Kiran Hefa
January 11, 2010 10:20 AM

With The Hurt Locker topping critics’ picks and racking up award nominations, all eyes are on the film’s relatively unknown star, Jeremy Renner.

Playing Staff Sgt. William James, the head of an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) squad stationed in Iraq, Renner, 39, is garnering Oscar buzz for his performance in the wartime drama, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and has been nominated for Independent Spirit, Critics’ Choice and SAG awards.

Before Renner returns to the big screen with 2010’s The Town, here are five things you should know about one of Hollywood’s hottest new leading men:

1. He ‘Put On’ 80 lbs. for Hurt Locker
Shooting in Jordan, where the summer heat regularly reached around 110 degrees, Renner had to don a Kevlar bomb suit for his role that weighed between 80 and 100 lbs. “Initially I was very cavalier about it,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but after 10 minutes in the get-up, “I nearly died.”

2. He Can Handle a Gun
Having played soldiers in 2007’s 28 Weeks Later and 2003’s S.W.A.T., Renner came into the role of Sgt. James with previous military training. “That is when I became really good at holding a gun and shooting a gun and being accurate with a rifle,” he told The Hill. But to tap into the mind of a bomb diffuser, Renner studied with EOD squad leaders at California’s Fort Irwin. “They walk you around like it was Santa’s workshop, and they are all building bombs,” he said. “[But] really getting to sit down and talk with them individually over a beer was a lot different, and I got a lot of insight into that.”

3. He’s Ready to Rock
Renner put his pipes on display in 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and 2005’s North Country, and has been playing drums, guitar and piano from a young age. But the actor has no plans of leaving Hollywood for life as a rock star. Instead, he’d rather play one onscreen. “That would be a real challenge,” he told Interview magazine of wanting to portray Kurt Cobain. “It would be a lot of fun to explore that.”
RELATED: Jeremy Renner Has Oscar Nod, Is Ready to Travel!

4. He Has a Celeb Fan in Ben Affleck
The actor-director, who cast Renner in his 2010 heist flick The Town, praised the star’s Hurt Locker performance in an essay for Variety. “You don’t feel for a second that Jeremy’s not the person he’s playing, ” Affleck wrote. “And that compete immersion into the character is what pulls us all into that suit and makes us all feel like we’re trying to diffuse that bomb with him With Jeremy we’re seeing the beginnings of a body of work from an actor who’s obviously really gifted.”

5. He’s Family-Oriented
With his star on the rise, Renner is ready to settle down and dedicate his life to more domestic pursuits. “I’m single. I don’t have a family and I would like to,” the actor told Parade. “I’ve given up some things to have the life that I have now.”

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