Mark Ruffalo is Doing “All Right”
Mark Ruffalo on donating sperm, getting bad reviews as a director, and why he's all right.
It’s because it’s loose and we’re relaxed, and that’s the extreme. Sex scenes are always hard to do and it’s painstaking. As awkward as it was, we were able to play off each other to come up with these moments. That wasn’t written. The hair pulling, all that stuff was suggested, but it wasn’t there.
The movie is opening all over the country. How do you think it will play in our polarized culture?
What I think is great is it really isn’t a political film. It’s not trying to harangue anybody or have a message that way. You have this gay relationship with the teenage kids and the sperm donor dad, and that’s a novelty. That’s an interesting way to kick off a movie. But quickly, people forget that.
I’ve seen it with a couple different audiences now, and they’re heartily laughing, not because they’re big joke moments. It’s the humor of familiarity. They’re seeing themselves in the movie, and I don’t care if they’re straight or gay or whatever. It’s done in a sincere way.
Politics are so divisive that they almost innately are meant to keep people apart. Storytelling that is apolitical, honest and captures something deeply human like family brings people together. So I don’t care where you stand on this issue.
In a strange way, I think this debate’s already been had and won. Now we’re just in formalities. It’s only a matter of time until some of these old ways of thinking fall away. If you’ve been in a long relationship with somebody, or had teenage kids, or were a teenager, you’re going to see something familiar in this movie.
However, one thing won’t be familiar to you. You’ve never donated sperm before.
Not yet. [laughs] Listen, if I could’ve found a sperm bank in my Latino neighborhood that I lived in in L.A., I don’t know if I would’ve turned out being an actor. I wish I knew about it. I don’t think they wanted my sperm. Actor and bartender? Sign me up!
Your directorial debut, “Sympathy for Delicious,” premiered at Sundance. What’s going on now?
I’m still looking for distribution. I have a couple offers on the table, but I’m holding out for something a little bigger. I’ve been screening it for a lot of groups, and people are really responding to it. I think they’re scared of that movie.
The film won the Special Jury Prize at the festival, but reviews were mixed. Do you think there’s any stigma against actors who become filmmakers?
I did sense that some of those reviews were really mean-spirited. I couldn’t understand that at first. The New York Times review was glowing, and then USA Today did a rebuttal review to the review. I’ve never seen that, like: “Hey, what’s your problem?”
I started to gain a lot of support as the festival went on, but when I won the award, a critic came up to me: “So, you have a problem being criticized?” I said, “No, I have a problem with someone being overtly mean. I would like to make another film one day, honestly, and that hurts my chances of doing that. And I also care deeply about it. It’s like a child to me.”
He said, “Don’t you think because you’re Mark Ruffalo, you’ll be able to make a film any time you want? Isn’t that why you go to make your film?” It took me ten years to make that film. No one wanted to make that film. It was a labor of love.
And then I realized, oh shit, there is a schadenfreude aspect to this. I was taking it at face value at first, but maybe it rubs some of these people the wrong way. Why should I get to film? Because I’m an actor? There was a bit of that going on. I’m fine with it. I try not to rely too much on reviews anymore. That can be a heartbreaking road. To me, I act or direct because I love telling stories and being involved in filmmaking. I love having a conversation with the audience, so what the reviewers say has become less and less important to me.
What creative impulses does filmmaking satisfy that acting can’t?
I liken it to an actor gets to eat one slice, and a director gets to eat the whole pie. [laughs] You get to collaborate with gifted people who are good at their craft, so you’re orchestrating all these different mediums.
You’re helping people through the script to realize their own talents. I find that really satisfying, and I felt like being in front of the camera is so intense and self-involved and personal, and directing isn’t like that for me. It’s a much more communal experience.
Last year at this time, I was like, “I’m not going back to acting, man. No way, it’s done.” I haven’t worked in a year. It’s really taken me that long to get back to my love for what I do for acting. I would like to do 50-50, if I could. Really, I’d just be directing right now, but I can’t support my family doing that at this moment, and I love acting. It’s not a bad position to be in.
If the kids are all right, how are you doing?
I’m all right. I’ve had a rough time the past year, but I’m coming out of it okay. You’re never completely okay, but you can get damn close sometimes. [laughs]
“The Kids Are All Right” opens in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago on July 9th.
[Additional photo: "Sympathy for Delicious," Corner Store Entertainment, 2010]
Pages: 1 2Tags: acting, Food, interviews, Julianne Moore, Lisa Cholodenko, Mark Ruffalo, sex scenes, sperm banks, Spirit Awards 2011, Sunrise Coigney, Sympathy for Delicious, The Kids Are All Right, YaYa DaCosta
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