Mark Ruffalo Interview:
Life As An Actor At Home and The Psychological Challenges
2: The Up Close and Personal Side of Mark Ruffalo
The very talented Mark Ruffalo is one of Hollywood's
most talented and respected actors. Courtesy Photo
ny time you mention Mark Ruffalo's name to anyone, the response
is always, "He seems like a really nice guy;" or "He
seems so genuine and not full of himself;" or "I love his
acting;" or "I really love that guy." And so it goes.
Those responses are consistent and I'm pleased to tell you that yes,
he is all those things. Yes, he is quite accessible, and yes, he's quite
unassuming, and yes, he's a really nice guy. As far as his outstanding
performances, given his multiple award nominations, that speaks volumes.
Mark Ruffalo starred as Bruce Banner who morphs
into The Incredible Hulk in "The Avengers: Age of Ultron."
1, I listed some of his films, but in case you missed it, here
is a sampling of some of his most compelling work, with his current
performance in Infinitely Polar Bear, being one of the most powerful
roles he's played to date. His films include: Foxcatcher, Begin Again,
Thanks for Sharing, Now You See Me, The Avenger: Age of Ultron, Zodiac,
Collateral, We Don't Live Here Anymore, You Can Count on Me, In The
Cut, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Kids Are
All Right, for which he received an Academy Award nomination,
along with SAG, BAFTA, and Independent Spirit Award
nominations. He earned a Tony Award nod for his Broadway
performance in Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing, and for his role
in the television movie, The Normal Heart, he was cited for an
L-R: Annette Being, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson,
and Mia Wasikowska in The Kids Are All Right. Courtesy
L-R: Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo co-starred in In
The Cut, a murder mystery.
L-R: Matt Bomer and Mark Ruffalo as lovers dealing
with AIDS in the powerful television film, The Normal Heart.
Ruffalo took a turn behind the camera when
he directed Sympathy for Delicious, in which he also played the
role of Father
Joe. Ruffalo is married to Sunrise Colgney and has three
children two girls and a boy.
1, most of the conversation revolved around discussing bipolar
disorder and his familiarity with this very treatable problem. In the
film, Infinitely Polar Bear, he plays Cam Stuart, a man
with a serious bipolar condition. Written and directed by Maya Forbes,
this is a true story based on her father. Once again, Ruffalo
gives a riveting, spellbinding performance as this troubled man who
becomes the primary caretaker of his children so his wife can go off
to New York to get an advanced degree. Zoe Saldana co-stars
as his wife Maggie, with Imogene Wolodarsky, writer/director's
real-life daughter playing Amelia, and Ashley Aufderheide
as their other daughter Faith.
It should be noted that Ruffalo recently sat
down with a select group of journalists and the interview took place
in one sitting. However, because of very fascinating amount of content,
the interview has been divided into Parts 1 & 2. Accordingly,
the following has been edited for content and continuity for print purposes.
In Infinitely Polar Bear, your character of Cam
cooks. Do you cook as well?
Ruffalo: Yes. I can cook and I can fix things. (Laughter)
I'm a dying breed of man. Like my kids say, "What's that? Can't
we just do an app for it? (Laughter)
What have you fixed? Can you fix a broken sink
Ruffalo: Totally. I also tore apart my motorcycles and
put them back together. Most of it came from just being poor and not
being able to afford to take my car in for an oil or muffler change.
These are things you had to do to in order to survive, especially living
in southern California where you can't do anything without a
car or a motorcycle or some form of transportation. So, out of necessity
I had to learn how to do a lot of stuff. I can change the clutch plates
on a 1978 Honda 250. (Laughter)
What's your phone number? (Laughter)
Ruffalo: (Laughs) I don't know if I can
fix anything past 1980. (Laughter) I've also done
construction, house painting, garden work, and a lot of odd jobs.
Doesn't knowing how to do many things inform your
work at times?
Ruffalo: It does. Or those are the parts I've gotten
to do, and know how to do.
You commented earlier that the language used by
your film daughters surprised you at first. What are the rules in your
home regarding bad language?
The Ruffalo Family L-R: Keen, Sunrise Colney,
(wife) Odette, Mark & Bella (front.) Courtesy
Ruffalo: I like kids who assert themselves and have
a sense of self-esteem and are willing to say what they believe is right
or wrong. I think that's healthy for a child and that's how I raise
my kids. I don't want them swearing at me, but also, I'm not afraid
of words. In my family words aren't something we should be afraid to
use and to be honest with you, I let them swear but it stays in the
house because people get offended. But if they stub a toe and yell "dammit,"
I think it's funny. We adults use the same words.
What is the biggest challenge in balancing your
amazing career with your role as dad and husband?
Ruffalo: Just being away is probably the greatest negative
of my great blessings. I don't mean to complain. It's just that movies
are being made all over the world. They're rarely made locally so spending
long periods of time away from them has been the hardest and most challenging
Do they ever come visit you on set?
Ruffalo: Yes. But, I have three special needs children.
All three of my kids are dyslectic. They need a very specific kind of
schooling and they have a hard time with transitioning. Because of that,
it's hard to take them out of school because I don't want to disrupt
their lives. Actually, it's hard to pull any kid out of school. But
if I'm working, and it's summertime, they come to visit. Last year we
were in London, and that was fun. But, most of the year, they are in
school. I'm now focusing on how do I work near home, and how do I not
work so much. That's kind of where I am right now.
In Infinitely Polar Bear your character of Cam
wears a bowtie. Are you a bowtie man in real life?
Ruffalo: No. Not generally. I have recently picked it
up because I did learn how to tie a bowtie for this movie, which was
a nightmare. I just couldn't understand how to do it, and I had to do
a scene tying a bowtie. We were going to do it in one take so I had
to learn how to do it. But, how I look at it is that bowties are not
bad. As long as you're not Tucker Carlson* you can try to kind
of pull it off. What I like about bowties is that they're a little f@##-up
and not quite perfect. (Laughter)
L-R: Mark Ruffalo co-starred
with Laura Linney in Kenneth Lonergan's award-winning film, You
Count on Me. Courtesy Photo
You seem to prefer Independent films. Could
you explain your preference?
Ruffalo: Those were the only jobs I could get
for a long time. (Laughter) I love acting and don't
really see the difference between the kind of acting you do in
a big movie or a small movie. When I started with You Can
Count on Me, it was very clear what an Indy movie was
and what a studio movie was. Since then, studio movies look more
like Indy movies, and Indy movies look more like studio movies,
and the characters that you use to see in Indy movies, you're
now seeing in studio movies. It's all mixed up and I think it's
better that way, personally. What I like about the small films
is the energy. When you're doing a little movie in 23 days,
everyone is sort of rushing and stumbling. There's never enough
money or people to do what you want to do, so everyone is relying
on each other. So, that experience is generally a bit rougher.
You studied acting with Stella Adler. Do you always
develop your inner life first or do you ever work externally
outside in or inside out?
Ruffalo: I work both ways. Sometimes it's out. Sometimes
it's in. Stella use to say that characters are what they do and
how they do it. So if you have someone who is... (He demonstrates
making a slow crease in the tablecloth) That kind of person
says a lot to the inside, just by doing that. You can get a lot inside
from the outside and vice versa. It's whatever works. Whatever school
of acting you're from, they're all trying to do the same thing
to not be crappy, be interesting, and not be boring.
L-R: Sunrise Colgney and husband, Mark Ruffalo.
With your huge body of work, and the wonderful
characters you've created, has one lingered longer than any others?
Ruffalo: (Pause) What me and my wife refer
to is the re-entry, which is me coming back into the family after walking
around with a total stranger. I don't see it, but she says that I totally
change with every character. I start walking like them and behave like
them, and talk like them, which she says is a pain in the ass sometimes.
I don't see it personally. My feeling is though that you can't come
into contact with these different people (characters)
without having them change you in some way. But to answer your question,
none that I can think of have held on longer than another. They're all
sort of in there somewhere, which can make you crazy. I'm not going
to lie to you. It takes some therapy to work your way around this, but
acting has totally enriched my life.
Apart from the obvious monetary gains, how has
acting totally enriched your life?
Ruffalo: One great thing about being an actor is you
get invited into people's worlds that you don't belong in. For example,
I'm doing a movie about south Boston. If I tried to get into
a bar in south Boston, they would beat the hell out of me. But,
if you tell them you're an actor playing a part in film about a south
Boston guy, all of sudden they want to tell you or show you what
south Boston is about in a very personal way. I find that to
be almost across the board, so you get to see the world in a way that
I don't think many people get to see it. What you get to realize, once
you get rid of the accents and the cultural things, is that we're not
all that different from each other and any limitations we have are imposed
L-R: Felix (Matt Bomer) with his lover, Ned (Mark
Ruffalo) in "The Normal Heart."
Sympathy For Delicious
was Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut. Courtesy
How much down time did you have between
Infinitely Polar Bear and shooting "The Normal Heart?"
Ruffalo: As I mentioned, I was sick as a dog after shooting
Infinitely Polar Bear and I only had two weeks off before
starting work on The Normal Heart. The Cam Stuart
character was vastly different from Ned Weeks. So, the fact that
I didn't have much prep time says to me how facile we are as people
not just in our beliefs, but evening a different physical life
and the way we sound.
You directed your first film "Sympathy for
Delicious." Are planning on directing again?
Ruffalo: I am planning on going back to directing. I've
just been on a run with acting. Directing takes a lot time so right
now I just want to spend more time with my family.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo co-starred in Thanks
For Sharing, the story of people who meet in a 12-Step program
for sex addicts. Courtesy Photo
We look forward to your next project whatever
it is and thanks for sharing!
Ruffalo: Thank you so much. See you next time.
*Tucker Carlson is a conservative political news
correspondent and works for the Fox News Channel.