They called it the "Rally for Renner," and boy did they ever.
Some 240 of Jeremy Renner's family, friends and folks who had never even met him gathered at the State Theatre on Sunday night to watch the actor's film "The Hurt Locker" nearly sweep the Academy Awards.
The crowd was greeted by a life-size cutout of the Modesto native. Family members and fans alike posed with the best picture Academy Award nominee's likeness and also browsed a collection of childhood photos and theater memorabilia from his past.
His scarecrow costume from "The Wizard of Oz" was there, as were posters from various Modesto Junior College productions.
Modesto residents Joe and Lupe Valerio brought their two teenage sons, after renting the movie.
"I think it's interesting the family invited the public to share this moment with them," Lupe Valerio said. "That's why I wanted to be part of this moment."
Before the telecast kicked off, the State played a biographical video presentation about Renner and his "The Hurt Locker" role. Renner and his mother and Oscar date, Valerie Cearley, also taped a special greeting on the eve of the awards show for the crowd.
"We just wanted to say thanks for all your support," he said. "Couldn't be happier to be here and have my mom as my date and be sharing this experience with you."
Renner appeared on screen at the top of the telecast, as the best actress and actor nominees opened the show. Throughout the night, the State crowd cheered raucously each time he or his mother appeared on screen. They were seated behind fellow Oscar nominee Matt Damon and next to Cameron Diaz.
With each "Hurt Locker" win, the crowd roared.
"This is the coolest experience, sharing all this energy, all this camaraderie," said Renner's father, Lee Renner.
He said people who knew his son from high school and MJC approached him throughout the night offering congratulations.
"I attended Davis High School with Jeremy's father," said Modesto resident Jennie Achterberg, who came the the State to cheer on the hometown favorite. "I believe Jeremy Renner has achieved this Oscar moment through 20 years of hard work, determination and talent. I have immense respect for his 'old-fashioned' ethical climb to the top."
Renner's 16-year-old brother, Clayton Renner, said it was strange being around so many people who were cheering for his brother.
"People know him all of a sudden," he said. "I can't believe it."
The film kept beating what was considered its closest competition, the box-office behemoth "Avatar," in the early categories including sound mixing, sound editing and film editing.
But Cearley, who spoke with The Bee via cell phone after the awards ended, said her son knew "The Hurt Locker" was going to do well after its first win of the night, for best original screenplay for Mark Boal.
"As soon as Mark Boal won, Jeremy said 'The Hurt Locker' is going to get everything," she said.
And it nearly did.
By the time the best actor award rolled around, the show was into its third hour, but the State Theatre crowd was still excited. The Academy had one of each nominee's past co-stars share their experiences and thoughts about them.
Colin Farrell shared thoughts
Colin Farrell, who starred with Renner in the 2003 action film "S.W.A.T.," did the honors for him, saying, "We had some good times, both on and off the set -- including that trip to Mexico, man, which I wish I remembered more of."
Joking aside, he went on to say, "Two things were obvious working with Jeremy then. Your raw talent and your kindness and your generosity to those around you, regardless of their station. It was an absolute inspiration."
While Renner lost out to heavily favored veteran actor Jeff Bridges for the award, his family said just to see him in the same league as Morgan Freeman and George Clooney was a reward.
"I wasn't totally disappointed that Jeff Bridges won," said the elder Renner. "Just the company he was in was amazing. Of course, I'm his father, so I wanted him to win. But I'm just so excited for the film."
The movie went on to win best director for Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to win the honor.
And then, for the night's final award, it beat the highest- grossing film of all time, "Avatar," to win its sixth award of the night.
Nearly the entire Modesto crowd leapt to its feet cheering.
Cearley, who was leaving the Kodak Theater to attend the Governors Ball, said the Oscar experience was "awesome, just awesome."
"It's all totally different here in person," she said. "It's so much more."
Renner and his mom planned on attending several Oscar parties, such as the star-studded Vanity Fair bash.
But those two weren't the only ones who planned to be up late into the night.
"You know, this night has been so satisfying," said Renner's sister Kym Vieira. "It was overwhelming, the community support. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2284.