Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo only accepts roles he responds to: 'The script has to move me'

He is best known for playing the Hulk in the Avengers movies but Mark Ruffalo also has a sterling career in smaller, critically-acclaimed films - his name gets on awards nominations lists almost every year.

And 2016 is no exception.

The 48-year-old US actor was nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for his role as a bipolar father to two young girls in Infinitely Polar Bear.

He is also in Spotlight, for which he just received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

Opening here tomorrow, the drama tells the true story of the investigation by the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of reporters from the Boston Globe into the Catholic church's child molestation scandal.

Ruffalo plays Michael Rezendes, one of the elite members of the newspaper, who spends months following leads to expose the secrets of one of the most untouchable institutions in the world in 2002.

Spotlight is also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Tom McCarthy) and Best Supporting Actress (Rachel McAdams) at the Oscars.

Other stars include Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci.

The 88th Annual Academy Awards airs live over HBO (StarHub Ch 601) on Feb 29 at 9.30am.

Likeable and unassuming in person when we meet at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, Ruffalo - like his Spotlight character - is also a man with a social conscience. The father of three spearheads the movement against fracking - hydraulic fracturing of rock using huge amounts of water to release gas by drilling underground, allegedly contaminating ground water and causing tremors - and is very involved in breast cancer awareness.

Why do you think Spotlight resonated so well with the public, earning over US$30 million (S$43m) in the US alone?

We are taken on this investigative journey. And it's told so skilfully that by the time you get to the end of it, you understand that it has a moral credibility.

We all want to protect our kids and understand the power of journalism. We all can appreciate good directing, acting and writing, and I think all of those things come together.

Are you a religious person?

I think that everyone's relationship to God is their own and they have a right to that.

I grew up in a household that had Catholicism and my father was a Baha'i. I was brought into all those different faiths, innocently and openly, and I saw how important each one of them was to shaping me morally.

What did you take away from Spotlight?

I just had a deeper love of journalism. I realised how important it is in protecting us against tyranny. It really is our last front.

If we don't have a journalism institution that is free in the world, then we are subject to all kinds of abuse.

What impact do you think the movie will have on Catholics?

I think there is another tragedy other than the paedophilia - of people who lose their faith because of what they saw the church do. A lot of people left the church after the story came out.

This movie is coming out at the right moment, with a Pope who can start to address these issues to heal the people who lost their faith. They feel guilty not just because of what the priests did but because the Catholic church didn't bring it to justice.

A lot of people gain comfort and community from the church, it serves an important purpose. But you have to bring light to the infection in order for it to begin to heal.

You have had a terrific career. How do you pick your parts?

Something has got to be moved inside me - excite me, scare me, make me angry, something has to challenge me. If I read something and I don't have that reaction, I know better to stay away from it.

Money has been tossed at me but it has to do with me coming to work as my best and being able to give everything that I know how to give in the work. That is why I don't take things that I don't respond to in some way.

Have you ever rejected a part because you feared you couldn't do it?

The one audition that I didn't go for because I didn't think I could possibly do it - and I think I am still right - was No Country For Old Men.

I felt scared that I didn't know how to do that part and I was also scared of directors, the Coen brothers (laughs).

But when I did Foxcatcher, I was really scared of that and I really didn't know how I was going to do that, especially physically. That was probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But I am glad I did it.

Those things make you grow - if you don't die from them (laughs).

tnp@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 20, 2016.
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