JEREMY Renner is still working on a house. It's what he does. He might be an actor who has had, in a single year, the most high-profile roles of his career, but he's not going to let go of his business on the side - renovating houses.
Renner, 41, is in what almost seems like blockbuster overload. He's a member of The Avengers, the Marvel Comics superhero super-franchise that has been one of this year's biggest hits. He's a new character in Mission Impossible 4, a film that's given a boost to what seemed like a tired format. And his new film, The Bourne Legacy, which opens here next week, has the potential to put him in even greater demand.
The Bourne Legacy is the fourth in the Bourne series and marks a passing of the baton. Matt Damon, who starred in the first three, is no longer involved - nor is director Paul Greengrass. Writer Tony Gilroy has taken over as director, and Renner plays a new character, Aaron Cross, a highly trained covert operative with a few extra strings to his bow.
Even so, Renner says he does not intend to let go of the business he and actor Kristoffer Winters started years ago - buying, renovating and reselling houses.
What he likes about it, compared with his other work, is ''it's tangible, it exists, and it will continue to exist years after I'm gone''.
Yet it is a lot like filmmaking, he says. ''There's a creative element; there's a specific order in the way you do things; there are a lot of moving parts; and a thousand new problems are thrown at you every day.'' A thousand new problems are, in a way, what The Bourne Legacy is all about.
Its events criss-cross those of the previous film, The Bourne Ultimatum, and some of its characters reappear. We learn of an even more elaborate conspiracy that involves covert organisations and is beginning to unravel. Cross is in extreme danger from attempts to destroy all evidence of the program he was part of. One person who can provide answers, and perhaps help, is medical researcher Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz). But she, too, is under threat.
It was important to Renner, he says, that his character, whatever his strengths, had an element of vulnerability. ''I would have run away from the role if he didn't have it. To me, that's what makes the character accessible. As an audience member, I don't want to watch this guy be a Terminator.''
Vulnerability emerges most clearly in his scenes with Weisz, which have a degree of intimacy and lightness that they worked on, he says, ''day by day, discovering something a little bit deeper each time''.
The emotional scenes have to be honest, as do the stunts, he says.
Renner likes to do as many of his own stunts as he can. In The Bourne Legacy, the most challenging, he says, was a scene where he had to run up the side of a house. ''It was one shot. That made it a little trickier because there was no editing fix; it was always just me. It took around 25 takes, so fatigue set in.''
Playing the Scarecrow in a school production of The Wizard of Oz gave Renner the taste for acting and his philosophy about his work remains consistent. He is always seeking complexity. Heroes must have flaws and he needs to find empathy for his darkest characters.
It was his performance as a serial killer in Dahmer, a 2002 telemovie, that brought him to the attention of Kathryn Bigelow, who cast him in The Hurt Locker, her Oscar-winning movie about a bomb disposal squad in Iraq. It brought him into the spotlight and landed him his first Oscar nomination (for best actor).
He's ''been pretty fortunate'' to work with other women directors as well: Niki Caro (North Country), Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown), and Asia Argento (The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things).
He is aware that doing a movie such as The Bourne Legacy puts him in the public eye as never before: ''I'm sure there are shifts happening but I've been so busy working I've hardly had time to take a breath and truly understand anything.''
He thought about the possible impact on his life before he took the role. ''You have to take everything into consideration; it would be irresponsible not to. I talked to family and friends. But I've learnt from a lot of great people over the years, from what they do and from their mistakes, and what I do is try to set myself up to fail the least often.''
When he chooses a role, he has a ''certain set of requirements'': ''The character; who I get to learn from, director-wise and actor-wise; the world the movie is set in; the tone; and is this something that I want to be a part of.''
But the most important thing is that ''I don't want to know the answers. I like to take chances, I like to be surprised every day.''
Right now, Renner says, after the relentless workload of the past few years, what he needs most of all is a nap. He doesn't have too many immediate plans, apart from the house he is working on. He has a couple of movies awaiting release, including Low Life, written and directed by James Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers), which also stars Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix. It's a story of immigrants arriving in New York in the early 1900s. ''To put it crudely, it's about a pimp, a prostitute and a magician, but it's so much more than that.''
It's a film he is delighted to be in, although the pace of it all was pretty hectic. ''Literally, three days earlier, I was running across rooftops in Manila [for The Bourne Legacy] and then I was in New York, learning magic tricks real quick.''
The Bourne Legacy opens on August 16.