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Confirming a rumor we started hearing as early as last November, THR is reporting that Jeremy Renner is in final negotiations to play Hawkeye in The Avengers, the omnibus Marvel superhero film being directed by Joss Whedon. Hawkeye started as a villain in the series but quickly switched sides, and will bear the distinction of being one of the few Avengers heroes without his own movie franchise when the movie comes out in 2012.

Renner has apparently been interested in the film ever since we started hearing rumors about it, but he had a lot of other offers on his plate, including a starring role in Battleship that he turned down and the number-two role in Paul Thomas Anderson's next movie, a role we'd been assuming as recently as two days ago that Renner was locked in to play. THR says the movie is having trouble finding financing-- no surprise given the dismal independent film market-- and Renner is hoping to play Hawkeye with enough time to jump into the Anderson project when it finally gets ready to roll.

Odds are a year ago you'd never heard of Jeremy Renner, but since his Oscar nomination for The Hurt Locker he's seen his star quotient rise exponentially, and it's been interesting to see where he's guided his career since then. Obviously The Avengers isn't exactly highbrow entertainment, but it will put in in pretty enviable company among his co-stars, including Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and maybe Edward Norton. I'll only be bummed about this news if it means Renner bails on the Anderson project, because I really, really wanted to see what he and Philip Seymour Hoffman would be like as the founders of a cult. No offense to the Marvel fans, but that sounds a lot more interesting than a superhero task force.

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