Modesto native Jeremy Renner makes friends with the social media he once ‘hated’

Jeremy Renner and director Michael Cuesta work out a scene for the dramatic thriller “Kill the Messenger.”
Jeremy Renner and director Michael Cuesta work out a scene for the dramatic thriller “Kill the Messenger.” Focus Features

For a man who cherishes his privacy, Modesto native and actor Jeremy Renner has happily embraced some of today’s most personal technologies.

The two-time Academy Award nominee said he relies on things such as FaceTime and Twitter these days to keep in touch with his family and his fans. He said the former, in particular, is the only way he can keep up with his 19-month old daughter, Ava Berlin, while off filming in faraway locations.

“It doesn’t get any easier being away from her, no,” he told The Modesto Bee in an phone interview before taping “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” recently. “It’s been three and a half weeks since I last saw her, and it is not sitting well. Thank God for FaceTime and photos.”

The 1989 Beyer High grad and Modesto Junior College alum also revealed late last month that he and his girlfriend, Sonni Pacheco, had wed. The news was one of the few times Renner has made the headlines for anything other than his film roles. And he likes that just fine.

“I’ve been pretty private about my private life, because that’s why it’s called private life. So I’m very tightlipped about anything to do with that,” he said. “Somebody asked (about being married) and I told them. It’s old news to me. But apparently it’s newsworthy now, I guess. I explained it in that article, briefly and concisely, why. It’s so my family can live the most normal life that they can.”

Of course, normal is relative when your work involves jetting from film set to film set. In August, Renner wrapped production on the highly anticipated sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which shot in England and South Korea, among other locales. Then a few weeks later, he was in Morocco with Tom Cruise on the set of “Mission: Impossible 5.” He will be in production on “M:I 5” through the end of the year, reprising his role as secret agent William Brandt.

But before those hit the big screen, Renner can be seen in the smaller-budget, real-life story of a Northern California journalist who worked to uncover a controversial link between the CIA and the country’s crack epidemic. “Kill the Messenger” opens in limited release today in theaters.

While Renner got his start in independent film, his career trajectory since his 2010 Oscar nomination for “The Hurt Locker” has moved him firmly into action-star status. Still, he said, each film is different. He said the workouts and regimens he needs to step into “The Avenger’s” Hawkeye, “Mission: Impossible’s” Brandt and “Bourne’s” Aaron Cross vary greatly. The latter, by the way, is definitely moving forward even with original franchise star Matt Damon coming back into the series, he said.

“There is all kind of training. Hawkeye is more size and the agility and flexibility. ‘Bourne’ is everything, fighting and yoga. It’s a whole other thing, the ‘Bourne’ world. So ‘Mission’ is stunt-light for me at this point. I actually don’t have to do anything too crazy,” he said. “My goal with any kind of physically challenging role is to elevate the material as much as I can. Be real, be funny, be honest.”

Part of that includes joking around with co-star Cruise on Twitter. Renner joined the social-messaging service in August ( @Renner4Real) and has been busy posting everything from selfies to old school pictures and messages to his famous friends on his feed.

He considers social media another kind of exercise. “I guess it’s like an exercise in not being old and crotchety, I suppose. I’m attempting certain things. It’s accepting new music and not being the old grandpa,” he said. “But I’m not just jumping on the bandwagon. It’s a personal exercise to reveal myself in a ridiculous way. To show part of who I really am – which is ridiculous and funny. It allows for people to see me in a different light, which is fine.”

He also wants to use the online medium’s power to his advantage.

“Social media, which I have always hated, can be used in positive ways to squelch rumors if I need to and set the record straight,” he said. “I can have a choice if I want to promote something and support a cause. There are a lot of positive things that can happen there.”

Among those causes is the Boys and Girls Club of Modesto, for which Renner shot a promotion in late summer. He said once the fundraising campaign is up and running locally, he plans to return to the area to support the organization.

“I’m just there to help create excitement for them for a great, great cause. It’s something Modesto needs in particular,” he said. “There are a lot of idle hands in Mo-town.”

Renner said he wishes he could come to Modesto more, where some of his family still live. Other family members have moved down to the Los Angeles area. In the past, he has attended local movie premières and has taken part in a lecture series at the Gallo Center for the Arts. But he said his schedule these days makes it tough to find the time.

“It’s getting hard. I’m not even in my own home,” he said. “With (movies such as ‘Avengers’ and ‘Mission’), we’re going around the world twice over for those things. My own time is far and few between.”

But it is precisely that kind of globe-trotting that he said is becoming more of a consideration as he looks at scripts. With his wife and child at home, he said that moving forward, projects will have to be more accessible.

“It’s huge. If there is something that will take me away from my baby girl and she can’t come visit on a vacation or such, I’m not doing it,” he said. “I can’t be away from her for an extended period of time.”

Of course, none of this is where Renner thought he would be while sitting at his desk at Beyer High School in the late 1980s. Not an action star, not a two-time Oscar nominee, not a married father.

“Oh, no, no. Geez, I wasn’t aiming very high. In high school, I definitely wasn’t,” he said. “I was like, ‘When’s lunch?’ ”