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Renner movie's looking golden

Modesto native Jeremy Renner's gripping Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker" earned a Golden Globe nomination for best dramatic picture Tuesday morning.

The honor comes on the heels of a slew of critics association honors for the film and praise for the Beyer High School graduate's lead role as an explosive ordnance disposal squad technician.

Although Renner was not nominated for best actor in a drama, as some critics had predicted, the film earned two other nods: for its director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.

"I am very excited. It's an absolute triumph that we are where we are with this movie," Renner said from his Los Angeles home. "There is nothing to be disappointed about at all. It's an honor to be part of this movie."

The film is up against "Avatar," "Inglourious Basterds," "Precious" and "Up in the Air" for best drama.

Renner said he slept through the nominations early Tuesday morning, but his family in Modesto woke up at 5 a.m. to hear the news live. They were thrilled for the movie but disappointed that Renner wasn't included.

"I am still excited about the good news," said his mother, Valerie Cearley. "I just wish Jeremy had gotten in there. He is so deserving of this and has worked so hard. It's so surreal for me, this is my little boy out there doing all these great things."

Released in June, "The Hurt Locker" instantly gained critical acclaim for its gritty portrayal of soldiers in Iraq who risk life and limb detonating bombs in combat zones.

Renner plays lead bomb technician Staff Sgt. William James, a man who walks up to live bombs for a living.

"We started in a very, very deep hole with this little movie with emerging actors in an Iraq war movie, so we've already won in so many ways," Renner said. "It's a victory for all of us when any one of us gets some sort of recognition or validation for this movie. This film was shot as a very collaborative effort and was also celebrated as a collaborative effort."

"The Hurt Locker" has gathered steam throughout award season and taken the top honors from the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Boston Film Critics, The San Francisco Film Critics, Alliance of Women Film Journalists and the Gotham Awards.

Boston named Renner its best actor, the Gotham Awards honored him and the cast as best ensemble performance, and the Hollywood Awards named him breakthrough actor.

Several critics were shocked by Renner's exclusion from the Globes.

Nods were widely expected for nominees Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart"), George Clooney ("Up In The Air"), Colin Firth ("A Single Man") and Morgan Freeman ("Invictus").

But many were surprised by Tobey Maguire's inclusion for the dueling Iraq war film "Brothers."

San Francisco Chronicle movie critic Mick LaSalle asked, "(H)ow could the foreign press nominate Maguire and pass over Jeremy Renner's brilliant performance as a soldier/adrenaline junkie in 'The Hurt Locker?' "

The Associated Press said Renner's "absence was unexpected," and the New York Post said his "place went to the more telegenic Tobey Maguire for a far inferior Gulf War movie, 'Brothers.' "

Critics denounce snub

The film's nominations still position it for Academy Award consideration.

Renner is considered by many, including influential Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert, as a strong contender for the Oscars.

The online movie magazine Movieline said the Globes' snubbing of the actor "reinforces your faith that the Academy will do right by Renner next month."

Still, Renner said he is taking awards season one day, and even one minute, at a time. He will attend the Golden Globes on Jan. 17 if asked by Bigelow or Boal.

"Obviously (the Oscars) are in the back of my mind. But what matters now for the movie is the next 10 minutes," he said. "What matters after that is the next 10 minutes — like a shower. And then the next 10 minutes. I'm starving, so maybe a sandwich is in order. I can't think that far ahead."

While the award circuit keeps Renner busy, he plans to come home to Modesto for Christmas before the final big push of the season. He said he's looking forward to seeing his sister's new baby and doing mundane tasks such as cleaning the gutters.

'Pretty grounded guy'

Renner's father, Lee Renner, said he is honored to see his son's work recognized.

"He is a pretty grounded guy," Renner said. "Although the honors are wonderful, I know it doesn't make Jeremy tick that way. He is very fortunate and blessed to have this exposure."

Renner's public exposure is sure to keep growing. On Monday, celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz shot a portrait session with Renner and director Bigelow for an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

Before Thanksgiving he wrapped filming the crime thriller "The Town," which co-stars Ben Affleck and "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm. It's scheduled to be released in September.

"It's kind of surreal in a way," Renner said. "Because I've been doing this for a little while now, I run into peers. So it feels like I belong in some ways. But in other ways I can't believe I'm having lunch with so and so. Some of it is a little bizarre. You just enjoy it."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or 578-2284.

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