Mark Ruffalo talks about stepping into the role of The Hulk and the baggage that comes with it as well as why this version of the character is both a continuation of past work and the chance to show something different. He also discusses the possibility of a spin-off movie and his own career, including coming to terms with his own rage issues.
There have been other actors that have played The Hulk before you [Eric Bana, Edward Norton], so did that weigh heavily on your shoulders at all?
Mark Ruffalo: I actually see this as a continuation of those great performances and those actors that I really admire. I had a lot of trepidation about coming into this and honouring them but also bringing something of my own to it. There's a lot of baggage that comes with this part and the fans have a lot of expectations from it and they let you know it! I've never had a movie so harshly reviewed even before I'd shot a single frame, or a performance so harshly reviewed. But in the end I knew that this was a [Bruce] Banner that had been on the run for a few more years, he's older, he's more tired and I think he's developed a wry sense of humour about the situation he finds himself in and he's ready to sort of turn and face the beast within him that he's been running from. And then we just added the motion-capture technology, which has developed to a place where an actor can actually inhabit the CGI and impress his performance upon it.
Were you asked to play The Hulk? Or did you have to audition?
Mark Ruffalo: There's a misperception about actors that we actually choose the roles we end up doing - it's more that we're chosen for them. I was surprised to be asked. I personally thought the part was cast very well and I was very surprised when it came along. It wasn't an easy decision and I went back and forth for probably about a week or two.
Mark Ruffalo: Because of my friendship with Ed [Norton] and because it had been done so well. There wasn't really a script at that point, so it was an unknown quantity, and I was afraid that I couldn't pull it off.
Did Ed say anything to you?
Mark Ruffalo: He said 'I give you my blessing' and that was important to me. So, in his graciousness he let me do the part without any hard feelings.
Can you see your performance in the final image?
Mark Ruffalo: Oh yeah! And it ends up being a collaboration with the geniuses at ILM. I did The Hulk part before we shot the movie, I did it while we were shooting and I did it after we shot the movie. And so we worked a long time on that and I'm very happy to see that there's a continuation from Banner into The Hulk.
So, what kind of different elements do you think you've brought to this movie compared with past movies?
Mark Ruffalo: Well, a lot of that has to do with Joss Whedon. We talked a lot about how we would like to see this Hulk have a sense of humour and this kind of primitive beast within that's almost loveable but also kind of scary. He's a six-year-old or a five-year-old... he has all impulse and no control. But also there's a tenderness to him. It's infinite what we can do with it now. From the moment he freaks out to catching Iron Man and sort of throwing him on the ground but being also concerned about him... that's not a typical Hulk moment. So, theres all kinds of places we can go with it, especially if Banner does have some control over it, which we're sort of assuming we're coming into now.
Has there been a talk of a Hulk movie of your own?
Mark Ruffalo: I don't think there's been a serious discussion about it yet. I think they're a little nervous about Hulk. They're already shooting other movies now, such as another Iron Man and another Thor and another Captain America. I'd guess there will also be another Avengers. So, I have no idea what's going to happen concerning The Hulk.
Would you like to do it if opportunity arose?
Mark Ruffalo: I would love to do it. I think there's probably maybe one more Hulk movie out there, at least, before I turn 60 [laughs]. I think there's also some interesting places to go with him now and with the creature too. And there's some very cool, fun things we can do now that we've never been able to do with this kind of story.
Is there, or has there, been a beast inside of you when it comes to your own private life?
Mark Ruffalo: It's tired now. It was a beast that was very prevalent in my teens and 20s. I was the definition of an angry young man. If you came to my apartment back then you would see pictures and posters hung in all kinds of strange areas where they were covering fist holes in the wall or things being thrown across the room from one perceived slight or another. But in time you get the s**t beat out of you and the edges knocked off and you become a polished stone [laughs]!
Did your profession help?
Mark Ruffalo: Yeah. And having kids... that's another thing that teaches you patience and acceptance. And I've been lucky. A lot of that time I was raging against the powers that be that wouldn't allow me to make a living doing what I wanted to do. It was just infantile rage, really. But since then, I've started working as an actor and I've really mellowed out.
Wasn't it your mum who convinced you to keep on believing that you would one day succeed as an actor?
Mark Ruffalo: There was a moment where I was going to quit and go back [home]. It was a long haul and I was starting to lose faith and I was going to go back and work for my father in the family business of construction painting, which is real work! But my mum, who is just the most loving and accepting person, came out with the most uncharacteristic thing. She said that she would never speak to me again if I quit acting! And I knew she meant it.
Usually it's the other way around! Usually they say 'if you start acting I'll...'
Mark Ruffalo: 'Kill you' yeah. I think at that point I'd wasted so much time that there was nothing left for me to do!
A lot of actors seem to split their time between independent, Sundance-sized films and blockbusters. Do you feel there's a void developing in the middle of those types of films?
Mark Ruffalo: I've always used the rule 'go where the great part is' and you'll be OK. Go where you're challenged and where you can find some passion and be honest and truthful in those places. And approach the work the same way no matter if it's big or small and you'll never be let down. I feel like I have done a myriad of things from Sundance movies to this and everything in between as some point along the way.
But after all your experiences and almost giving up acting after becoming seriously ill, you're now at the top of your game. So, your success must be all the sweeter?
Mark Ruffalo: I'm so grateful. It's been a long road. But the fact that I can make a living and support three kids and my wife doing what I love to do... who does that? That's golden. It's a very privileged thing.
Did you do anything to repay your mum?
Mark Ruffalo: I shower her with love and gifts [laughs].
Did you have a favourite superhero as a child?
Mark Ruffalo: I liked The Hulk. The TV show was a favourite of mine. My cousins and I would pass around the comic books on the weekends. But I wasn't a fanatic about it, really. I did more of what Chris [Hemsworth] said he did - tying a scarf around my head and jumping off of the house with an umbrella... things like that! I was Umbrella-Man [laughs]!
Interview: Rob Carnevale Photo: Marvel/Disney