Jeremy Renner Makes First Marvel Return Since Snowplow Accident

By Gillian Blum Posted:
Jeremy Renner

What If...? Season 2, Episode 3 saw Jeremy Renner return to the MCU for the first time since his devastating accident.

Just under a year ago, Renner, who plays Hawkeye in the MCU, was hospitalized after a snowplow accident significantly injured his leg. He spent time in emergency surgery, which reportedly could have taken his life had it not gone correctly.

After weeks of recovery, Renner started easing back into his everyday life. He even said at a convention in June that if Marvel wants him to return for future projects, he would be there "in a heartbeat."

Of course, this does not by any means indicate that Renner's recovery process is over. In early November, he shared a video on his Instagram showing the progress he has made over 10 months of recovery, with a heartfelt note about why he continues "pushing" and working hard, despite the injury.

Warning - the rest of this article contains spoilers for Season 2, Episode 3 of What If...?.

Jeremy Renner's First Hawkeye Role Since Injury

Animated Hawkeye in What If...?
Marvel Studios

The third episode of What If...?'s second season saw Jeremy Renner voice Hawkeye for a short scene, marking his first return to the role and the MCU since his injury in early 2023.

It is entirely possible that his lines were recorded prior to the accident, as it is unlikely he would take time out of recovery to record a short cameo. However, since the show is animated, it is not out of the question.

More likely, though, he recorded his lines before his hospitalization, as fans did see one complete episode of What If...? Season 2 at San Diego Comic-Con in 2022 — meaning voice work for at least that episode was completed. If the other episodes developed at a similar pace, that would mean by summer 2022, months before Renner's accident, the voice work was finished.

Animated Avengers in What If...?
Marvel Studios

In Episode 3, titled "What If... Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?," all six original Avengers appear. It is worth noting that while all six of the characters who make up the 2012 Avengers team had roles in the episode, they were not all voiced by their live-action actors.

Hawkeye can be seen twice in the episode, though he plays a more prominent role in the first of his two appearances.

Around the episode's halfway mark, Happy Hogan tries calling each of the Avengers as he gradually starts turning into The Freak, but each one he calls hangs up for one reason or another.

Animated Clint Barton and Bruce Banner in What If...?
Marvel Studios

When Happy tries calling Hulk, Bruce Banner is in the middle of what appears to be a department or toy store, fighting with Clint Barton over an Iron Man action figure, which Bruce seems to trying to get for a crying girl nearby.

Bruce, referencing his exchange with Natasha Romanoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron, tries pointedly telling Clint that the "sun’s getting real low," indicating he may Hulk out over the figure.

Animated Clint Barton and Bruce Banner in What If...?
Marvel Studios

Clint stands his ground, though, explaining that his wife told him "Bring home this toy or don’t come home at all:"

Bruce: "Clint, think we need to wrap this up. Sun’s getting real low, pal. Like, super winter solstice kind of low."

Clint: "I’m sorry. It’s the last one."

Bruce: "Clint, just give her the toy!"

Clint: "No can do. The wife says, 'Bring home this toy or don’t come home at all.'"

Ironically, behind them during this interaction, there is a full section of Hawkeye toys being sold at 25% off (with 15% off crossed out above it).

Animated Avengers in What If...?
Marvel Studios

Near the end of the episode, Hawkeye makes his second appearance. He doesn't speak, but he is seen fighting The Freak with the other Avengers (besides Thor, who was late), before learning that the purple creature was actually Happy.

He watches on as Happy defeats Justin Hammer (the true villain) with the rest of his team and leaves with them to find something to eat as The Watcher concludes the story.

More Animated MCU Hawkeye Content?

Whether or not Renner recorded his lines for What If...? before his injury, his role in the episode reminds fans that even while in recovery, the actor could still bring Hawkeye into upcoming MCU projects by voicing him in animated projects.

This would be a way for Renner to continue with the franchise — something he has said he wants to do — without sacrificing his health or slowing down his recovery progress.

Voice acting does not require the same physical stamina that live-action acting does. So, even before being physically ready for live-action, Renner could voice Hawkeye in animated projects like Marvel Zombies.

Interestingly, there is precedent for playing a character in the MCU, then voicing that character in an animated segment of an otherwise live-action story, without appearing in the live-action segment at all, as Michael Rooker did exactly that in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special in 2022.

Granted, that is a very specific set of circumstances, which may not happen any sooner than Renner would be ready to return in live-action anyway, but it is always a possibility.

New episodes of What If...? Season 2 will continue to release daily on Disney+ through December 30, and all previous episodes from the first and second seasons are available to stream on the platform now.

- In This Article: What If...? (Season 2)
Release Date
December 22, 2023
Jeffrey Wright
- About The Author: Gillian Blum

Gillian Blum has been a writer at The Direct since 2022, reporting primarily from New York City. Though she covers news from across the entertainment industry, Gillian has a particular focus on Marvel and DC, including comics, movies, and television shows. She also commonly reports on Percy Jackson, Invincible, and other similar franchises.