Mark RuffaloRugged and Versatile American Actor By Eric Schneider
Equal parts leading man and character actor.
Inarguably one of the finest actors of his generation, Mark Ruffalo has crafted an admirable career that allows him to move seemingly effortlessly from inventive indie films to major Hollywood productions. While Ruffalo appeared in a number of movies and TV shows during the 1990s, he didn't arrive as screen presence of note until 2000's You Can Count on Me, a captivating small-scale drama that featured him in the breakout role of a responsibility-shirking brother who reconnects with his overwhelmed sister (Laura Linney). Memorable even in smaller parts (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and convincing in the occasional light romantic turn (13 Going on 30), Ruffalo seems most at home in roles that balance his amiability and intensity, which he has displayed in the thrillers Zodiac and Shutter Island and the overlooked dystopian tale Blindness. He reunited with Julianne Moore, his co-star in the latter film, for The Kids Are All Right, a charming domestic dramedy that garnered him a much-deserved Oscar nomination and fully showcased his undeniable "guy's guy" appeal.
Critical Questions for Mark Ruffalo (from our 5/2011 newsletter)
CM: How has being an Academy Award nominee changed your life, if at all?
MR: When they announce my name in public, they now add an "Academy Award Nominee" to the front of it.
What attracted you to playing the character Paul in The Kids Are All Right?
I thought he was funny and charming and a little bit edgy. I liked that he was someone who does everything simply for his own satisfaction, but, by the end of the movie, he is begging a lesbian to run away with him. I liked how it turns a pretty confident guy into a mush puddle.
You recently finished directing your first film, Sympathy for Delicious. What was the most unexpected part about that experience?
I was really afraid that I wouldn't have a knack for it, or that it would be so hard I wouldn't want to do it again. I found I actually learned quite a bit being on sets with some pretty great directors over the years, and that I actually knew my way around pretty well. I had a fantastic time and enjoyed the collaborations that it afforded me.
The film focuses on a character played by Christopher Thornton, who is also the screenwriter. What drew you to his work for your directorial debut?
Chris has been my close friend for 20 years. Fifteen years ago, he had a climbing accident and severed his spine. During that time, he began to write. He wanted to write a part for an actor in a chair that he could play. He handed me a draft of the film to read and give him notes. I thought it was daring and funny and totally original. I asked him if I could direct it. He said yes, and that was the beginning of a 10-year journey trying to get it made.
Now that you've sat in the director's chair, has it changed your approach to acting?
I don't know if it has changed my approach to acting. I just know that I loved it and felt very natural and satisfied doing it.
Do you plan on directing again soon? If so, what would attract you to a project as a director?
I have been working on directing a couple other things now. One of them is ready to go. I like stories about real people, complex people full of surprises and humor. I think the medium of film can hold a lot more surprises for us all. It appears to me to barely be tapped as far as storytelling goes, and I find myself longing for more original stories and styles. I like hard tonal shifts, and I very much like mixing the ridiculous with the sublime, drama with comedy and satire with gritty realism.
You selected the Besnard Lakes to compose the score for Sympathy for Delicious. What made you choose the band?
I was looking for a raw and live-feeling rock and roll score. I started listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who I thought had a fantastically cinematic style. That led me to a whole indie-music scene in Montreal that was blowing my mind. I was in a fever dream recovering from the flu one night when I stumbled upon the Besnard Lakes. I thought the music was beautiful and raw and very, very cinematic. I asked them to score a few scenes for me on spec. I was talking to a lot of different composers at the time, some very significant ones that I loved. Then I received the BL spec scenes and listened once. It was exactly what I was looking for. I went to Montreal to record with them-some of the score was done to picture. I am compiling a soundtrack now for an indie label called Lakeshore. I have been listening to the score for the first time without picture. It is amazing and gorgeous-I am so proud to have been part of introducing Jace and Ogie to film scoring. We will hear some great things from them, I assure you.
Anyone who recruits the Besnard Lakes to score their film must be a pretty big music fan. What are some of your other favorite acts?
I have a very eclectic taste for music - from Joe Albany to Tool and everything in between. Like I said, I started that journey from the incredibly free and indie GSY!BE, and found Do Make Say Think and Besnard along the way. I love Wilco, Elliot Smith, and Bon Iver. I can get down to Vampire Weekend and the Sugarhill Gang. I am sentimental and always looking for something exciting.
You're currently filming The Avengers with Joss Whedon, portraying Bruce Banner and his alter ego, the Hulk. What was your approach to playing such an iconic role?
I am just getting started now. I am standing on the shoulders of two giants - Bana and Norton. I am only trying to take what they have laid down and make it my own. He is an older, more world-weary Banner that has come to live with this strange secret in a way. I also get the distinct opportunity to play the motion-capture version of the Hulk himself, which is new to the franchise, and for that I am very excited and grateful.
How difficult is it playing a dual role, especially when one character is a super-powered green giant fueled by rage?
It's like acting in two movies at once. It has its challenges, but, hey, it's the Hulk - how could anyone complain?
TV & Film Review
TV & Film Review
You Can Count on MeKenneth Lonergan