Jeremy Renner Explains The Inspiration Behind His Arrival Character

Jeremy Renner in Arrival

At a time when most science-fiction movies are concerned with destroying the earth, Arrival is a welcome breath of fresh air, with stakes that couldn't be more personal. Adapted from a short story by renowned author Ted Chiang, Arrival tells the story of the scientists tasked with deciphering the language of an alien race that lands unexpectedly on Earth.

Jeremey Renner plays Ian Donnelly, one of the scientists in charge of that mission, alongside Amy Adams. At the press day for Arrival, Screen Rant had a chance to sit down with Renner and talk about the role.

Hey Jeremy how are you doing today?

Jeremy Renner: Oh, I’m doing pretty good man.

If I was, if this actually happened, I would be the Ian Donnelly of this world, just not as smart, honestly.

Jeremy Renner: Alright, haha.

How much of the phy – because it was, because you played a physics professor, how much of that did you actually have to intake, and like study?

Jeremy Renner: Uhhh, ya know, not a, not a ton, ya know. Obviously I didn’t have to become, ya know, spending months and months, and months on it, because some of the concepts were easy to grasp, some were difficult and complex, um, but the Wolfram book that we used was actually very accessible, sort of, theorems, things like that, but again, that’s sort of like micro-managing stuff that we really don’t need to micro-manage. What matters is how I feel about it, cause if I feel good or bad about it, then the audience will feel good or bad about it and that’s just sorta the job. So to grab some understanding of it? Yeah, sure, amazing, and same with mathematics and binary and that sorta stuff, but that’s not what we wanna talk about.

Jeremy Renner in Arrival

Sure, sure, sure.

Jeremy: We don’t want to go to a movie and sit in a lecture. And especially with Amy as well, lecturing about language, but how do we talk about language in a way that is accessible to people? A little bit easier because everyone speaks language, and sorta talk about language in a different lens like she did in the movie which I thought was interesting. You can’t take zero’s and one’s and say “Hey everybody this is entertaining!” Let’s talk about that and what it really means and try to grab onto that. Did I find it interesting? Yes. Um, did I have to study a ton of it? Um, I studied as much as I needed to, um, grab onto, to tell the story.

You know, I love extraterrestrial movies that make you think, kind of like Close Encounters or like Contact, and this is very much like that. It also felt like if, it almost felt at times that this was really happening, I almost felt like I was in the movie, and this invasion was happening. What attracted you to the role of Ian Donnelly? Did you draw any inspiration from some of those past films?

Jeremy Renner: Ummm, I think, I wasn’t really drawn to the character so much, because the character in the script that I read, there wasn’t a ton there that made it exciting for me want to go to work. I mean I did it because the story was amazing and it was a great role for Amy who is a very good friend of mine and she asked me to do it and I’m like, I just couldn’t say no.

Oh, gotcha.

Jeremy Renner: And I knew Denis very well and I loved his movies, but for me to want to go to work, it takes a lot, and . . . so, it wasn’t really ultimately the character, and, but I still had to find a way into the character and that was, and you were talking about inspiration, it wasn’t so much from a sci-fi movie as it was from Jaws.

Oh wow!

Jeremy Renner: Uh, and I thought of remembering Richard Dreyfuss as, and I guess he was a marine biologist I suppose?

Arrival (2016) - Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner


Jeremy Renner: He had a love for sharks right? It's sorta like his love for science in that way and that sort of, had a personality to it, a sense of humor to things, it sorta had that sorta approach and that was kinda my way in.

That’s awesome, um, cause this is quite a departure from – cause I think I read that you had just finished Civil War – and you went right to this?

Jeremy Renner: Yeah, yeah.

It’s quite a departure from, from what you were just doing, so that’s interesting. Just really quick, any status update on Mission: Impossible 6?

Jeremy: Uh, yeah, I dunno, that keeps changing. I don’t know what’s going on, it’s uh, I don’t have any, anything to report, outside wanting to go do it, excited to go do it, that’s that’s all I know. I know Avengers 3 and 4’s happening next year, and um, I think it’s ultimately just trying to find the time because um, um it’d be fund to get back into that to.

Yeah, I’m excited for that too, thank you for your time Jeremy.

Key Release Dates
  • Arrival (2016) release date: Nov 11, 2016
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