Mark Ruffalo On 'The Are All Right,' Julianne Moore, Annette Bening
Mark Ruffalo plays a sperm donor in the most-talked about movie at Sundance, The Kids Are All Right, with opposite lesbian moms played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening. Often a film with modern themes such as same sex parenting would draw critics and debate, but Ruffalo believes differently. “I'm glad there's no political haranguing going on," he told Uinterview exclusively. "It really treats the audience with real respect.”
The road to stardom has not been an easy one for Ruffalo, having struggled to make ends meet before his first breakthrough in the play This Is Our Youth (1996) directed by Kenneth Lonergan, only to be stricken by a brain tumor in 2002. After fully recovering, Ruffalo has been praised by critics in such movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Collateral (2004).
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I was one of the last components, really. I got a call from my rep saying, 'Hey, Lisa Cholodenko has a movie she wants to talk to you about.' So I got on the phone and she was like, 'I wrote this for you. I had you in mind for a long time while I was writing it.' That's basically how it started. I was in the middle of post-production on my movie and, for a minute there, it really didn't look like I was gonna be doing this. And my wife and friends drew me in and kind of saved it in the final hour, so I'm lucky to be here.
It's perfect. It's instant family, just add Paul. I think he's getting to that age where he just isn't cutting it, really. All the girls and success is just not filling him up anymore, and all of a sudden these two kids show up. They're great kids and he obviously really connects to [his daughter] Joni. That idea of being a father, I think he really latches on to it that moment. So he tries to start this family, but it doesn't work for him.
Those scenes are never as fun as they look. That's a real acting part of it. You also never get to really check the girl out either because she's so close to you you never get a good look at her. I can put anyone in this situation. Think of yourself walking into a room naked with a sock on your cork with a room full of people that you don't really know and then having to simulate sex with the director telling you how to do it. A guy doesn't want to get direction in any regard and all of a sudden you're doing it in front of 15 people. At best it's like being on that nude beach that you don't want to be on. You succumb to your fate.
No, no, no. It's very costly for me to do these movies. It's an expensive trip to the jewelry store.
Oh my god, don't we all know guys like Paul? I've known and loved guys like Paul and really admired them. I've had a few of them in my life. They live life kind of in their own terms, they're unapologetic although I couldn't live like that, it's questionable the way they live. But they do it with such joie de vivre, and they're so out in the world and fearless about who they are that it's admirable. My wife and I knew a really famous Hollywood bachelor and in his 70s, he still had the hot 20-year-old girls and models running around, surrounded by beautiful modern art, house in the Hills, lime-green Mercedes and a pretty great life. The one thing he said on his deathbed was, 'I really wish I had a family to share this with. That's my greatest regret.' That's a really interesting story, that's an interesting person.
Yeah and oddly enough that makes it easier because she trusts Julianne. She doesn't always trust the girls I'm working with. She's like, 'I trust you — it's them.' But she loves Julianne and she trusts her and we're friends so it's a little bit better than a total stranger.
Yeah, but it was fun, too. It's a blast as an actor to make those turns and see if you can pull it off. I don't judge him I think that he's doing the best thing that he knows how to do. But I think it's a fun shift, it's an interesting move to see that character change like that.
I think politics are so divisive and the movie is told so sincerely and honestly from Lisa's point of view that it really transcends politics. It brings people more together than tears them apart. I've seen it with a couple different audiences now and my experience reading the script is very quickly the novelty of the gay marriage and the teenager looking for the sperm donor dad is, although a great intro to a movie, that falls away quickly. And we're watching a family, and we're watching ourselves, and we're watching ourselves growing up with our parents and I think it's incredibly familiar. It's a vernacular that we all know. So people are really laughing heartily, not because there are a lot of jokes in the movie but because they understand the nature of what's happening. So I'm glad there's no political haranguing going on. It really treats the audience with real respect and allows them to come to the movie in their own way and let them work their own way through it.
My first day at work was a scene where I come in to meet them. Annette is a huge figure to me. I've been a big admirer for a long time and she is kind of like Hollywood royalty. Really smart, really classy, great actor, really smart about material — and so I honestly was really intimidated. I had that experience with Julie too but I've known her for awhile now. But this guy is so forward and cocksure — that's generally not the way I approach a room. So it was a little scary to jump in right off the top and be that guy.
I really love the scenes where everyone's together. That first dinner scene outside on the picnic table. Then that last scene. That Joni Mitchell thing is so funny - it is so loaded. There's so many things that play in that scene. There's so many elements working off of each other and that kind of embodied this experience for me. The four of us acting together kind of by the seat of our pants a little bit. We had two takes at that. That kind of embodied the whole thing. You really have to trust each other, there's some improvisation going on, there's a lot of interpersonal things happening so that's one of my favorite scenes.
I love directing. I, literally after this movie, was like, 'Ok that's my last acting gig.' I'm really gonna make a play and just be a director now. A year has passed now and not until just recently I felt like I love acting and I can't really live without it. I really do want to try and bring directing into my life in a much more prominent way.
Yeah that was my first feature. And then I have a couple other things I'm working on right now. It's a script called My Monster by David Darmstatter and it's a story about a single father raising a son in Hollywood. He's an ex-porn star, ex-actor, ex-poet, ex-playwright, ex-junkie. The whole story is about him trying to find a home. It's a really beautiful, poignant story. It's based on — David Darmstatter and I live together — and his ex-wife had moved away with his 6-year-old son. They got into a car accident and the 6-year-old came to live with us in a full body cast. And it's been this journey. It's just a very poignant, funny look at the spiritual journey of recovery, father-son relationship in Hollywood. It's very funny and very kind of moving, I think.