How a set of stacked chairs brought down an Avenger
Credit: Kyle Kaplan/Warner Bros.

When you’re a lead of a movie that requires you to perform some pretty slick stunts, the last thing you want to do is break not one, but both of your arms on the second day of filming. And yet that’s exactly what happened to Jeremy Renner on the set of upcoming action-comedy Tag, about five adult friends who have played the same game of tag for three decades with Renner’s character as the one who has evaded being tagged each year.

After Renner’s costar Jon Hamm told the story of Renner’s injured arms being CGI’d last week on The Ellen DeGeneres Show (and made sure to reiterate that he had no part in the incident), some people have been speculating about exactly how much of Renner’s Tag performance required visual effects.

In an April interview for EW’s annual Summer Movie Preview, Renner said he was filming a sequence that involved 20 to 30 chairs stacked about 20 feet high inside of a community hall, in a stunt that saw him being chased by Hamm and fellow cast members Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, and Jake Johnson and racing up the stacked chairs in an attempt to escape. Renner told EW in an April interview that the rigging on the chairs broke and “I broke along with it and fell on the ground and broke my arms.”

In true superhero mode, Renner said he didn’t realize that his arms were broken at the time and while he felt some pain, he got up and did the stunt again.

“Then I realized, I think something’s wrong, so I went to the hospital, and they said it was broken, so I got them wrapped up and then I went back to work and did everything I could do to continue on as we did,” he said.

Renner said he had splints put onto both his arms and then didn’t take any pain medication so that he could feel if he pushed himself too hard while performing certain stunts.

“I couldn’t rotate my hands but I could move my arms up and down kind of like a robot, but I would do anything that didn’t hurt essentially,” he said.

“The first week was a little rough just because of the swelling, but the swelling went down after the first week. I would take the splints off as often as I could so I didn’t stay in this sort of like arm bent position, stiffened, so I was working through therapy and all sorts of stuff throughout the whole picture but I just limited what I could do with my hand.”

The only scene that needed some CGI work happened to be the one that Renner broke his arms on — the stacked chairs.

“I went back to shoot that day, I didn’t take anything out of the cast and they had to put like a clean sleeve over my arm, because I didn’t want to take it off right after I just broke it, I needed it to set, I wanted the bone to set, so I think they had to CGI my arm or something in just that one scene, but the rest of it, you know, it all went on okay,” he said.

Hamm joked that his absence from the set that day (he was in London for the Baby Driver premiere) caused “mercury in retrograde.”

“When I left, everyone was fine, and when I came back, the s— had hit the fan,” Hamm told EW.

“Jeremy is such a trooper that he then continued shooting, because between his Avengers schedule and everything else he does in his life, there was no option other than to keep going and he showed up the next day with these two casts on and we’re obviously all very careful and we had to tweak some of the moves and some of the stuff to make sure that he didn’t hurt himself further, and then you just clean up the casts in post,” he added.

And then of course there was issue of Renner’s bow-and-arrow-wielding Hawkeye in the Avengers films, which he had to shoot right after wrapping on Tag.

“It’s sort of like a battle of my will to heal as fast as I possibly could, I did therapy just painfully everyday and I was able to get through it all as best as I could,” Renner said.

“What else do you do, you just stop and cry and everyone go home? You know what I mean? I’d be like, ‘sorry guys, I’m not going to use a bow and arrow now in Avengers,’ it’s silly, so I have to kind of push through so that you can perform for everyone,” he added.

While we all now know Hawkeye was conspicuously missing from Avengers: Infinity War, Renner did say he had filmed both that project and the upcoming Avengers 4 with bow and arrow in hand. And as for his arms, Renner said he’s almost back to normal.

“I’m healed, I’m not at full strength, I haven’t been doing any training or anything, but I think I’ll probably get back and start actually doing something really physical,” he said.

“When I couldn’t pick up my daughter, that was a very upsetting time, but once I was able to do that, then I was healed in my mind.”

Tag is out in theaters on June 15.

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