Avengers star Jeremy Renner has signed on to play Doc Holliday in a new biopic about the legendary gunslinger. Although he’s come to be best known as Hawkeye in the Avengers movies as well as Thor and Captain America: Civil War, Renner has carved out a fine reputation in other projects in recent years, with The Town, American Hustle and appearances in two Mission: Impossible films. And while those films and the MCU entries established Renner as a solid supporting actor, Renner has also demonstrated that he can carry films in a leading role, like he did with The Hurt Locker, and most recently, opposite Amy Adams in Arrival.
According to Deadline, Renner is stepping back into the lead once again as John Henry “Doc” Holliday, the Atlanta dentist-turned-Wild West icon who accompanied Wyatt Earp in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the Arizona territory in 1881. The film will be based on two books about Holliday – Doc and Epitaph: A Novel Of The O.K. Corral – written by Mary Doria Russell, which were optioned by Palmstar Media. Renner and Don Handfield’s The Combine production house will produce the film along with Palmstar’s Kevin Frakes. In a statement, Renner and Handfield say:
“We are excited to re-introduce this classic American character to a whole new audience by chronicling Doc Holliday’s incredible transformation from Average Joe dentist to a man who Wyatt Earp called the ‘nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun [he] ever knew.’”
Frakes was more succinct in his excitement for the biopic, simply noting in the statement: “Jeremy Renner as Doc Holliday … f*cking awesome.”
Renner is no doubt taking on a tall order with the Holliday biopic. For one, Westerns have been a tough sell in Hollywood in recent years, with even Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight struggling to find an audience with a $54 million gross domestically against a $44 million budget in 2015. The Magnificent Seven didn’t fare much better in 2016: While it made $93.4 million domestically, it also cost $90 million to make.
The next challenge Renner faces is the compelling performances of Holliday that came before him, including Kirk Douglas in Gunfight At The O.K. Corral; Stacey Keach in Doc; Dennis Quaid in Wyatt Earp; and Val Kilmer in arguably the best of all of the performances in Tombstone. The good thing is, Renner brings in a bit of Western movie experience with him with his role in the Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck opus The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Plus, Renner’s Oscar nominations as a lead (for The Hurt Locker) and supporting actor (The Town) have proven that he has the wherewithal to carry dramatic material. Given the historical weight of his Doc Holliday biopic, Renner could very well attract much more awards attention. Overall, it’s a great move by the actor as continues on with the MCU with the Avengers: Infinity War movies, and a way to maintain a high profile while he waits for his Hawkeye solo film to materialize.