UPDATE: Guillermo del Toro has since clarified that Renner wasn't offered the role of Hellboy, but instead the role of Agent Myers, which ultimately went to Rupert Evans. So a leading role, but not THE leading role.
Years before landing the Hawkeye role in the MCU, Jeremy Renner reveals he was offered the lead in Hellboy, but ultimately turned it down. Despite being a two-time Oscar nominee for his roles in The Hurt Locker and The Town, it's safe to say that most moviegoers know Renner best for his work as Clint "Hawkeye" Barton in Marvel Studios' now 23-film franchise. Hawkeye made his big screen debut, albeit briefly, in 2011's Thor, before joining the team for 2012's The Avengers.
Renner would play Hawkeye again in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, and return for 2016's Captain America: Civil War, an Avengers sequel in everything but name. Many Marvel fans were of course shocked when Hawkeye failed to appear in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, but the character returned with a vengeance in this year's Avengers: Endgame, becoming a murderous vigilante after Thanos' fateful snap turned his family to dust. Renner now looks set to reprise Hawkeye again for a Disney+ streaming series, although that project isn't official yet.
However, years before the MCU served as Renner's introduction to the world of superhero films, it turns out the actor was offered the lead role in Guillermo del Toro's 2004 Hellboy movie. It's hard to imagine anyone but Ron Perlman leading that film, but Renner told Justin Long on a recent edition of the Life is Short podcast (via EW) that he was indeed approached, but turned down the part despite lots of money being offered. Here's what he had to say.
I was just reading the script and [thinking] like, ‘I don’t get this…’ I just couldn’t connect to it. I said, ‘I can’t find a way in [to this character], I don’t know what I’d be doing,’ so I had to say no. [...] There’s zero regrets, zero. Most of the time it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m glad I didn’t do it,’ and it made sense to me. Not just Hellboy or whatever it was, and I’m not saying that it’s a good or bad movie, it’s not about that… I just wouldn’t have fit there.
As is made clear by his comments above, Renner has no long-term regrets about turning down the Hellboy role, and considering that his career has only risen further since joining the MCU, it's not hard to imagine why. Additionally, he obviously didn't connect with the material on a personal level, and Perlman went on to earn raves for his work, suggesting that everything in this scenario turned out for the best.
Perlman would of course end up returning for 2008 sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army, although he and del Toro never managed to get a third film off the ground. Hellboy was rebooted earlier this year, with Stranger Things' David Harbour in the lead role, but that film proved to be a critical and commercial disaster. Whether or not this leads to Hollywood giving del Toro and Perlman another crack at Hellboy remains to be seen, but considering that Perlman is 69, time may be running out. Either way, Renner seems happy to keep doing what he's doing, and not wonder what might've been.