'I relive it every night': Jeremy Renner reflects on the day he almost died, and why he's alive

Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES — "I relive it every night. It's in my visions. It's in my dreams and my waking thoughts," says Jeremy Renner.

"It" is the accident that nearly killed the Oscar-nominated actor New Year's Day 2023 as he was clearing the driveway at his home near Mount Rose in Nevada using a massive snowcat. He was thrown suddenly from the 7-ton vehicle, which continued to roll downhill directly toward his nephew, Alex Fries. Renner attempted to jump back into the cab in order to stop it. Instead, he was caught in the machine's track wheels and run over.

He was left with significant chest trauma, including a collapsed lung, and — at last count — 38 broken bones.

"The doctor said I even broke my taint. How do you break a taint?" recalls Renner, his off-color sense of humor evident on a recent morning in Tribeca. The "Avengers" star is in good spirits, speaking with candor and optimism about his near-death experience and odds-defying recovery. There are few obvious physical signs of the ordeal his body endured less than 18 months ago.

Renner, 53, is in town for a brief visit from Pittsburgh, where he is close to wrapping production on Season 3 of "Mayor of Kingstown," which returns to Paramount+ June 2. In the gritty drama, co-created by Taylor Sheridan and Hugh Dillon, he stars as Mike McLusky, a power broker in a fictional Michigan city that is home to seven prisons.

Renner returned to work in January — "on the anniversary of my death," as he puts it — marking his first extensive turn in front of the cameras since the accident. Reprising his lead role in the Paramount+ series was not a foregone conclusion. Neither, for that matter, was his survival.


His family, he says, is the reason he's alive, along with the doctors, EMTs and nurses who cared for him, "and probably a divine intervention as well."

"It took the collective of all these people. That's the power of love. It's a slow burn. Man, I tell you," he says, his voice breaking. "I can barely speak."

When the accident occurred, Renner, who has six younger siblings, was spending the holidays with much of his large, tight-knit family, including his 11-year-old daughter, Ava, and mom, Valerie Cearley. Thanks to a monster snowstorm that hit the area, the family had been cooped up inside for several days — and cabin fever was setting in. During a break in the severe weather on New Year's Day, Renner and "a few of the boys" trekked outside to see if they could head to the ski resort down the road.

As he lay, injured, in the snow, waiting for EMTs to arrive, Renner did not initially comprehend the gravity of the situation. His focus was on breathing — on summoning enough strength to exhale, then inhale, over and over again. (He later learned his lung had collapsed.) His nephew, who was unharmed, sat with him. Renner did a scan of his body. He could see one eye bulging out of his skull with his other eye, which remained intact. "I'm like, that's not good," he says, in a comic understatement. Renner also realized that his legs were twisted and bent in unnatural directions, like a pretzel.


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