Jeremy Renner Reveals Robert Downey Jr.’s Advice After Near-Death Accident: “I Don't Care If You're In Pain, You Look Amazing”

Jeremy Renner opens up on returning to acting for the first time, advice he got from Robert Downey Jr., and Hawkeye’s fate in the MCU.

Jeremy Renner and Robert Downey Jr. are smiling in separate photos. Jeremy is wearing a velvet suit jacket, and Robert is in a suit and tie with glasses
Getty Images
Jeremy Renner and Robert Downey Jr. are smiling in separate photos. Jeremy is wearing a velvet suit jacket, and Robert is in a suit and tie with glasses

The road to recovery is never easy.

When you’re run over by a 7-ton snowcat, break over 30 bones in your body, and are declared clinically dead, the road to recovery is significantly more challenging than most. But The Avengers star Jeremy Renner wasn’t going to let that incident hold him back forever. 

It’s been nearly 18 months since the Oscar-nominated actor’s near-fatal accident on New Year's Day 2023, and Renner is showing signs of significant progress and high spirits. In fact, he’s already back to work on set, finishing up production for Season 3 of The Mayor of Kingstown.

“It wasn’t a desire for me,” admits Renner, about his return to acting. “But I did want to get back to work at some point because dying would have been a lot cheaper,” he adds with a chuckle. 

Renner’s recovery timeline has been nothing short of remarkable, surprising even his own doctors, who told him he’d never be able to walk again

“I’m as strong as I've been in a very long time now,” said Renner. “I feel very blessed to be where I'm at.”

We caught up with the Marvel star to talk about returning to the world of acting after (basically) dying, advice he got from Robert Downey Jr., Hawkeye’s future in the MCU, and much more.

This interview has been edited in length for clarity.

Doctors said you’d never walk again, but you’re fully running in some of your recent videos. Clearly whatever estimates they had for you are out the window, so what goals are you setting for yourself? Is there a specific milestone you’re trying to achieve? 

Jeremy Renner: I have certain ideas. There was change, and I've had to be more patient with the real recovery of tendons and ligaments and those things because they take a long time to rebuild, and I’m okay with it.

I was trying to run a 4.5 40 at the end of summer last year. That was my goal, right? [Chuckles]

I have to give myself a little bit more time. And again, it's not about running a 4.5 40, it's just getting into the place of: I want the agility and sprint power, that movement makes me feel alive. 

I get a lot of help, a lot of support, and I get a lot of hope from progress and from family, friends, and my relationship with Brooks Running, so it’s pretty awesome. 

I still want to be able to run and not feel like it's four flat tires on a freeway. It feels pretty chaotic. It feels like a garage sale when I'm running. “What's going on down there?” Like I’m just stepping on pots and pans.

Running's been an integral part of your recovery process. Can you talk about your relationship with Brooks Running and how they've helped support your physical journey?

JR: It started with the accident, then Brooks [Running] found out who the heck I was, like, “Who’s this dude? We need to help him.” 

I was posting stuff about the recovery and sharing because people seem to care and it's kind of healing for me to share. In documenting it, Brooks reached out and wanted to send me some shoes, the Ghost Max.

I wore them as slippers because I have stone floors and they were really better on my joints when I go get coffee and things like that. But I finally got to use them as they're meant to, to run. I put them on and skipped down my driveway, then decided to try to high-knee sprint up like a jackass.

But it worked out great. It was such a big, pivotal moment for me. It was at the ten-month mark of the accident. The hope that I got from that moment—having the courage to even try it out when I was told that I wasn't going to walk and I certainly was never going to run again. 

I just said, “Why not go for it and try it?” I didn't know it was going to happen. I might have created sparks and skidded with all my metal parts down the driveway. I don't know what would have happened, but I had to try it. Because of that, a few months later, they decided they wanted to do something together and had their “Let's Run There” campaign. It was an easy yes.

"I don't know what would have happened, but I had to try it."

That’s awesome. You can clearly see the synergy and overlap between things.

JR: The first time I was really running, by the way, was for their commercial. And I ran a lot more than I should have ran. It felt terrible. But when I looked at the screen when they were shooting it, it looked great. And that was only a few months later really, it was exponential improvement.

That's why I'm really thankful I got an ally. I have a partner, a shoulder to lean on or a shoe to slip into that helps me out, man. It's no joke. I can’t wait until I can run a 4.5 40 in their shoes.

I’ll be anxiously awaiting that video. Were there ever any questions or doubts in your mind that you'd ever return to acting? 

JR: You know, it wasn't a desire for me. I think after a short amount of time, I realized that not a lot of things happened to the exterior look of my body.

It's all a lot of internal damage, but I look fine. And this is what [Robert] Downey [Jr.] said, he’s like, “Dude as long as you look good, who cares how you feel? I don't care if you're in pain. You look amazing. You can still do whatever.” 

But it takes so much cognitive and mental energy to operate my body that I just couldn't imagine doing fiction and memorizing lines that had no value to me, for most of last year. But I did want to get back to work at some point because dying would have been a lot cheaper and it's very expensive to stay alive. 

"Dude, as long as you look good, who cares how you feel?"

No one wants that, Mr. Renner.

JR: Sorry for the dark humor, but that’s how I get through my life. 

Yeah, you have to take it all with levity. 

JR: So at any rate, I had to work through that and I had to get to a certain place. But I did want to get back to work, and I used The Mayor of Kingstown as a way to rip the Band-Aid off of just doing only recovery, to try to live life and be in a work environment, be amongst people and see how that goes.

And it went miserably for the first few weeks. But there was a lot of progress, and we, together, all worked through it, and with a lot of help I got stronger. I’m as strong as I've been in a very long time now, and I feel very blessed to be where I'm at.

"It went miserably for the first few weeks."

I’ve been watching ‘Hawkeye’ on Disney+ every Christmas season since it came out in 2021. Will Hawkeye make his return to the MCU anytime soon?

JR: I don't know. You're going to talk to Marvel about those things. It's above my pay grade. You know, again, that's something I always try to do.

It's like you said, a milestone for me is to be in shape to be able to perform like that. That comes with the agility of being able to sprint. It's how I move towards that. I'll always make myself ready for something like that. It doesn't have to be necessarily Hawkeye, but I'll be ready. 

They've got to be ready, and also there's got to be a real narrative as well, you know.‘Cause I also know there's whisperings of newer Avengers’ movie, but I think we will have to have a real reason for it, you know? So there's a lot of spinning plates, a lot of people to corral on that. But I always think those are interesting. 

It's a big, great decade in our lives, you know? So I'm always open to it and we'll see where it goes. 

Latest in Pop Culture