It’s difficult to consider the new Jeremy Renner-led series “Rennervations” without reflecting on the accident that recently befell the star. Renner, already a household name due to his acting efforts in critically acclaimed films like “The Hurt Locker” and in blockbusters like the “Avengers” franchise, suffered horrific injuries after his Snowcat crushed him and left him with 30 broken bones, a pierced liver and a collapsed lung.
But “Rennervations,” a four-part series airing on Disney+ starting today, April 12, isn’t really meant to be about Renner as an actor, or indeed his unfortunate accident, at all. The show is meant to “showcase Renner’s passion for renovating vehicles and giving back to local communities.” Those vehicles were all purchased at auction and stored by Renner until called upon to be turned into something completely different from what they were built to be.
We sat down for a brief Zoom video conference with Renner’s best friend and business partner, Rory Millikin, to discuss the series. It turns out the story behind the adventure is almost as interesting as the final results.
(Edited for clarity.)
Jeremy Korzeniewski: “Can you tell us a little about how you got to know Jeremy Renner, and what led up to you and he deciding to film ‘Rennervations’?”
Rory Millikin: “I’m Canadian, the boys from Nickleback, the Canadian rock band came by… we were shooting pool and I was unusually getting my butt kicked by Chad, and a mutual friend of his is a friend of Jeremy’s. I’d never heard of Jeremy Renner – no clue who this guy was. We came up, met him, and were chatting away. We were talking about this movie, “Arrival,” and he was intimating he was in it. I was like, ‘Yeah, I just saw it. Superman’s girlfriend was in it, but I don’t remember you.’ He goes, ‘Look, I was the costar.” I stared at him, said, ‘Yeah, I don’t think so.’ Chad’s just going, ‘Oh my God, Rory …’
“So we kinda just sort of hit it off that way. He said, ‘Give me your number and either I’m gonna delete it and block it forever or you and I are going to become good buddies.”
Korzeniewski: “What went into the decision to buy ‘government surplus’ buses for this project?”
Millikin: “He likes to buy things from auction houses – he calls it ‘garage sale-ing for billionaires,’ and he was seeing these large vehicles going to waste and maybe potentially going to get salvaged, and they have a lot of life left in them. He hates seeing things go to waste … and so one day he bought a fire truck. And I said, ‘Well, what are you gonna do with this thing?’ He says, ‘Well, there are a lot of fires up here in Tahoe, and maybe I can use the turret to spray a fire inhibitor along the ditches where the sparks start. … Or we can turn it into a party bus with a DJ booth up top and a slide off the front and a soft serve ice cream cone!’ But his theme is always help the community, help kids.”
“Then he got another one, and he’s like, ‘You gotta see this.’ And then it just became a bit of a problem. He just started buying these things – buses, trams, shuttle buses from airports. He kinda came up with the idea, ‘Maybe we can do this as a show. Maybe you could work with an organization and give a big macro view on the organization itself.’ So the truck repurposing became a segue into introducing the world to these really special organizations, and really show what effect they have on kids and to inspire viewers … to inspire them to find other organizations that are part of their neighborhood and that they can be a part of.”
Korzeniewski: “If you were to set about to do this again, do you think you’d follow that same path, these surplus vehicles – is that something you’d do over again?”
Millikin: “I think the answer is yes. It’s strange – the universe does what it does, and you kind of go through a path to get to an extraordinary treasure. So I think that the answer is yes. Are there other ways he could consider doing it, or compliment it? Sure. I think part of the fun is finding these vehicles online, participating in the bids, you know? It gets the juices flowing – if other people could donate vehicles … it’s about the organizations and motivating people to become a part of it.”