Catching up with the cast of Tag in LA was less bone-breaking than the ongoing game that plays out in director Jeff Tomsic’s new comedy, as Jeremy Renner will attest.
He’s performed daredevil stunts with Tom Cruise on Mission: Impossible, demonstrated his enhanced strengths in Bourne Legacy, and joined with his Avengers co-stars in countless shows of superhuman powers. But, three days into filming comedy Tag, Jeremy Renner managed to break both his arms.
Standing atop a stack of chairs for a scene which would see him use the chairs to swing down to the floor, when the stunt began a few seconds too early, he fell 20ft. Suspended by safety wires, which stopped just inches from the ground, the actor instinctively used his arms to break the fall.
Rushed to the emergency room, Tag’s director Jeff Tomsic and his A-list cast, including Isla Fisher and Jon Hamm, assumed the worst – that their movie would be shut down indefinitely.
“We were all so surprised – and incredibly grateful – when Jeremy returned to set two hours later,” recalls Tomsic, making his feature film-directing debut with Tag.
A stunt-heavy comedy, Tag is based on the real-life story of a group of school friends who have kept the same game of tag going for 28 years, taking one month off every year to play. Naturally, much of the film involves intense physical chase scenes across multiple terrains involving forests, golf courses and shopping malls.
“The ability of Mr. Renner to keep the movie going through what must have been excruciating pain was wildly impressive and inspirational to the rest of us, when you have a leader who is literally able to take one – or two – for the team,” quips Hamm when STACK meets with the cast in Los Angeles.
“It was simply a stunt gone wrong,” says a modest Renner, 47, whose arms were digitalised for the rest of the movie, his casts disguised beneath long sleeves.
“It was the radial bone that was the real issue because you can’t twist your arm, but the Velcro casts came on and off and I didn’t take pain medication so I could do everything pretty good. Once the swelling went down after five days and the bone was set, I felt more confident moving around but I needed to feel the pain, which was why I didn’t take any medication so I knew what not to do.
“I had Avengers after that so I needed to get better quickly for a lot of reasons. Also, the cameras were very forgiving because you don’t have to anything at crazy speeds, like with a Bourne movie.”
Renner’s heroics sent a message to the rest of the cast: No whining.
“The idea of a bunch of 40-somethings running around, there was definitely a couple of sore mornings. Not that we could complain after Jeremy showed us how a real man behaves,” laughs Hamm, 47. “He was in Avenger mode. He got that Tony Stark sh–t kicking in!”
“Jeremy doesn’t feel pain the way the rest of us do,” adds Ed Helms, 44. “To me it’s a signal to shut my body down and start whining and maybe crying, but to Jeremy it’s a personal challenge to overcome. I can’t relate but I respect that.”
While the story behind Tag is true, the greater story is about lasting friendships and making the effort to stay in touch.
Despite all his Mad Men fame, Hamm can relate, feeling more of a connection with his high school buddies than with his shiny new Hollywood friends.
“None of my old friends from the Midwest treat me like a movie star because they’ve known the real me since I was a kid. I’m fascinated by the larger context of this story, which is: Look at these guys who take the time and effort. Any relationship takes work, right? Whether it’s love relationships or marriage, but with friendships, if you don’t put the work into it, it kinda withers away.”
Facebook and social media, he argues, are no substitute for the real thing. “People think that’s a connection but it’s not. It really isn’t, it’s a virtual connection which can serve as a replacement for some time but it doesn’t really substitute for actual face-to-face human connection.“
The cast happily bonded with the real-life tag guys who visited the set, thrilled they were being depicted in a movie, Renner even inviting to them a post-premiere party at his Hollywood home.
“They’re really normal guys,” says Hamm. ‘They’re not crazy weirdos. They all have regular jobs and they’re good friends.
“It’s so nice to be part of a film which has zero cynicism and is just literally about the joy of being a goofball. It’s part of what I like about my own life – that I get to be a dummy sometimes and enjoy that. It’s just a nice note to strike; a fun alternative to the regular cynicism and anger and polarisation and everything that’s going on in the world.”
Renner agrees, “It’s a celebration of fearlessness and the youthful spirit we all have and, even though it may seem stupid, this game of tag represents a celebration of our youth.”
Tag is in cinemas on June 14.