In Taylor Sheridan’s snowy western Wind River, Jeremy Renner plays a quiet divorcee and grieving father who spends his days tracking game on a Wyoming reservation. Renner’s Cory Lambert is one of the only (if not the only) white man on the land, but his Native American ex-wife (Julia Jones) and young son give him a sense of connection to the community and its people. After the body of a young Native American woman is found in the middle of a snowy hillside, Cory remembers a similar loss he suffered years ago. Along with FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) and the local sheriff (Graham Greene), Cory attempts to solve the murder mystery.

Last month I caught up with the Oscar nominee to chat about his role in the crime drama, his penchant for characters who are great with weapons – how good does Renner have to be in real life to fake his marksmanship onscreen? – and what it was like working with fellow Avenger Olsen on a smaller movie. Renner also expertly dodged my questions about Infinity War, but revealed there will be more Hawkeye in the upcoming Marvel movie. The actor himself also confirmed that no, Hawkeye won’t appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp despite a previous rumor.

This character is much quieter and more introspective than a lot of the more action-intensive roles that you’ve played.

Yup. Yeah, for sure.

What initially drew you to playing Cory and this film?

I think it was the inner complexity that was fascinating to me, kind of how to express that and not express that. I initially thought that he’d be much more stoic and stone-like, but I found very quickly that the challenge was going to be the restraint of emotions that were coming up in particular scenes. And I guess I wanted to be very conscious towards the end of the movie when there’s a catharsis, a healing process sort of happens. So it became, instead of one big release, sigh of relief for the guy, it ended up being a slow leak of emotions slipping out throughout the picture. And it was a great challenge.

This is Taylor Sheridan’s second film as a director, but he has a background in acting. Did that play into the way he directed you at all?

I don’t know. Everybody works different as an actor. Maybe just having that experience in that way helps, but it’s just much more his perspective and being a great listener as well as being very specific about what he wanted. And together it made for a great shooting collaborative experience.

Despite being a white man, Cory really identifies with his Native family and with the people of Wind River. Did you do much research into the people of this real Wyoming reservation?

Yeah. I did as much as I possibly could and I will probably never be able to grasp that life in its entirety by any means. But enough information to get to a point of the where, how, and why the only white man is sort of allowed on the reservation. He’s held with respect and he’s a man that takes care of the main point. So I think there is just some mutual respect unearthed, I suppose.

Wind River - Still 3
The Weinstein Company

I was researching Wind River a bit and I didn’t realize that the crime rate there is actually pretty high. Where you familiar with that before the film?

No I was not. That was all new information to me. You personalize it because it’s a more insular story than just saying “crime rate.” We’re just dealing with the loss of my child and the loss of my friend’s child, and how to remedy that.

Your character is an expert hunter and tracker. Did you spend much time learning how to track animals in the wild?

Some, but not like I spent a lot of time on it. It was just more information on how to track and how to find game out in the wilderness and the woods, and that climate I’m actually not foreign to. So there was a comfortability in that surrounding for me in understanding what the job was. But the job is that on paper, as we described, but that job for Cory is an expression of escapism, probably unconsciously, especially when coping with loss. So he had to stay busy.

The weather and the cold are just as much a character in this movie as any of the people. What was it like filming in such a frigid location?

It was great. Like you said, it was a character in the picture. It helps form everyone’s decisions and truths to have, you know, it’s not like we’re shooting in a sound studio or something. It’s authentic, real, and raw. We liked it that way. I know it was arduous for our crew to navigate keeping snow clean and moving in and out of locations. It was quite difficult for the crew, so hats off to them. For us and for me, especially, I was on a snowmobile half the time. You see in the old western, a cowboy and the horse. [Laughs] And here a man in the snowy mountain peaks, it’s a snowmobile.

[Laughs] He’s like the modern cowboy.

Yeah, yeah.

You seem to have a penchant for characters who are great marksmen. So how good do you have to be to fake it on screen?

I think there just has to be a comfortability with a weapon and how to use it. You don’t have to be a great shot to look like you’re a great shot. You’re not shooting at a target, you’re not shooting at anything. So it’s more comfortability and knowing how to use any weapon you’re using. I had to get familiar with a lever-pull rifle, I was unfamiliar with that, so we got to spend some time with that rifle.

Is it harder to learn how to shoot a rifle or how to shoot with a bow and arrow?

Bow and arrow is trickier. There’s a lot of room for error.

The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company

Of course you and Elizabeth are both Avengers. What was the biggest difference working together on a movie like this compared to being on top secret Marvel set?

Ah, the ultimate takeaway is that it’s much more intimate and collaborative. Just trying to give it a voice and help tell the story in its entirety. The roles are the leads of the picture, and yeah, there’s just a bit more to do and a lot more collaboration involved.

Do you two share many scenes together in Infinity War?

Um, I’m not sure how they’ll put it together, you never know.

There’s so many characters teaming-up in that movie. I’m curious, how many actors do you actually get to share scenes with in it?

Yeah, I’m curious of the same thing. [Laughs] We have a lot to shoot still.

Do you think we’ll get to see more of Hawkeye in that movie?

You’ll see a lot more of a lot of people. [Laughs]. I’m hoping a few more of Hawkeye as well. We’ll see.

There was a rumor a while ago that Hawkeye might appear in Ant Man and the Wasp. Is there a chance that could happen?

If there is, I don’t know anything about it.

I also read you’re not going to appear in Mission: Impossible 6, which is such a bummer. Do you know what they plan to do with your character?

Yeah it is a bummer, such a bummer. These movies shoot concurrently back-to-back for [Avengers] and 4. So it took up too much of the schedule, they all conflicted. That choice is already made for me.

Do you think your character will show up in future Mission: Impossible sequels if they happen?

Yeah, I hope so. It’s a real fun character to play, and a great film series. We’ll see. They’re still filming right now as we speak, that one they’re doing now. We’ll see what happens in the future.

Wind River is now playing in limited release.

More From KISS FM