Interview: Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo is rage-free when talking about The Avengers

MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS directed by Joss Whedon, written by Whedon from a story by Zak Penn and Whedon, with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson. A Walt Disney Pictures release. 142 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (May 4). For venues and times, see Movies.

Mark Ruffalo doesn’t look like a rage monster.

In fact, the actor is downright cheerful, picking through a box of Soma chocolates he’s been given at some point in the day. He insists I try the dark chocolate and sea salt variant, if only so he doesn’t have to eat it all himself.

“No, buddy, I gotta stay away from that,” he laughs, slapping his abdomen. “It’s like this tire here, and at any given moment it’s like, ‘Mark! Take off your shirt!’ ‘Okay!'”

The shirtless thing is an occupational hazard in his new role in Marvel’s The Avengers. As Bruce Banner, the gamma-irradiated scientist who turns into the Hulk when he loses control, he rips through his clothes at least twice in the movie. Fortunately, Banner doesn’t spend much on his wardrobe.

“He buys stuff at the thrift store,” Ruffalo says, explaining that he and writer/director Joss Whedon figured that Banner’s inability to wear anything he really likes – because the Hulk would inevitably ruin it – would be part of the larger malaise afflicting the character in his third feature film outing.

“There’s a world-weariness,” Ruffalo sighs. “It’s like he’s the bad joke of the universe. It’s like a tragic comedy. ‘This is it, this is my situation: I’m fucked.'”

It’s an angle on the character that neither Eric Bana nor Edward Norton – stars of 2003’s Hulk and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk respectively – was able to tap.

“He’s in his mid-40s,” Ruffalo explains. “He’s been on the run, he’s older, he’s at that place where you know exactly who you are and who you’re not you know what’s not possible. And you make peace with it or you die. Or you kill yourself.”

Suicide not being an option for Banner – think of the franchise! – he’s inevitably drawn into the Avengers super-team to face an extraterrestrial invasion. Which presented its own set of challenges for the guy playing Bruce Banner on the set and the Hulk in motion capture.

“The hardest thing is just how discombobulated you are during it,” he says. “I’m mocapped throughout the movie. I’m doing that even before we shoot a frame of film.

“And then I’m on set with my CGI suit on and they’re like, ‘Okay, the aliens are that dot over there.’ ‘What do they look like?’ ‘I don’t know – they’re just really scary! And here’s where the sky opens up!’ It’s all shot out of order, there are all these different, disparate parts of the movie you’re shooting. And then the next thing you know, you’re sitting in a movie theatre and it’s all put together and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, that’s incredible. How did we do that?'”

The question is whether they’ll do it again. Marvel has been cagey about a third Hulk movie, but however things shake out for the big green guy, Ruffalo’s on board.

“I’m signed on for six,” he says, “whether it’s a cameo, a stand-alone or another Avengers. But, you know, there’s an obsolescence built into that. I’m in my mid-40s.”

I don’t know, I say. The idea of an older Hulk could be interesting.

Ruffalo thinks about it for a second, then tries panting, heaving his breath in and out like an exhausted monster.

“It’s kinda cool,” he says. “He’d get out of breath. He’d just be more economical in his rage.”

Interview Clips

Mark Ruffalo on the unexpected challenge of working on a movie this huge:

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Ruffalo on finding his own take on Bruce Banner:

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Ruffalo on the madness of the Avengers promotional tour:

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