Mark Ruffalo Wants to Be Bad Too

Marvel is currently going through an identity crisis. Post Avengers: Endgame, the studio has struggled to form a cohesive narrative that ties its properties together. Recent release The Marvels is the studio’s worst performing film ever, and its streaming shows on Disney+ are reportedly struggling to consistently attract big audiences. Meanwhile, fans are still waiting to be convinced to care about its new stable of heroes introduced after the departure of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America.

“I think the expansion into streaming was really exciting, but the thing about Marvel movies is you had to wait three years and that created a mystique,” Ruffalo says. “These corrections could be really positive things. Will it be what it was? I don’t know.”

Whether Ruffalo will return as Hulk is up in the air. “I’d love to do a standalone Hulk, I just don’t think that’s ever going to happen,” he says. The CGI for the character is costly to produce, even though Ruffalo says it’s likely to have come down in price over the years as technology has advanced. “It’s very expensive if you did a whole movie, which is why they use the Hulk so sparingly. I priced myself out!”

Ruffalo has heard what critics have to say about him giving his prime acting years to playing a comic book hero. I wonder if it bothers him that there is something of a perception that the work is, perhaps, you know, not…

“Cool? I’ve heard it a lot from my peers,” he says. “Sometimes I think it’s jealousy, a little bit. Because then I see them run off and do it.”

He tells a story about an Actor who asked to speak to him because the Actor been offered a part in a Marvel project. He won’t tell me who it is, but gets so close to spilling that I have to restrain myself from leaning across the table and shaking it out of him, not least because the family having eggs next to us are very politely pretending not to see him. (I also can’t think of more than four Serious Actors who aren’t in Marvel movies.) The Actor, Ruffalo says, asked him: You know man, aren’t you worried no big directors are going to want to work with you?

And Ruffalo said: Well, not really.

And The Actor said: Well, I can name a few who won’t work with you.

And Ruffalo said: Like who?

And The Actor said: Well, Paul Thomas Anderson won’t work with you.

“I was like, ‘Oh fuck. If there’s ONE person I wanna work with, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson.” Ruffalo howls in the diner. “Well, that SUCKS.”

At this point the family are putting in a performance of not looking over that rivals one of Ruffalo’s own. But look, he says, he was very aware of where his career could end up by being sucked into the MCU. He made sure that he was doing films between Marvel movies that showed his range, and picked up two Oscar nominations in his time off from playing the big green guy. But he doesn’t feel any shame about having done it. “I’m really proud of it,” he says softly. “I’ve sat in movie theaters with the movies I’ve done with big directors. I’ve also experienced these Marvel movies with an audience and the amount of community and expression… it touched every single emotion. That means something to me. I don’t look down on it.”

Image may contain Mark Alan Clothing Hat Body Part Finger Hand Person Sun Hat Face Head Photography and Portrait

Vintage sweater from The Society Archive. Vintage flower hat from Albright Fashion Library. Bucket Hat (underneath floral hat) by Giorgio Armani. Necklace Ruffalo’s own.

By the time that Ruffalo finished filming Bong Joon-Ho’s Mickey 17 early last year, he was physically unravelling. He was coming off the back of doing Poor Things and All the Light We Cannot See, and had developed sleep apnea so severe that he was only getting an hour or two of rest each night. Burned out and falling asleep in the middle of conversations, his wife made him go to a doctor. The thing that really made a difference, however, was prescribing himself a year off work. “So during that time I was like, ‘What does Mark—the inside version of you—what do you want to do?’” he recalls. “I wanna sculpt.”

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