In this weekend's "The Bourne Legacy," Jeremy Renner picks up a mega-franchise from where Matt Damon left off, but it wasn't long ago that the Academy Award nominee was making his film debut as an underachieving student in the long-forgotten '90s comedy "National Lampoon's Senior Trip."
Renner's interest in acting blossomed relatively late, when the California native decided to pursue a double major in theater and psychology at Modesto Junior College. Shortly after graduation, Renner made his way to Los Angeles to parlay his passion into a career. His first opportunity came via the play "Search and Destroy," which earned him early buzz from critics. From there, Renner jumped into his first film role at the tender age of 24 with "Senior Trip."
In the critically reviled 1995 teen comedy, Renner costars as Mark 'Dags' D'Agastino, a perpetually stoned, flannel-wearing high school senior who, along with his obnoxious classmates, heads to Washington D.C. for a school trip. Dags and his best friend Reggie (Rob Moore) make it their movie-long mission to torment their buffoonish principal (Matt Frewer) by throwing a party at his home, locking him in a flooded convenience store restroom and indirectly destroying his brand new Buick — all against a backdrop of sophomoric humor.
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Unsurprisingly, the movie bombed with critics and audiences and failed to make Renner a household name. Throughout the next seven years, Renner scored a series of bit television parts ("The Net," "The Time of Your Life," "Angel") before making his first career breakthrough in 2002's "Dahmer." His performance as the titular serial killer led to his first Independent Spirit Award nomination and bigger feature projects like "S.W.A.T.," "North Country," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "28 Weeks Later."
In 2009, less than 15 years after his film debut, Renner appeared in his most critically acclaimed role yet -- as bomb disposal expert Sergeant William James in Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker." The role earned Renner his first Academy Award nomination. Since then, he's also received acclaim for his loose-cannon turn in Ben Affleck's "The Town" and made a cameo as uber-archer Hawkeye in "Thor."
This weekend, after joining Tom Cruise's super-spy team last year in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" and saving the world earlier this summer in "The Avengers," Renner returns to the screen for as another hunted secret agent in "The Bourne Legacy." He may be a globe-trotting rogue government operative now, but we'll always remember his first film role as a mischievous stoner looking to pull a fast one on the principal.
Originally published on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011.