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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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