I’LL NEVER FORGET the moment I heard about Jeremy Renner’s accident. It was New Year’s Day 2023, and a news alert popped up on my phone stating the acclaimed actor and star of many of my favorite films and series had been severely injured when he’d been run over by a gigantic snowplow. At that point, no one knew if he would survive. He was in critical condition in a California hospital with massive injuries. I was stunned and saddened, imagining that if he even survived, his career as an Oscar nominated actor was over.
Fast forward eight months later, and I’m sitting across from Jeremy in a West Hollywood hotel, asking him about his new partnership with Sweet Grass Vodka, an award-winning South Carolina spirit. Looking at him, you’d never know he had broken 30 bones—including eight crushed ribs— and had a collapsed lung and a punctured liver. Prior to the interview, Jeremy had spent more than an hour being photographed by renowned celebrity photographer John Russo, going from several floors of the hotel to different locations, heading back to our staging hotel room to change looks in between.
He was not only friendly and joking around during the shoot, but also had the energy to be gracious with fans who recognized him in the elevator and the hotel bar. By the time I sat down with him, I was in awe of his recovery and anxious to find out about his new venture in the spirits world.*
Cigar & Spirits Magazine: How are you feeling these days?
Jeremy Renner: I’m feeling happy to be here. Happy to be alive. Happy to be inspired. Happy to partner. Happy to share. Everything feels wonderfully grounded and real.
Well, you look great. You’ d never know anything happened. [laughter]
I feel pretty great. But I might look better than I feel. [laughter]
So why did you decide to become a Sweet Grass co-owner?
It was in the works for a while. I’ve always been interested in the spirits world and the spirits business because I love business and I love spirits. I also love the people I’m working with. That’s very important to me. It’s the same thing if I was choosing a movie. It’s who am I working with.
With Sweet Grass, I share a lot of the same values. It’s a very grassroots sort of business. What I was thinking about with this specific business and what Jarrod [Swanger, founder and co-owner] was thinking about were very congruent, without us even talking about it. With that synergy, it has been pretty electric. It’s made it very exciting to move forward. The accident kind of got in the way of that, so we waited until there’s some health. Now we can go back to reality and move forward with it
How did you come to meet Jarrod?
It was through my agency. They just put it together and we spent some time together to figure out how to move forward.
What sets Sweet Grass Vodka apart from other vodkas that are out there?
There are a lot of good ones out there, but what I love about Sweet Grass is that it’s a premium vodka—a potato vodka. There’s no sugar and additives. It has won three master-tasting awards. It has a really wonderful taste and is very wellcurated. It’s family-owned, and I love that. Personally, I love the taste for a sipping vodka. The price point is something that’s for everyone. It’s high quality for a very good consumer price. That’s the main thing for me. Why drink something that’s going to make you sick or give you a headache, or has sugars and that kind of stuff when you can get something of premium quality for a very good consumer price?
Why a vodka? Why not a whiskey or a tequila?
Vodka is what I drink. That’s just a personal preference of mine. Clear with no sugar, no bubbles and no hangovers.
That’s only with the good stuff.
Yes. When you drink the good stuff, you’re not going to have any regrets. If you’re going to do it, do it right.
I wish I’d known that when I was younger. [laughter]
Yes, exactly. I know, me too. So you don’t have to make those mistakes. No one wants to feel terrible the next day, right? Potato vodka is actually a really good choice.
Tell me, is what you’re doing now with Sweet Grass helping you get back into life after the accident?
Yes. Here’s the really great thing. It has worked out to where it’s a good time to announce my involvement, and really be able to push it out. Right now, there’s a writers’ strike, there’s an actors’ strike. This gives me something I can really focus on. It’s good for my physical health
and my mental health. To be busy and look forward to something that is outside anything else I’m doing.
I’m a single dad, and my priorities are my family, my daughter. Same for Jarrod and his family. I have been able to do a lot of learning and growing, especially coming from where I was earlier in the year. I’m pretty wide open to different things now, more than I normally would’ve been. I’m 52, and there was a lot of stuff that I thought I knew. Now I know a lot of shit, but I just don’t think I know everything.
So the accident changed your perspective on life a little bit?
Yeah, yeah. And it’s pretty exciting to venture into something like this. Between this and the [charitable] foundation I started, those have been my main focus, along with recovery. The recovery will always be ongoing. Being busy for me is part of the recovery. Getting back into life and just doing life stuff. I feel like I’m not going to be injured the whole time. This is mentally and psychologically important for me.
Right. It’s something to focus on besides the rehab.
Yes, and it’s stuff that I love. And doing it with people I love to do it with. It couldn’t be a more exciting time.
And it’s probably not as grueling as shooting a film or a series.
Oh, 100 percent. It gets busy in spurts. With the foundation, there’s a lot of people helping me out with that one. I’m always inspired by the kids in that one. Let’s see how we can make this grow. We’re very grassroots and hands-on about it. To allow it to grow to where it needs to.
Can you tell me more about your philanthropic work?
Sure. The work that I like to do has always been where part of my life is. I’m the oldest of seven kids, and I’ve always been sort of a nurturer and caregiver to kids. It wasn’t until I did a movie that made me famous with kids that celebrity became very cool all of a sudden—I didn’t like it before. But once I become famous with kids, it became a really cool idea. The foundation is getting enrichment programs to underserved kids. I think all kids deserve opportunities. That’s the base of what the foundation does. It provides opportunities for kids. Working with wonderful foundations like Big Brothers and Sisters, and Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Make a Wish Foundation. Teaming up with them a lot to help fill what they need to get done. Then, interim, I throw camps at Lake Tahoe for kids, and things like that.
It’s so fun and keeps me happy. It keeps me going, and gives me a reason to keep continuing.
A little bit of motivation too because whatever you’re doing, you’re helping people.
It’s a fuel. Yes, if I can do something that puts a smile on a kid’s face or gives an opportunity to a kid, man, there’s nothing that’s more fulfilling than that.
What’s coming up for you next?
Focusing on the company, and there’s a lot of work that has to be done with the foundation. This time has really been a blessing. I can be
busy doing stuff that I do love during this time when we’re kind of handcuffed [due to the actor’s strike]. So I’ll continue to do those things for now and see. There’s nothing but a wide-open future for me, man. I shouldn’t be here right now. [laughs]
I know. We all feel very blessed to be here with you.
I’m all about time, so I’m happy to finish this day and then look forward to the next— because I’ve got to go work on these knees
more and these ankles and these hips. I might look all right, but there’s a lot of stuff.
You’re moving around pretty well!
I’m like the Tinman who needs oil. All these metal parts. That’s also a big part of my focus. I’ll be going back and doing rehab for the rest of my day today.
Then the next day.
You do rehab every day?
Doing this interview and this photo shoot has been a little escape from me having to…
Work on your body.
Yes. That’s the main focus. Another blessing is that I get this time to focus on my health and recovery.