really strange. It was really intense.”

But in Manila, he turned the table somehow and he got to become a fan himself when he met two of the biggest Filipino superstars in the world: Manny Pacquiao and President Noynoy Aquino.

“I got to meet Manny Pacquiao — it was awesome!” he exclaimed. “I also got to meet the President and it was cool. He was a lovely guy. He talked about the infrastructure because there was a lot of traffic over there, lots of people.”

“Sorry for all the traffic, sorry for all the traffic,” Jeremy repeatedly said when asked if he had any message for the Filipino people. “We were like shutting down the streets. I was like, ‘Oh, they hate us, they hate us,’” he recalled.

But he knew, by looking at the people and their ready smiles, that somehow, the city didn’t really hate him. While in Manila he said he tried the local food, like adobo (“It was really, really terrific!) but declined to eat balut (“I didn’t do that. I am not too adventurous with food. Some duck egg thing? It wasn’t my style.”).

He was quick to add that he is only less adventurous with food but in other areas, especially his career, he is on a constant adventure.

“Satisfaction? I don’t know if that is the right word. I feel like that ties in to complacency. I love to work. I get more opportunities to work — to learn, to grow. I am insatiable.”

As we wrapped up the interview, he said he would welcome the chance to return to Manila to promote his movie. He also told this writer that he and his friends already have tickets to Manny’s next fight.

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