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Mark Ruffalo Dives Into Producing With ‘I Know This Much Is True’ – Variety



Mark Ruffalo is having a tough time connecting.

Not professionally, nor on a private degree. As an alternative he’s fighting maybe probably the most pressing side of the best way we reside now — his Wi-Fi service.

It’s the afternoon of March 16, and the actor recognized for his work in all the things from “The Avengers” to indie hits like “The Children Are All Proper” is roughly two-thirds of the best way via a prolonged Selection interview carried out by way of Zoom video convention. At his residence in rural Sullivan County, a patch of upstate New York that lies midway between Poughkeepsie and Scranton, Pa., the spotty connection retains reducing him off mid-sentence.

After the fourth dropout, nobody would have begrudged Ruffalo, 52, if he requested to complete the dialog on a less-chaotic day. On this momentous Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Common is taking a historic 2,997-point dive. In Albany, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has simply ordered the closure of bars and eating places and banned gatherings of greater than 50 individuals. In Washington, President Donald Trump has been pressured to grimly inform People that coronavirus disruptions might final till July or August.

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However Ruffalo gained’t give up. He’s on a mission. His job at this frenetic second within the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown is to speak up his work as producer and star of “I Know This A lot Is True,” the HBO restricted collection that premieres Could 10. Sporting a black T-shirt offset by a salt-and-pepper beard, Ruffalo betrays a stressed vitality as he gesticulates everywhere in the Zoom body.

“He actually understands working-class America and the title­lessness that’s a part of that,” Ruffalo says of director-producer Derek Cianfrance, his key collaborator on the collection. Ruffalo can’t say sufficient about how a lot the 2 had been in sync on the grueling six-month shoot as they tailored the acclaimed 901-page novel by Wally Lamb. Ruffalo stars as two very completely different twin brothers within the story of a blue-collar Connecticut household’s agonizing battle with schizophrenia and loss.

“I knew it could be a s—load of labor,” says Ruffalo, referring to lensing the six-part restricted collection. “Derek works tougher than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

The identical is usually stated of Ruffalo, who has emerged as a sort of Gary Cooper for contemporary occasions. The three-time Oscar nominee brings an Everyman high quality to his roles, lots of which emerge from the earthy storytelling custom of such hardscrabble poets as Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller and Kenneth Lonergan.

Not like main males of Cooper’s period, Ruffalo can also be a dedicated political leftist and environmental activist who has twice endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. He has helped lead the profitable battle towards pure fuel fracking in his adopted residence state of New York. In October 2016 he took a stand at Standing Rock, bringing a supply of photo voltaic vitality panels to protesters battling the development of an oil pipeline via Native American lands in North Dakota. He’s a co-founder of The Options Challenge, an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit group that advocates for clear vitality insurance policies throughout the US.

“Mark is actually the king of placing his cash the place his mouth is,” says Don Cheadle, an in depth good friend and “Avengers” solid mate. “He makes use of his platform to the most effective of his capability to convey consideration to and shine a lightweight on points that basically have to be within the forefront of individuals’s consideration. He’s been an exemplar in that regard.”

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In his skilled life, Ruffalo took on the job of bringing the dense saga of “I Know This A lot Is True” to the display. It’s his first main mission as a producer after wrapping a decade of labor as Bruce Banner/The Unimaginable Hulk in Disney’s blockbuster “Avengers” collection and associated Marvel films. Ruffalo needed to ship a robust sign concerning the sort of materials he desires to deal with as he turns into the engine of his personal artistic endeavors as a producer and director.

However “I Know This A lot Is True” additionally hits because the coronavirus pandemic is upending cultural life and the leisure trade. That’s created manufacturing challenges for the collection. Cianfrance has been tweaking the episodes from his Brooklyn home whereas the remainder of his post-production workforce works remotely.

“It’s a very pioneering technique to end one thing,” says Cianfrance. “I’ve my sound man in upstate New York; we’re doing ADR and coloration correcting remotely, and all the things is piped via the web. I’m simply grateful to have one thing to work on at this horrible time.”

It’s additionally an inescapable incontrovertible fact that the financial influence of this plague will fall hardest on the sort of blue-collar of us whose lives “I Know This A lot Is True” dramatizes.

“I shudder to suppose the depth of struggling that’s going to come back with this, economically talking,” says Ruffalo. “Even in New York Metropolis so many individuals reside hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck.”

It’s a actuality that Ruffalo, the kid of a stylist and hairdresser and a building painter, is aware of effectively from his time rising up in a blue-collar household in Kenosha, Wis., and later in Virginia Seaside, Va. In his profession, Ruffalo, like Cianfrance, has proven a kinship for the downtrodden and dispossessed. From “Foxcatcher” to his Broadway flip in a revival of “Awake and Sing!,” Ruffalo’s work typically dramatizes the cavernous yawn between the haves and the have-nots.

“It’s the wealthy soil from which our artwork comes,” says Ruffalo. “Whether or not in rebel or response or preventing towards it, it’s only a wealthy a part of America.”

“I Know This A lot Is True” was filmed largely in Kingston and Poughkeepsie, N.Y., close to Ruffalo’s upstate residence. The Hollywood star, who helped his neighbors battle the environmental hazard of fracking, is proud that the manufacturing generated a whole lot of jobs and hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in financial exercise within the area that Ruffalo, his spouse and three youngsters have referred to as residence because the mid-’90s.

Ruffalo’s political activism was sparked as a younger man by the 1990 Gulf Struggle. It was an awakening for him concerning the geopolitical actuality of being an American. “It was simply the injustice of it and the big lie that was foisted on us,” he says of that interval.

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Environmental activism comes naturally to Ruffalo as a result of he has cherished spending time in nature since childhood. “Rising up, it was such an essential a part of discovering myself. It was the place I felt I belonged. It was the place I used to be moved by. These issues have pushed me to activism,” he says.

He’s effectively conscious that agitating for politically divisive causes might negatively influence his profession in entrance of the digital camera. However Ruffalo is a graduate of the famed Stella Adler faculty, which has skilled everybody from Elaine Stritch to Marlon Brando in stagecraft, and he typically references his legendary late performing instructor.

“Stella taught us that as a way to be an amazing artist you needed to perceive the political tradition, the side of the half you’re enjoying, and to be politically inclined and to be energetic,” he says.

Ruffalo beforehand labored with HBO on the 2014 film adaptation of “The Regular Coronary heart,” which he helped assemble with director Ryan Murphy. However in Ruffalo’s view, “I Know This A lot Is True” was the primary mission he shepherded as a producer from stem to stern.

He was engaged on “Now You See Me 2” in London in 2015 when he received phrase that display rights to Lamb’s novel had been arising for possibility once more. Since its publication in 1998, “I Know This A lot Is True” had been via a number of rounds of improvement as a characteristic movie — in any case, the novel received a giant increase in its public profile by changing into an Oprah’s Guide Membership title.

Ruffalo reread the novel in a weekend, then received a gathering with Lamb as quickly as potential. At that sit-down, he made a daring assertion to the best-selling creator.

“I advised him, ‘I don’t suppose it’s a film, and that’s why you’ve had such a tough time getting it made,’” Ruffalo remembers. “The way in which to serve your materials is to not smash a 1,000-page e-book into two hours. It must be a restricted collection, and for those who’re down with this, I might like to get it put collectively.”

Lamb was certainly down with Ruffalo’s imaginative and prescient. The creator was additionally recreation to go together with one other daring ask — to offer Ruffalo an possibility on the rights for 3 months for little or no cash. If the mission wasn’t arrange by then, the rights would revert to Lamb.

“We shook palms and made the deal proper there,” remembers Ruffalo. “There have been no brokers.”

From there, Ruffalo got down to recruit Cianfrance to function author and director of all six installments. Ruffalo had lengthy been a fan of “The Place Past the Pines” director, who had tried and did not solid him in “Blue Valentine” in a task ultimately performed by Ryan Gosling. He thought that Cianfrance’s “tough and holy” fashion can be an excellent match with Lamb’s blue-collar story.

Ruffalo persuaded Cianfrance by promising that he would push to do the mission at a spot like HBO, the place they might have the time and finances to get the difficult enterprise of his enjoying twins proper. He reminded Cianfrance that HBO gave actor Matt Bomer three months to drop a few pounds throughout the filming of “The Regular Coronary heart” to be convincing in his position as a person dying of AIDS. Ruffalo and Cianfrance then teamed with FilmNation on the manufacturing facet.

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It took slightly bit longer than three months, however Ruffalo lastly received his yea out of HBO after getting a whole lot of nays round city at locations like Hulu. Even within the Peak TV period, the story of a down-on-his-luck man grappling with the unpredictable conduct of his schizophrenic twin brother wasn’t a simple promote.

“Folks saved asking us, ‘Is it humorous?’ and Derek and I had been like, ‘Sure, it’s hilarious,’” Ruffalo jokes. “Principally individuals stated, ‘This simply doesn’t match what we’re doing proper now.’”

However HBO was excessive on the property from the start. Ruffalo referred to as it a “good expertise.” It was a difficult manufacturing as a result of the six episodes had been shot in blocks to permit Ruffalo to play the central characters of Dominick and Thomas Birdsey. Ruffalo’s expertise as a member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes helped him with the technical rigors of the method. Because the Hulk, Ruffalo had spent loads of time in entrance of a inexperienced display.

“It undoubtedly made me extra snug,” he says. “With Hulk we’re changing the complete physique. I by no means have a personality’s footwear or clothes on. It’s all projected from the creativeness. You don’t have something to lean on. With ‘Avengers’ it was far more tough than what we had been doing right here.”

Manufacturing began on “I Know This A lot is True” in April 2019, with Ruffalo enjoying Dominick, a divorced building employee who takes care of his institutionalized brother. He then received six weeks off to placed on 30 kilos earlier than capturing the scenes of Thomas, whose psychological sickness spirals uncontrolled after the demise of their mom, performed by Melissa Leo.

“Mark and Derek set the tone for the complete course of,” says Casey Bloys, HBO’s president of programming. “Mark is among the biggest actors that we now have dwelling immediately. All people understood that it was very particular materials. We knew entering into that if anyone might pull off enjoying these two characters, it was Mark. And if anyone might pull off the bodily manufacturing and make it look practical, it could be Derek.”

Maybe most essential, Bloys observes, is that Ruffalo and Cianfrance clearly had command of the manufacturing. The entire key gamers concerned “had been genuinely gifted and good and good human beings,” he says. “There was no unhealthy conduct, no tantrums, simply everyone working collectively towards a standard purpose.”

Cianfrance says that Ruffalo’s complete angle modified when he was enjoying the twins. As Dominick, he was wiry, muscular and temperamental. As Thomas, he was doughy, mild and broken.

“It was Technique performing to the acute,” says Cianfrance. “He simply turned each guys. When he was Dominick, he was an alpha male and slightly extra angsty. He was a bear to wrestle with. When he was Thomas, he was so fragile that I needed to strategy him with child gloves. It was like working with two completely different individuals.”

Kathryn Hahn, who co-stars within the drama as Dominick’s ex-wife, Dessa Constantine, hadn’t labored with Ruffalo earlier than she was solid. They didn’t have a lot time to develop their very own rhythms and chemistry earlier than filming started. Cianfrance gave the 2 the area to find the specifics of their characters in a way that felt spontaneous.

“We started working in a manner that’s the largest artistic turn-on for me,” Hahn says. “There weren’t a whole lot of valuable discussions about phrases like ‘course of.’ We simply received all the way down to enterprise. That’s my favourite technique to work.”

Ruffalo, not surprisingly, knew the way to set the precise tone on set for the actors and the crew. “He has such a loopy, superb humorousness,” Hahn says. “For one thing as heavy as [‘I Know This Much Is True’] is, it didn’t really feel as heavy whereas we had been making it.” She provides that mates within the trade had assured her that Ruffalo was one of many kindest and most beneficiant co-stars she might have — “and he didn’t disappoint in any respect in these departments.”

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Simply as Ruffalo slipped seamlessly into the roles of Dominick and Thomas, so too has he navigated a profession that’s predicated on a sort of duality. He’s without delay the indie star of “Foxcatcher” and “The Children Are All Proper” and an A-lister who pops up on toys and T-shirts as a key participant within the “Avengers” franchise. That in flip has enabled him to be each a star, in a position to entice giant crowds to his newest big-screen outing, and an activist with a expertise for placing the klieg lights on points resembling local weather change and social justice. But it surely was a double act that Ruffalo struggled for years to drag off. After exploding on the scene because the drifter brother in “You Can Rely on Me,” casting brokers got here calling, impressed by his Brando-like volatility and attractiveness.

“To the trade, it was ‘What a revelation,’” Ruffalo remembers. “I’d been right here for 13 years. I’d been in your workplace 20 occasions. But it surely was this explosive second. What you dream about as an actor — you’re scorching.”

He might have landed on Hollywood’s radar, however the trade didn’t know what to do with him. He discovered himself solid because the affable lead in a collection of rom-coms, resembling “13 Occurring 30,” “Simply Like Heaven” and “Rumor Has It …,” that requested little of him and failed to offer a lot of a showcase for his expertise. In 2010, Ruffalo critically thought-about hanging it up. He’d endured a collection of non-public tragedies — his youthful brother, Scott, was murdered in 2008, and Ruffalo had a well being disaster when surgical procedure to take away a benign mind tumor left his face partially paralyzed for a 12 months. Furthermore, he wasn’t feeling fulfilled by his work. That modified with 2010’s “The Children Are All Proper.”

“I sensed he was at a crossroads,” says Lisa Cholodenko, the movie’s co-writer and director. “He has this type of masculinity that’s very explicit and actually particular, and I simply received the sensation that individuals weren’t writing scripts that had been an apparent match for that — for that sort of attractive, flawed, weak and humorous factor that he does and Hollywood doesn’t do an excessive amount of of.”

For Ruffalo, the movie and the character of Paul, a sperm donor who enters the lifetime of a lesbian couple elevating his organic youngsters in surprising methods, allowed him to faucet again into what he cherished concerning the occupation. He normal Paul after his late brother, deploying a brand new sort of bravado and vitality. Critics and audiences took be aware. The movie was an art-house breakout, incomes an Oscar nomination for greatest image in addition to a nod for Ruffalo’s supporting flip.

“It had this nice influence,” he says. “It got here up proper as the talk about homosexual marriage [was growing]. It had a profound influence on that dialogue. It’s precisely what I wish to do — inform the reality about human beings in a manner that brings us collectively and doesn’t tear us aside.”

Ruffalo’s profile climbed even increased when he took over as Bruce Banner and his imply, inexperienced alter ego the Hulk in 2012’s smash hit “The Avengers.” Regardless of being a part of a popcorn franchise, he approached the position with the sort of depth he dropped at his indie initiatives.

“He places a whole lot of prep into all the things he does,” says Taika Waititi, the director of “Thor: Ragnarok.” “I used to be shocked. I assumed, ‘Oh effectively, he’s enjoying Banner and the Hulk — how a lot work goes into being a screaming monster?’ However he took it critically and needed to discover the duality of the character.”

He’s gone on to play the position in 4 different sequels and spinoffs, however is uncertain if he’ll return for future installments. There have been talks with Marvel about having Hulk seem in Disney Plus’ “She-Hulk,” however except for that, Ruffalo says nothing is within the works. He’s open to showing in a Hulk stand-alone film, one thing that hasn’t been tried since 2008’s “The Unimaginable Hulk,” again when Edward Norton was enjoying the position.

“There’s an concept that I feel could possibly be actually attention-grabbing,” says Ruffalo. “We’ve by no means actually adopted him into his life. He’s at all times sort of off on the facet. He’s just like the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the Avengers. It’d be attention-grabbing to fill in all of the blanks about what occurred to him in between all these films.”

Past extra adventures in Marvel-dom, Ruffalo says he hopes to maintain producing ardour initiatives like “I Know This A lot Is True,” and has ambitions to direct once more, having beforehand helmed 2010’s “Sympathy for Scrumptious.” However he acknowledges that Hollywood is an trade that calls for industrial in addition to crucial success. For example, “Darkish Waters,” an environmental drama that he spearheaded, received robust critiques however light on the field workplace when it got here out in 2019. Ruffalo says he’s painfully conscious that tastes change and studios may cease returning his calls.

“I’ve a poor-actor’s mentality the place it’s all going to cease someday,” says Ruffalo. “They’re going to cease calling someday, and nobody goes to need me anymore.”

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