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Mark Ruffalo is Doing “All Right”

Mark Ruffalo is Doing “All Right” (photo)

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During actor Mark Ruffalo’s early career struggles, the handsome and humble star of “Zodiac,” “The Brothers Bloom” and “Shutter Island” admits to having performed strange jobs for money (“things that weren’t exactly above board, but weren’t hurting anybody”), but donating sperm wasn’t one of those. However, if you’d care to imagine what Ruffalo’s good genes might produce, look no further than “High Art” director Lisa Cholodenko’s progressive new dramedy “The Kids Are All Right.”

Ruffalo co-stars as Paul, a blithe bachelor and L.A. restaurateur who discovers his most personal of donations has resulted in two teenage kids who have been raised by a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore). An unconventional bonding ensues, not only between Paul and his offspring, but between him and Moore’s straight-curious character. I sat down with Ruffalo to discuss potentially awkward sex scenes, his best dish, and the stigma against actors who become filmmakers (such as himself).

How conventional was your family growing up?

I think it was pretty traditional. Big Italian family, and a lot of family around a lot. My parents were together until I was in my mid-20s. They were really open parents, and sweet, and weren’t really strict with us. So maybe it wasn’t in that sense, but then, what is a traditional family?

07072010_MarkRuffaloKidsAreAllRight5.jpgBefore you were married, were you as carefree a bachelor as Paul?

I wish I was. I had two things going against me: I didn’t have money and I had too much conscience. I had a pathological, overly active conscience that felt like you couldn’t really sleep with two women at the same time. [laughs] I tried juggling many different mates, but in the end, it was just too exhausting. It’s a lot of work to get that lifestyle going.

Speaking of mates, I read that your wife Sunrise Coigney is friends with Julianne Moore. Even as a professional actor, did it make your racy scenes together awkward?

You’d be surprised. It actually takes a lot of pressure off. I don’t have to go home and hear, “Who is she? What was she like? You’re into her!” When a woman doesn’t know, when it’s a question mark, an unknown, they fill the void with the worst. But because they’re friends, she knows, loves and trusts Julie. In a weird way, it was a lot easier than it was with [co-star YaYa DaCosta], so to speak.

So you’ve had that awkwardness with other actresses?

Yeah, can you imagine your spouse going off and doing that? That would suck. I wouldn’t be into that, and I know guys are dogs, too. [laughs]

07072010_MarkRuffaloKidsAreAllRight8.jpgWhy is that? Or specifically in this film’s case, why are men prone to seeking unusual conquests?

Well, genetically, I think it’s to keep the human race going, but there’s some ego in it. I think Paul lives his life purely for his own pleasure. When he hears he has two kids, it’s a vague curiosity and there’s a bit of machismo in it: “Yeah, I made them.” Then he’s taken by them, and you see a really confident man fall apart at the seams.

Where do your own worldly pleasures lie, outside of work?

Honestly, just being with my kids and having nothing to do but swim and run around and play video games. Whatever they’re doing is a real gift to me.

Are you much of a foodie, like Paul the restaurant owner?

Yeah, I come from an Italian family. My grandfather had a big garden, so it’s not that foreign to me. I’ve had gardens over the years whenever I could. I had to support myself by my garden, and I’m a passable cook. I could work my way around the kitchen. I make a pretty mean eggplant parmigiana. I have about six eggplants growing in my garden right now, so I’m looking forward to harvesting them. It’s my wife’s favorite thing. She could literally have that every night.

07072010_MarkRuffaloKidsAreAllRight4.jpgYou’ve said before that Lisa Cholodenko is wonderful with actors. How so?

It takes a special kind of director to trust an actor, and to open themselves up to having an actor bring something that maybe wasn’t what they saw or thought. Lisa is a rare director that knows actors, by the time you’ve finished your first week of shooting, probably know the characters better than the writer or the director. She creates a safe environment, and she casts well. She knows what to bring out of people.

Because of that, you feel free to move and live between the lines. She lingers on a scene. She loves behavior. She’s not afraid to explore. You’re not getting, “Well, the line is actually… I really just want you to say the line like it is.” It’s not that formal. You get a chance to stretch yourself out. That’s a fun way of working.

But you’ve worked with greats like Martin Scorsese, Jane Campion and David Fincher. Can you think of any instances that are specific to Cholodenko?

In the sex scenes, as odd and uncomfortable those are, we knew we wanted it to be funny. How do you make a sex scene funny? When Jules is riding Paul and using his face as a pommel, that was a moment that showed an interesting side of human sexuality that we don’t get to see often in film.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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