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Jeremy Renner on His New Superpower (After “Dying and Coming Back” to Life)

Just over a year after suffering a horrific snowplow accident on New Year’s Day that shattered 38 bones and left his life in limbo, Jeremy Renner will show off his miraculous recovery to an estimated audience of 113 million. This Sunday, viewers will see his first Super Bowl ad, for Silk Protein, a product the dairy-avoiding Avenger says he has been drinking for years and which he credits in part for his Lazarus-like resuscitation. The 30-second spot, titled “Silk Feel Planty Good” will give his fans plenty to parse. It turns his morning ritual — preparing his protein shake — into a fast-paced action sequence as he slices strawberries in mid-air, high kicks, dances on the table, and sings a version of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” that imbues the lyrics with profound new meaning. He then flings a wooden spoon with Hawkeye-worthy aim into a carton of Silk, inches from the face of his 10-year-old daughter, Ava. “Just getting back to my routine,” he says, as he takes a seat next to her. In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Renner spoke about the inspiration behind the ad, the joy it has given him to defy doctors’ grim prognoses and his day-by-day plans for the future, including a possible return to the Marvel franchise.

This ad is about Silk, but it seems to be saying a lot more about you. He’s back! He can fight! He can dance and sing! Did working on the spot itself play a role in your recovery?

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I think it’s a representation of the recovery. A few days after the anniversary of the accident, my daughter and I were just looking at each other like: How far we’ve come. What a wonderful celebration. And there’s a wonderful synergy with Silk — it’s something that I used all through my recovery and they didn’t know it [when they approached me]. It’s how I take my nutrients and all my medication; it’s the only thing I really put in my body to be honest with you, along with supplements that I would put in my protein shakes. The campaign is kind of based on me, so it’s very authentic. This isn’t me having to play a part, or even Ava having to play a part. This is us in the morning. It was one of the most fun things I could do. And it’s something my daughter and I get to take with us.

Early on, I told her to wait for me, because she saw me busted up with 38 broken bones. I said, “If you wait for me, I promise you I’ll get better.” I had somebody to get better for — this little girl. And then, here we are, with Silk, getting to celebrate this, man. This feels deep, spiritually and emotionally for us; my entire family. And I hope that will resonate and bring some joy to other people.

Did you coach your daughter Ava at all?

Not really. I tried to kind of let her do it. Just work with the director. If there’s anything I did differently, it’s to bring her to the monitor to see what they were trying to film. There’s a lot going on with the cameras spinning and milk cartons going over, and all these little gags that they had to do. And she’d say her line and they would change the line. She thought that having to do the repeated action over and over again meant that she wasn’t doing it right. So she started to get more shy and not quite as confident. But I let her know: Look, this is how it goes.

You broke 38 bones, your rib cage and your eye socket have been rebuilt with metal … What does an X-ray of you look like today?

(Laughs.) A lot of screws. A lot of metal. It’s like Titanium Man, I suppose. And it’s stuff that has to stay in me. Until it fails, I guess. But it’s good for a while.

I imagine it sets off alarms at airport security.

Yeah. What’s good, though, is that most people are pretty aware. It’s the wands that they set off. But they have certain settings on those things so you don’t go off and create Fourth of July fireworks and create more attention that I don’t want at an airport.

The action element in this ad will send a clear signal to Marvel that you’re in shape to play Hawkeye again. So are there plans to don the quiver again?

I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. The answer is yes, if I get a phone call and they want to do it, whether it’s season two of Hawkeye the series, or something in the Marvel universe in cinema. Yeah, is the answer. If I’m welcome back, I’m always gonna say, yeah.

But you haven’t gotten a call yet?

Um, not that I know of. I’ve been so focused on recovery, and now being in Mayor of Kingstown. We’ll see. (Laughs.)

With Mayor of Kingstown season three filming underway, are you going to be able to take on more projects?

All I can focus on is this. Doing television is quite arduous. It’s long hours and a lot of heavy lifting. So I’m just focusing on this right now, and will see how I come out at the end of it. Because my number one priority still is my recovery and strengthening and just getting better, internally and externally, every day. And it has to be, to be able to go to work and participate in life in the world again. I’m allowing my body always to dictate what I can and cannot do in my life.

So what physical goals have you set for yourself for the next weeks and months?

Running and sprinting, I’m not there yet. I want to start timing myself, to get more torque in my body so I can run the 40 [yard dash] again. I used to be a sprinter. So if I get down into those strong 40 times — not that I really want to run a fast 40, it’s just that that agility and strength and torque allow me to do a lot other things in life, so I don’t feel limited in my movements.

You seem to have plenty of torque when you’re doing the Twist in the ad …

(Laughs.) Well, I’d hang onto the edge of counter. I’m in slippers …

Ah, so there’s some smoke and mirrors involved.

I mean, yeah, sure. A little bit. But it’s still me, I’m still doing it.

Are you ready to start rehabbing houses again?

I don’t know if I’ll have so much time. I’m spending more time with the RennerVation Foundation. Rehabbing houses takes a whole lot of time. To be honest with you, I think one of the big reasons why I was spared is my love for children and wanting to help children, and this foundation being started is going to be my vehicle to be able to do that, and do it in a very big way, in a very effective way. So my attention’s on that, and will be on that for the rest of my days.

Do your physical therapists say that there’s a limit to how much you can improve?

I love when they say that. I love that the doctor says, “This guy’s not gonna walk again, or if he does, it’ll be in two years and he’s gonna walk funny.” I love when people say this. Even my own physical therapist is like, “You know what, you’re never gonna be able to run under a five-second 40,” I’m like, “F-you, it’s going to happen, I’m gonna do it in six months, watch this.” I love when somebody tells me that — it’s just gonna give me more energy to do it and do it even better. I already challenge myself anyway, and that’s also part of my recovery, as a competitor. By the way, no one ever told me that I was gonna get better. Not one doctor, early on, said, “You’re gonna pull through, you’re gonna be able to see again, you’re gonna be able to walk again, you’re gonna be able to breathe right, you’re gonna be able to talk.” No one gave me anything. I think they were all communicating with my family. And I feel like if they didn’t tell me, it must have been pretty bleak.

Your nephew Alex is the one who found you after you were crushed. It must be heartening for him to watch this ad.

Oh, yeah, he’s with me. He’s here out here in Pittsburgh with me, he’s been with me 100 percent of the time. But my recovery has been very healing for him, as you can imagine. This poor boy and the images that I put in his brain, him holding my arm as I was dying on that ice. He can’t unsee that ever for the rest of his life. But I replaced those images with my wellness and my health and my well-being in front of him every day. He’s the one that makes my protein shakes every morning. Every time I get better, he’s getting better. So it’s not for nothing. If I passed, I would have tortured that kid for the rest of his days, and my mom, and my daughter and everybody else. But it didn’t happen.

How has your general outlook on life changed since the accident?

Everything’s kind of just leaned out, not having really the extra fat in life. For the last year, my number one job, and only job, was to get better. To breathe better, to take the next step, to take three more steps, to get up, be stronger, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. It’s just to be better, and to better myself. I had a wonderful blessing in this accident. Dying and coming back. I got that time out in life, I got to put pause on life, and go really live life. And [I think], how can I give this to people? I think we had a little bit of it in COVID, right? There was a global epidemic going on, but the silver lining in that is we got to put pause on something, we got to stop and chill out, and ask what has value in our lives. A little bit more extreme version of that is dying and coming back. There’s a wonderful gift in that, if you can hang on that superpower of [realizing] what has real value in our lives.

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