INT: Mark Ruffalo

I first remember hearing the name Mark Ruffalo with his critically acclaimed performance in YOU CAN COUNT ON MY with fellow thespian Laura Linney. But I am pretty sure I caught him in MIRROR, MIRROR 3: RAVEN’S DANCE (I love cheesy B-horror movies). But since then he continues to garner the critics love whether he is playing opposite Jennifer Garner in 30 GOING ON 13 or stealing the memories of Jim Carrey in the brilliantly twisted ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. Mark can do it all; he is one of the best actors of his generation and continues to take on fascinating roles. He continues this trend as Inspector David Toschi in David Fincher’s fascinating film ZODIAC.

Mark recently stopped by The W Hotel in Westwood to talk a little bit on the subject of Fincher, Gyllenhaal and a few other projects he has on the way including RESERVATION ROAD. A man of many talents, he is also a very down to earth dude. He’s laid back and incredibly friendly. There is nothing pretentious or Hollywood about him. His family and his work seem to be very important to him and not what comes with the fame of being a successful actor. Although true fame seems to have eluded him up until now, his striking and sometimes funny portrait of Toschi may earn him a few new fans. Pass the animal crackers and read on.

Mark Ruffalo

I thought you were really great in this movie.

Thank you.

It was really the voice, I think, is what drew me in to your character. Is that the way he really talked?


It's so interesting that you say that because I was going to ask you...the last time I spoke to you one of the things you said you wanted to do was to try to do was get his voice because he had such a unique way of speaking.

Well, I'd already met him but at the time you know I read the script and I was like ok this is a kind of a cool, hard-boiled tough detective. Then I went up and met Dave Toschi and he's not that at all. He's a gentleman. But he has uh, [speaking like his character] a very specific way of talking and it's the first thing you notice about the guy. But what I was, I think, saying at the time was like it's a big chance...it's a big character choice to make and can you pull it off without it being a caricature? So I spent a lot of time sort of you know, when I was there I took some video of him. I had just a little piece of video, maybe 30 seconds. Then I had a couple pieces of video footage from him on the news during Zodiac. I just kept listening to that over and over again and then started to try to...

Do things like the voice and the clothes and the hair... does it kind of help figure out how this guy walks and did things? At least at the time.

Yeah. I mean you start pulling these pieces of a character onto yourself and then it starts informing other things kind of, you know. Even a line...you're like, "That's not the way he talks". You read it and you're like you have to change this word a little bit to fit the way ...you know, it starts affecting everything else, yeah. So you're lucky, I mean, I was sort of trained that way. You go out in real life and find the truth of what you're doing and you bring it to your work. So you're lucky when you get a chance to really work with... you know, there's been a few times, actually every cop I've ever played has been based on people. Or a few people.

What, if anything, has Toschi told you about how this thing ruined his life, or affected his life?

He developed bleeding ulcers from it. Which you know, he wasn't the type of guy who would get himself checked into the doctor and he ended up bleeding out and got sick and his wife found him and took him to the hospital, saved his life. So I said what was...he was like, "Well, it almost killed me, Mark. I had a bleeding ulcer." That was one of the things he said. But you just know it's a wound that he sustained that he's carried through his whole life and he will carry it to his death, you know.

They've integrated into a life an enormous amount of grace and dignity and him and his wife has gone on, he's got a different career and everything but it's been...you know, he was being groomed to be chief of police when this all went down and then they kicked him down to pawn shop detail and then after that he went to work for a security firm. So it's been tough on them. And Carol, his wife, refused to even let...she didn't want him to have anything to do with this movie, she didn't want him to meet me, she didn't want to open up this can of worms and uh, you know, it definitely took it's toll on them.

But he’s kept in touch with the writer, the author [Robert Graysmith].

Yes, he maintained the friendship with Robert Graysmith. It was Graysmith who sort of convinced him to come and do this, you know.

But she never said, "You shouldn't meet him three times a week because that could bring back some stress"?

No, because after a while they weren't...early on meeting she can't, and you know he's an old-school Italian, she's not his you know [laughter] It's his wife, she's not going to TELL him... but um after a while I think she trusted Graysmith. She doesn't know what they're going to do, what Hollywood is going to do with this story. She doesn't know who we are and what our intentions are. He's getting old, he's an old guy, he's in his late seventies and he's sick and stuff so I think she was just afraid of the stress on him.

Now what about you…

I’m 68.

You’ve aged well… but, no, you immersed yourself in this. Are you now personally obsessed with Zodiac?

No, that's not really... I care about Dave and I wanted to portray him in a way that I think he would be happy about. But no, I didn't really...I was immersed in this world and I have all the murder reports, I have all the pictures, I have the letters, I have the affidavits, I have everything that, more probably than any other cop has. I have all this information. It wasn't a great place to hang out. You can sense this guy's a deeply disturbed individual.

You've worked with some pretty detail-oriented directors like Michael Mann and David Fincher and they make you do things over and over again. When you see the final movie, do you understand what they were going for?

It's their stab at eternity. [Laughing] They're highly conscious of it and they're not going to settle. That's why they're what I call full frame directors. The actors just happen to be 20% of the frame and you know what that extra there is doing and that leaf there and how the light's coming there...a mile away they see and it's all part of their detail and so if any of that is off they're going to try and fix it, make it how they want it, especially when you're shooting a movie. I mean the style that David wanted to emulate was something of ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN, which is a character-driven dialogue piece really.

And so, part of his style on the movie was to lock off on a 2 shot and let two characters go through three or four pages of dialogue or do a dolly track and let the actors do three or four pages of dialogue without ever having to cut into it. That was kind of the style he wanted to shoot. So you've gotta not only know your shit pretty well when you show up but also it just takes a long time when you don't have a lot of rehearsal to get a scene up to speed. So you end up shooting like 12 takes before people are really like cooking together. So you end up...it can be mind boggling to some people and very frustrating. But that's kind of the way we worked on this.

What about the scene with the squirrels? Did he make them climb up the curtains 90 times? [Laughing]

They were around a lot. What you do with that is they'll like shoot that with the squirrels climbing up, hope you get it once or twice and then start shooting it around...that's probably one of the most cut up scenes in the movie. Because they know what they can do with those squirrels and we'll be there for months with the squirrels, right? And they're feral squirrels, they're beasts, those little squirrels, and so that was a different way of shooting.

There was something really disturbing about that scene, the poor squirrel in that cage...

It was so creepy. When we walked into that trailer… that was so creepy. With the porno and the fishing lures, and the squirrel and fishing lures next to each other. [laughter] And the squirrels and the cage and the dank and the freezer was full of dead squirrel parts. It was like the whole thing was recreated.

Chloe told us about her first day and this breakdown, for her, or how [David Fincher] broke her down I should say and she thought that everybody had to go through that. Can you tell us about…?

The breakdown?

Or when he pushes you…?

For me all he has to do is just keep rolling and not give me any direction. Then I'm blubbering. And after 68 takes you're like "I hope he's coming over here to fire me" [Laughing] You see him making that long walk from behind the monitor and you're like "Oh Jesus Christ, I can't do this for 6 months. I don't know how I'm going to do this" Then he walks by you and he adjusts a leaf and then he walks back. That first day you know, people are like "he's trying to break you" but he never did, that was the most takes we did the whole movie was 68 takes.

You know I think he does play a game with you and Michael Mann does the same thing is they try to exhaust all of your like performance stuff and eventually you just get tired of performing and then all of a sudden something else happens that you maybe hadn't planned and that happens to be really immediate and really present and it isn't a performance. I don't know if that's a method to their particular madness but you know, Michael Mann gets really immediate performances out of actors that way I think.

Don’t you have a new Kenneth Lonergan movie coming out?

Margaret, uh, we shot last year and I think it's coming out sometime this year.

Could you tell us a little bit about it?

It's like a female CATCHER IN THE RYE. It's a coming-of-age story of a teenage girl in post 9/11 New York in America today. It's a little bit...it's disturbing. You have a little kind of progressive modern family. She witnesses a bus accident in the beginning of the movie and she was kind of like flirting with this bus driver and while she was flirting with him he runs a yellow light and ends up killing a woman. Then they're being interviewed by the police and he's looking at her like, “Please, please, please… don’t.” and she doesn't tell the police exactly what happened. Then the rest of the movie becomes her dealing with her conscious about this thing and should she have done it. Then she tries to do it later.

You're the bus driver?

I'm the bus driver, yeah. Running people over. That and RESERVATION ROAD .

What is Reservation Road ?

Reservation Road is a Terry George movie that I just did where I'm in a hit-and-run. I don't know why…

What kind of driver are you? [Laughing]

I'm a very mellow, cool driver. I don't know... it's the only jobs there were out there though. [Laughing] It's a perception that we choose jobs... I'm just going to tell you right now, mostly they choose us. We're not doing a lot of choosing.

What about WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE? Anybody get hit in that? [laughter]

No, no. There's some animals flying, bouncing off the trees and stuff like that. They're like stuffed animals. They're creatures… but they're made of…

I know the book.

Jim Henson made the creatures... they're Jim Henson puppets. They're not real animals.

So you're a voice in that?

No, no, I'm...there's live action. It's all live action, really. I play the mother's boyfriend who's kind of you know... wishes he could be the father of a child but is too immature.

It's not that difficult you know…

I have two. It is difficult. It's not that easy! [Laughing]

Who plays the mother?

Catherine Keener . She's great.

Yeah, I always hear great things about her. I've actually talked to her before and she's amazing. So… working with Chloe in this movie, did you have any scenes with her at all, maybe something cut out?

No, I just talked to her a little bit along the way. I've been a big fan of hers for years but we didn't get to do anything together.

What about working with Jake? What's he like?

Ummm...young. [Laughing]

What's that mean?

He's a kid. He's...you know.

He plays pranks?

Yeah, yeah... he's very playful. [Laughing]

Let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.comAITH

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