Jeremy Renner has one of those classic Hollywood "overnight sensation" stories. Which means he spent the better part of a decade toiling in obscurity and honing his craft. Now, the 40-year-old actor has two Oscar nominations under his belt -- for "The Hurt Locker" and "The Town" -- and a run of four straight blockbuster films ahead of him, starting with next month's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol." But ten years ago, his career -- and his apartment -- looked pretty dark.
In an interview with Entertaiment Weekly, Renner recalled his lean years when he was so hard up for work he couldn't pay his electric bill. He says that even now the sight of a candle is "a reminder that it was the only form of light I had for eight months." He recounts that he subsisted on five dollars a week for food, spent mostly on ramen noodles and donut holes. At one point, he finally had to give in and get a day job waiting tables. He said, "It was the first time where I felt like, 'Okay, you're not a working actor anymore.'"
Renner made his big-screen debut in a leading role in 1995's "National Lampoon's Senior Trip," but in the years following that he mostly worked in small parts on TV. It wasn't until he scored the title role in 2002's little-seen but well-regarded "Dahmer" that studios began to take notice of him. In 2003, he played a villain pitted against Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell in "S.W.A.T." and in 2005 starred opposite Charlize Theron in the dramatic "North Country."
As paychecks started coming in from studio work, Renner also began a profitable side business flipping houses. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Renner and his business partner Kristoffer Winters began buying, restoring, and reselling houses in 2002. While renovating one home, Renner lived in the guesthouse and would have to shoot the rats that would swarm in during cold weather. As Renner's acting career grew, so did his real estate ambitions. An estate he bought in 2008 for $1.55 million sold two years later for $4 million, for a profit of nearly $2.5 million.
The real turning point for Renner was when he was cast in the role of an Army explosives expert in Iraq for director Kathryn Bigelow's 2008 film "The Hurt Locker." Renner trained with the military in the proper handling of C4 and how to work in an 80-lbs. bomb suit. The film went on to win six Academy Awards, with Renner receiving a nomination for Best Actor. Two years later, Renner was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Ben Affleck's unpredictable partner in "The Town."
In the next ten months, you'll be seeing a whole lot more of Jeremy Renner at your local multiplex. In December, he joins Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," the fourth film in the series. Renner told Entertainment Weekly that rumors he was being groomed to take over the franchise from Cruise are wrong. While he said he is signed for two more movies, they depend on Cruise's involvement: "If Tom want to do another one, we do another one."
Next March, he'll costar with Gemma Arterton in the fairy tale adaptation, "Hansel and Greatl: Witch Hunters." Then in May, he plays the comic book hero Hawkeye in Marvel Studios' "The Avengers" alongside Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and his "S.W.A.T." costar Samuel L. Jackson. And he'll cap off next summer with "The Bourne Legacy," an action flick set in the world of the Jason Bourne series (but without Matt Damon in the lead).
When you add in a voice in next summer's animated "Ice Age: Continental Drift," that's five major Hollywood films featuring Renner within the next year. It seems like he won't have any trouble keeping the lights on anymore.
Watch Jeremy Renner in an exclusive clip from "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" below. It opens on December 21.