"I feel like my life was busier before all of this happened," says Renner, looking relaxed on a recent sunny afternoon in a Led Zeppelin T-shirt and a pair of jeans at a cafe overlooking the Sunset Strip. "I was trying so hard to get awareness for the film. Once that happened, it's been like a breath of fresh air. I'm just coming down off that high."
After some 15 years in show business, Renner, 39, captured the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with his performance as a risk-taking bomb disposal technician in "The Hurt Locker," the tense Iraq war drama directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who is also nominated for an Oscar.
The film has already won awards from the Producers Guild of America, National Society of Film Critics, Directors Guild of America and British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Renner and Bigelow have been making the rounds on awards shows, spending more time together than they did most days on the set of "The Hurt Locker" in Jordan.
"I rarely saw her throughout the day," Renner says. "The sets were so big, and the cameras were so far away. I would maybe see her once in the daytime. There were days we would see the cameras more if we got into close quarters, but it was so hot and so intense that you just didn't realize you were shooting a movie half the time."
Renner's list of credits include "Dahmer" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." He'll be seen alongside Ben Affleck in the upcoming crime drama "The Town."
His most unsavory role was his first major part: He played a stoner in the comedy "National Lampoon's Senior Trip."
"I was just proud to be in a film that would play in movie theaters in Modesto," he says of his California hometown.
His schedule is filled with meetings about potential projects, but he's also developing his own material.
"I personally don't feel any pressure, but people keep asking, 'What are you going to do next?'" Renner says. "I don't know. I'll find out when it happens. I just want to take this time and savor it before moving on to the next thing."
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By DERRIK J. LANG