You can’t help but like Jeremy Renner. No matter what role he plays—from a bomb squadder in The Hurt Locker to a bank robber in The Town—this Oscar-nominated actor stands out.

As fame came later in life for the 43-year-old, Renner has a more pragmatic outlook on all things Hollywood. And this weekend, the first film from his production company hits theaters. Kill the Messenger tells the controversial real-life story of investigative journalist Gary Webb, who exposed the CIA in the 1990s.

We caught up with him to talk movies, media, motorcycles and moustaches.

“You have to be prepared, be tenacious, and have a willingness to sacrifice and persevere. I sacrificed so much, even my own self respect at times.”

You became a breakout star a bit later than a lot of folks in Hollywood. Looking back, was there an upside to that?
I’ve been around the business for a long time, seen all the pitfalls, things to do and not to do. It kinda felt like I was more ready for this to come my way. Hollywood, with all it has to offer, can be pretty enticing and alluring. If you don’t have your feet on the ground, you can go down a bad road. So now, being older, I can really enjoy the entire process of being recognized and getting accolades. I take it all in stride with humility and am very grateful for what I have.

Any advice to guys who are striving to break through in their chosen field, and haven’t quite done it just yet? What does it take to stay in the game?
Certainly, you have to be prepared, be tenacious, and have a willingness to sacrifice and persevere. I sacrificed so much, even my own self respect at times. And if you have a support system in place with great friends, that’s really important too. You absolutely need to get some work.

Is it harder to play a man who existed in real life?
It’s easier, since there is already an existing road map to understanding this man. But then it becomes more difficult later on; there are limitations in that you can’t stretch the truth too far, since he was a real person. This is an important story, you want to be able to tell his story—and show the legacy he left behind for his family—all the while embracing all his flaws.

Do you think there is more integrity in journalism/the media today?
I don’t know, man, it’s hard to say. I would say no, not because there are not great journalists out there, fighting the good fight. I feel like it’s the state of media; it’s now a 24-hour news cycle. Back when Webb was in journalism, that wasn’t happening. There is a huge influx of salacious headlines—we are bombarded with both good and bad. There is just so much information out there—the quality of journalism has really decreased exponentially. And bad news seems to sell, sadly.

Do you like to ride a motorcycle like your character does?
I love riding, ever since I was a kid. I have three at my house. I find it a very cathartic, personal freedom for me.

How was it working with Ray Liotta and Andy Garcia?
The whole shoot was crazy. We had such great talent in this film. I was so focused on all my duties I didn’t get to really take a moment and say, ‘Wow, that was pretty incredible.’ You really are only as good as the person you are acting opposite.

You sport a ’stache and beard in the film.
Yeah, we decided to go with what guys looked like in that time period. Gary at one point had a porno movie mustache, which we thought would be a little too distracting if he had to rock that for the entire film! We thought this goatee still caught the essence of Gary without being too over the top.

Now that you are on Twitter, do you like it?
It’s not my bag to be honest. I am on there to do something I don’t want to do, so I am not always just doing what I want! It’s kind of a social media experiment to expose myself in ways that I don’t normally, since I am a very private person. There is a certain power one has if you are on there; you can squelch rumors, you can have a larger following, and it’s good to be in contact with your fans. I am very accessible to people and this is a nice way to make an ass out of myself and expose myself to the public in a way I am not normally used to. I don’t just want to be the crochety old guy who shuns away new media. I will give myself a year and see how that goes.

We saw the picture of you and the weights, is that a regular thing you are doing?
No, I hate working out! That was for “The Avengers!” That’s why it’s great to do these movies, kinda forces you to get in good shape.