A friend called today and said she wanted to see Wind River, the new movie out with Jeremy Renner, Kelsey Asbille and Julia Jones. And I suddenly remembered—I’m in that movie!
Well, sort of. I’m an extra, bringing my “daughter” to school in one scene, and at the park ranger station in another. But still.
The day that we filmed the park ranger scene there was a small handful of extras—maybe five of us—Jeremy Renner and the crew. We spent the day shooting and reshooting a scene, and between shots, sitting at a picnic table under a huge oak tree and talking.
Jeremy was sullen at first, sitting without talking, scowling at his hands. I was not impressed, and I was sad about that. My daughter used to have a poster of him as Hawkeye in the Avengers up in her bedroom and I wanted to bring back a glowing report. But he was not glowing.
After a while his makeup artist, a stout British woman, came and sat beside him. “What’s wrong, Jeremy?” she asked. He just shrugged. “Come on. Talk about it. What’s going on?”
He started to talk about his daughter, apparently 4 years old at the time, and as he did, his eyes lit up. He pulled out his phone and showed the woman pictures she had sent him that morning, and he talked about how much he missed her and how worried he was about not being there for her.
He talked about his own childhood, and how he made and sold popsicles as a kid to earn money. He learned how to work, and the value of a dollar. And his daughter, he worried, was not having those same experiences. She had money, too much money he feared, and that could hurt her.
He also talked about not being there with her. He was in Utah, filming for several days- maybe weeks. And she was in California with his ex wife. He missed her and was worried about not being there for her when she needed him, as she was growing up.
As I sat across the picnic table from him and listened, my impression completely changed. This was a man who loved and missed his daughter, who wanted her to know the value of hard work and of a dollar, who wanted to be the best dad he could be, and who was worried that his job might be getting in the was of him doing what really mattered most.
The conversation about Wind River today brought all that back. The movie might be about Native Americans and justice. But for me it is a reminder of what matters most. Not paychecks or fame, but people and family. We are all ordinary people.