Jeremy Renner’s secret hobby: He flips houses for big bucks

Even though Jeremy Renner has solidified his place in Hollywood with starring roles in "The Avengers" and "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" — not to mention his Oscar nomination for "The Hurt Locker" — he's still keeping his day job. The 41-year-old actor has been making a mint flipping more than 15 homes in the Los Angeles area since 2002. His latest project? A Beverly Hills mega-mansion he bought at an IRS auction and has spent the past year completely gutting. When he's all done with renovations, Renner plans to list the 11-bedroom property for at least $25 million. "I'm very lucky," he says in the August issue of Esquire. "I could have pretty easily been driving a forklift."

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Renner, who next stars in "The Bourne Legacy," first got into flipping homes a decade ago after he signed his first-ever studio contract for the crime thriller "S.W.A.T.," which also starred Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell. After spending the previous five years renting a tiny studio in Hollywood — "It was just money going out the window," he tells the magazine — he used his earnings to put a down payment on a home in nearby Nichols Canyon. He and his good friend, fellow actor Kristoffer Winters, remodeled the 1960s residence and discovered they had quite a knack for it, and soon, others noticed, too. A few months later, Renner and Winters were offered $900,000 for the home, for which they had invested $659,000 … and the rest is history.

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Although there have been many pluses to breaking out in Hollywood, there have been some losses along the way, like Renner's anonymity — and his cat. After his starring role as serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in 2002's "Dahmer," the actor began to get approached by "fans" of his cannibal character. One woman walked up to Renner and bit him on the arm, sending him to the hospital for a series of preventative shots.

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But the weirdest — and perhaps saddest — was when an older man kept showing up at places Renner was also at and suggesting they get a drink because of the repeated run-ins, but the actor always declined. The final time, when Renner once again said "no thanks" during a walk with his dog, the man erupted and began screaming at him on the street. Terrified the man would find out where he lived, Renner walked all over the neighborhood until he lost him. That night, Renner heard a sound on his patio, went outside to investigate, and found the man with his cat Milo in his hands "tucked like a football under his arm," explains Renner. The man bolted and the actor gave chase, but he managed to jump in his car and peel off with Renner's beloved pet. "I hope Milo had a good life," he tells Esquire. "I hope he didn't end up as that guy's dinner."

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