He may have long played a sidekick in films like North Country and S.W.A.T but with his new movie, The Hurt Locker, about to hit theatres next Friday, Jeremy Renner is set to make the jump to leading man playing a rash, bomb-disabling commando.

“They’re not like your typical soldier,” explained Renner during a recent interview.

Somewhat aloof about landing the big role, the actor insists he was attracted more by the particularity of the part.

“I fell in love with the script because it was about EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal),” said Renner of the elite squads based in Iraq.

“What I found interesting about the story is that there isn’t much story. It’s about these characters and how when they’re good at their job, its seems so effortless and that’s really fun to watch — especially a job that’s so interesting as squatting over a (bomb) that could take you out at any moment.”

In the thriller, Renner plays the impulsive leader of an EOD squad whose soldiers-in-arms struggle with their reckless comrade even as he tries to understand his own wild ways.

Written by journalist Mark Boal (who was embedded with such a unit), the drama is raw, realistic and based on the personalities of true soldiers in Iraq.

“My character’s not very typical of (these soldiers) but I wanted to stay pretty true to them,” said Renner, adding that he met with an EOD officer before filming. “This one thing (I was told) was that they put one dog-tag in their shoe. (When I asked why) ... ‘ah, you always find shoes when someone blows up.’”

Co-star Anthony Mackie was also shocked by his research. Relating a story he heard, Mackie summarizes the resonance of the film through the tale of one soldier who held blast caps between his teeth – until he blew his jaw off.

“It’s just one of those things where you never can play it safe,” said Mackie.

“At any second, something could go wrong so you always have to be on it; you always have to be professional and those guys who aren’t, sooner or later it catches up with them.”