Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans talk about their on-screen experiences

Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans talk about their on-screen experiences
(Above, from left) Actors Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr and Claudia Kim with director Joss Whedon.

Life imitates art for most of the cast of Avengers.

Robert Downey Jr plays up his Tony Stark persona so well in real life that you can't separate real from reel.

Chris Evans possesses the all-American qualities you'd expect of Captain America.

Scarlett Johansson is a tough chick, just like her Black Widow alter ego.

But Mark Ruffalo is nothing like Bruce Banner, better known as the Hulk.

The US actor is gentle, funny and extremely down-to-earth.

I had the opportunity to interview Ruffalo 11 years ago for the Jennifer Garner rom-com 13 Going On 30, where he was in the "chick flick" phase of his career.

My impression of him then and now has not changed.

Ruffalo is still the mild-mannered and soft-spoken guy, oft-times overshadowed by his noisy and jovial co-stars.

He is not one who gets angry and if he does, he goes for a walk to cool off - but that does not happen very often, the 47-year-old told M when we met at the Conrad Seoul last week.

Nothing like the mean, raging Hulk.

Ruffalo reprises his role as the green giant in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, which opens here tomorrow.

This instalment features more of Bruce Banner who, along with Stark, creates Ultron (voiced by James Spader), the peacekeeping programme that becomes self-aware and decides to eradicate humans. Ultron considers them useless, pathetic creatures.

Enter Earth's mightiest heroes - Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) - who have sworn to protect humanity.

ROMANTIC

Besides engaging in a massive fight with Iron Man in his new Hulkbuster suit, the Hulk also get lots of action on the romantic front.

It's an open secret that Hulk gets entangled with Black Widow - something Ruffalo said his two daughters, aged eight and 10, detested.

"They both idolised Black Widow, so they were disgusted that Daddy has a thing for their hero," he said.

Ruffalo and his wife of 15 years, French-American actress Sunrise Coigney, also have a son aged 14.

The father-of-three joked that he didn't get to first base with Johansson.

"It was the perfect example of movie magic," he said, chuckling.

"Although the girl whom I had to kiss was very sweet and looked a good deal like Scarlett from behind, she actually wasn't Scarlett, who will forever be mourning the loss of not being able to kiss me."

Johansson, 30, was pregnant with her first child, Rose Dorothy Dauriac, during the filming of Age Of Ultron and couldn't make it for that shoot, so her stunt double took her place.

"Not getting to kiss Scarlett was something that I'd regret for the rest of my life!"

A missed kiss aside, Ruffalo had a great time with Johansson, whom he described as charming yet lethal - both in real life and on screen.

"Scarlett can beat you up easily with her well-phrased sentences and humorous quips, the same way Black Widow can kick your a** with her fists and kicks."

Ruffalo is very happy with the response from fans over his version of Hulk, considering the past two Hulk movies (Eric Bana's Hulk in 2003 and Edward Norton's The Incredible Hulk in 2008) didn't sit well with both fans and critics.

Sadly, a standalone Hulk movie, like his peers' Captain America and Thor films, is not on the horizon.

"Marvel doesn't own the rights to Hulk yet as he still belongs to Universal, so there are some legal issues involved.

"This is working and that's a good thing, I don't want to break it," he said, adding that he has four more Hulk commitments to Marvel.

"My six-movie contract means I will either be in the Avengers sequels or Bruce Banner can appear in one of the Captain America or Thor movies.

"I'd like to see a Hulk movie happen but right now, I'm happy to be running around with my friends."

Ruffalo meant what he said, even if he's the only one wearing an unflattering "Chinese checkerboard leotard" - because Hulk is a motion-capture performance - while his co-stars are in their "cool costumes".

"My suit makes me big in the areas I don't want to be big and small in the areas I want to be big," he jested.

"I did suggest if to have someone like fashion designer Marc Jacobs design the suit, you know, sex it up a little, maybe add some muscles and six packs!"

While some of his Avengers co-stars can't shake off their famous characters, Ruffalo is thankful he has opportunities to explore work outside the superhero genre.

Last seen in the Oscar-nominated drama Foxcatcher, where he starred opposite Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, Ruffalo has the Now You See Me: The Second Act sequel on his plate.

"I like to ride a bunch of different waves. Being in a superhero franchise doesn't define who I am," said the two-time Oscar-nominated actor, who has proven to be equally at home in dramas, comedies, indies and summer blockbusters.

"I've been acting for a long time. I hope I'll be doing it a lot longer.

"I just keep going wherever my heart takes me."

‘It’s like being in school’

Captain America may be the leader of the Avengers in Age Of Ultron, but Chris Evans said that taking on that responsibility in real life is no walk in the park.

His co-stars are like "unruly kids" on set and "everyone of us is a chatty catty", the 33-year-old US actor told M.

"I really feel like I'm back in school and in this movie, there are a lot more scenes as a group.

"So when we get three or four of us together, that's it, it's hard to wrangle us. I only realise after a while that I'm at work."

FOR THE KIDS

"The best thing about being Captain America is that kids love him so much.

"To think that I can bring laughter and joy to little ones, especially those who are suffering or struggling or just in need of a smile, that's really satisfying.

"It beats any pay cheque I get, it's probably more satisfying for me than for the kids.

"It's a really nice thing to be able to put on the suit and watch the kids be in awe. That's a real treat."

FOR THE DIRECTOR

"What goes into these movies is just astronomical. What is required to make these movies work is a mind-blowing accomplishment of art.

"It's everything the Academy should stand for. And I, for one, am disappointed more often than not when films like this aren't acknowledged. It's a shame.

"There should be recognition, to some degree, not just in the realm of special effects and sound editing. There is a lot more that goes into this, especially with regard to directing.

"I don't even know where to begin to try and tackle a job like this as a director. It makes me have panic attacks just thinking about how to get those ducks in a row."

joannes@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Apr 22, 2015.
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