[Update: Hawkeye gets a bigger role in The Avengers 2.]
The first time Hawkeye was name-dropped as a potential character to be introduced in Marvel Studios' interconnected cinematic universe was back after the success of Iron Man, when rumors pointed towards Hawkeye and Black Widow showing up together in Iron Man 2. Half of that came true and it wasn't until Jeremy Renner shared some interesting information about a meeting he had with Marvel that we had what came to be concrete info on the character.
Renner, who's a friend of The Avengers (pre-Joss whedon) screenwriter Zak Penn, had gone in initially to discuss Captain America and instead got caught up in a conversation about the character of Hawkeye. They talked costumes, stories from the books, details about the character and ideas for how he could show up in Thor and later in The Avengers. Two years later, that came true when on the eve of Comic-Con 2010 he had officially signed with Marvel Studios to play Clint Barton.
Hawkeye did have his brief introduction as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and skilled archer in Thor and he was one of the six core heroes feature in The Avengers. Unfortunately for the character however, and actor Jeremy Renner, in a movie like The Avengers there's very little time to explore the backstory of new characters like he who didn't have his own prelude via a solo character film. Instead, Renner's scenes were relegated to mostly doing action set pieces and for a large part of the film, he wasn't even who he was supposed to be thanks to Loki's trickery.
In chatting with Hero Complex for The Bourne Legacy, Renner reflects on not being able to play the Clint Barton he learned so much from Zak Penn and a big part of that is possibly due to Joss Whedon's rewrite of the story and script.
"At the end of the day, 90% of the movie, I’m not the character I signed on to play. I’m literally in there for two minutes, and then all of a sudden… All I could really work on was the physical part of it all, because that didn’t change. That was just the biggest challenge to overcome in playing the guy. Also, we’re pretty much introducing a new superhero character to everyone in a movie where there’s a thousand superheroes. So there’s not a lot of back story or understanding we can really tell about who Clint Barton is, or Hawkeye, and is he working for SHIELD or not. There’s a lot of unanswered questions, even for me. And I was OK with that. At least I was still in the movie. And I was glad for that. The closest thing I could really link to was Scarlett [Johansson's] character, Black Widow, because they have a history. And that definitely plays in the movie, I think. And obviously, you can’t go into too much just because there’s so much story to tell, but you definitely get a sense that they’re connected, and that there’s something really, really important that ties them together. And I could try to summarize it, but it can go a lot of places. That excites me, though, that there’s room for other things."
Renner wasn't a fan of playing bad guy Hawkeye:
"I prefer the good, because if we go to the evil part, or hypnotized or whatever the heck you want to call it, it’s kind of a vacancy. Not even a bad guy, because there’s not really a consciousness to him. The interesting part was being guilty about the bad things I did do when I was hypnotized. I think he’s already an interesting enough character. To really kind of take away who that character is and just have him be this sort of robot, essentially, and have him be this minion for evil that Loki uses. Again, I could just focus on the task. I was limited, you know what I mean? I was a terminator in a way. So yeah, fun stunts. But is there any sort of emotional content or thought process? No. That doesn’t exist in that time [that he's hypnotized]. It happens to be for most of the movie."
Clearly, the twice-Oscar-nominated actor would rather have been utilized differently, but he has no regrets and was happy to be a part of such an important film and franchise.
"You know, there are a lot of people in that movie. And a lot of important characters. And my character, I felt like if I can help serve story, then I did my job."
Renner also addressed the often-repeated question of whether or not he'll get his own Hawkeye film as suggested by Marvel president of production Kevin Feige. While he says he doesn't know and that it depends on Marvel ("we'll see"), we all know the Hawkeye solo film is not going to happen simply due to the amount of other characters and stories that are taking up the studio's resources (and release dates). Renner does happily speak about how cool his bow was in the film and he shares his knowledge of the character from the books being a lone wolf and not always a team player. Hopefully for fans (and Renner), we get to see that explored in The Avengers 2 and, if rumors are true, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier before that - a film which is seemingly shaping up to be the SHIELD movie.
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014 and Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
Source: Hero Complex
Hawkeye concept art by Andy Park.