Screenshot courtesy ABC
Jeremy Renner has given his first interview after suffering a life-threatening snow plow accident in January, which left the “Hawkeye” actor with over 30 broken bones.
In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, Renner detailed exactly how the Jan. 1 incident occurred, revealing that he was run over by his 14,330-pound Sno-Cat after attempting to jump back in the vehicle to save his nephew.
Renner said that he and his 27-year-old nephew, Alex, were attempting to tow a Ford Raptor out of the snow with his snow plow. As Alex undid the chain connecting the two vehicles after successfully getting it out of the snow, Renner’s plow began to slide on the ice. Worried for his nephew’s safety, Renner stuck one foot out of the plow to look back at Alex, neglecting to set the parking brake. That’s when he lost his footing and fell out of the vehicle’s cab.
“I just happened to be the dummy standing on the dang track a little bit, seeing if my nephew was there. You shouldn’t be outside the vehicle when you’re operating it, you know what I mean? It’s like driving a car with one foot out of the car,” Renner said. “But it is what it was. And it’s my mistake, and I paid for it.”
Afraid that the vehicle would roll back and “sandwich” Alex with the truck, Renner attempted to jump back into the Sno-Cat to disengage it — at which point he was run over.
“That’s when I screamed, by the way, when I went under the thing,” Renner said. “‘Not today, motherfucker!’ is what I screamed. Sorry for the language.”
Renner said he remembered “all of” the pain. “I was awake through every moment. It’s exactly what you would imagine it would feel like,” he said. “It is hard to imagine what that feels like, but when you look at the machine and you look at — I was on asphalt and ice. I wish I was on snow. It felt like someone took the wind out of you. Too many things are going on in the body to feel pain, it’s everything. It’s like if your soul could have pain.”
Recalling his injuries, Renner said he could “see my eye with my other eye.”
Alex was able to hop into the Raptor before the plow hit the car, sending it into a nearby snow bank. When Alex got out of the car and ran to Renner, he “didn’t think he was alive.”
“It’s pretty terrifying to see the person that you look up to for so much to be like that, to see them like that,” Alex said.
Alex ran to the nearest house in the area, where he spotted Rich Kovach standing in his garage with the door halfway down. Alex grabbed Kovach’s legs and shouted, “You gotta help me!” Kovach and his partner, Barb Fletcher, came to the rescue.
Kovach and Fletcher remembered trying to keep the actor alive while they waited 21 minutes for paramedics to trek through the snow. As can be heard on the 911 call, Renner was letting out loud moans as he laid on the asphalt. “This was the sound of someone that was dying,” Fletcher said.
“When I looked at his head, it appeared to me to be cracked wide open and I could see white. I don’t know if that was his skull, maybe just my imagination, but that is what I thought I saw. So I knew it was extremely serious,” Kovach said. “He had some blood coming out of his ears, I know for sure, and then his eye, it looked like it had been punched out.”
Fletcher added, “At one point, he just got a clammy feel to him and he turned this gray-green color. I really feel he did pass away for a couple seconds. I really do.”
Renner was eventually airlifted to a hospital in Reno, where his family met him. Once they arrived, Renner signed “I’m sorry” to them in sign language. “I mean, I did that to them,” he said. “It is my responsibility, I feel bad that my actions had caused so much pain.”
Renner’s injuries were so serious that he penned a goodbye note to his family in the hospital. “I’m writing down notes in my phone to — last words to my family,” Renner said through tears. “Don’t let me live on tubes on a machine, if my existence is going to be on drugs and painkillers, let me go now.”
Sawyer recounted Renner’s injuries during the interview, saying: “Eight ribs broken in 14 places. Right knee, right ankle broken, left leg tibia broken, left ankle broken, right clavicle broken, right shoulder broken. Face, eye socket, jaw, mandible broken. Lung collapsed. Pierced from the rib bone, your liver — which sounds terrifying.”
Renner’s rib cage and eye socket were rebuilt with metal plates and screws, and his jaw was mended with rubber bands and screws. A titanium rod was placed in his broken leg.
As Renner continues his recovery, he said he’s fine with no longer doing his own stunts. “I’m okay with a stunt guy doing it at this point. I’m 52, it’s fine, I’ve done enough,” Renner said. “I’m okay to do more, right? But I have no ego, like go for it, I don’t care. I’ll be in my trailer.”
But painful memories of the accident still plague his mind. “Last night, I didn’t sleep for shit knowing I was going to have to talk about it today. I have no regrets. I’d do it again,” he said, adding: “I refuse to have that be a trauma and be a negative experience. That is a man that I’m proud of, because I wouldn’t let that happen to my nephew. I shift the narrative of being victimized, or making a mistake, or anything else. I refuse to be fucking haunted by that memory that way.”
Renner will appear in-person for the first time since the accident at the premiere of his upcoming Disney+ show “Rennervations” on April 11. He is also set to participate in a Q&A after a screening of the series, which focuses on renovating different vehicles. According to the ABC News special, Renner told Sawyer that the next time fans see him on a red carpet, he wants to be walking.