Is there any better team player in movies than Mark Ruffalo?
Whether running in a pack of superheroes, wrestlers or journalists, Ruffalo has a rare ability to slide seamlessly into an ensemble while nevertheless standing out for his talent in doing so. A year after the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native received an Academy Award nomination for his supporting performance as Olympic wrestler David Schutlz in Foxcatcher, the actor is again expected to be Oscar nominated for his key role as a dogged Boston Globe reporter in the newspaper procedural Spotlight.
“I’ve been at the right place at the right time for these two movies, and been able to disappear into the beauty of an ensemble, to serve something that’s bigger than any one particularly individual,” says Ruffalo. “They say something at a moment when the culture’s ready to hear it. A movie, if it speaks to people, it bubbles out of the culture and lands at a moment when we’re ready to have a discussion.”
Ruffalo, one of the movie industry’s most outspoken advocates for environmental (and other) causes, rarely turns down a conversation. (He began a recent interview eagerly imploring a reporter: “Talk to me!”) He has regularly poured his considerable energy into both political activism (most notably hydraulic fracturing) and passionate, striving characters, from the bipolar but exuberant father of Infinitely Polar Bear to his redemption-seeking music executive in Begin Again. He does enthusiasm well, on screen and off.
“I see a lot of light on the horizon. I call it ‘the sunlight revolution’ and it isn’t just about renewable energy,” says Ruffalo. “It’s about enlightening and bringing to light the wrongs of the past. Everywhere I look, I see this inquiry happening. I think people are conscious. I think people are sick of it. They want righteousness. They want to know that’s there’s justice in the world, and they tend to move toward that when given the choice.”
Spotlight, which expanded to theaters nationwide this weekend, dovetails with that mission. The film, directed by Tom McCarthy, is about the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting by the Boston Globe’s team of investigative reporters — named Spotlight — that uncovered the widespread sex abuse of Catholic Church priests and subsequent efforts to cover up abuse cases.
The cast, including Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams and Stanley Tucci, is uniformly excellent. And the film, one of the year’s most acclaimed, has been hailed for its verisimilitude in depicting the step-by-step digging of investigative journalism. Ruffalo, 47, plays Spotlight reporter Mike Rezendes.
“These are the people we want to celebrate. These are the people that deserve our admiration,” says Ruffalo. “You can’t have a free world without journalism, and it takes resources.”
To prepare for the role, Ruffalo spent time with Rezendes, observing him at work in the Globe newsroom and getting to know him at his home.
“As I told him, I said, ‘You found out things about me I didn’t want to know,’ says Rezendes. “He worked very hard and he got it.”
Rezendes, whom Ruffalo calls “a master” at his craft, continues to report on sex abuse and the church.
“The Catholic Church has taken some steps in the right direction, which I don’t think it would have taken were it not for us. But it has a ways to go,” says Rezendes.
Ruffalo, his movie-star counterpart, is more emphatic.
“I hope it’s a chance for the church to put people like Cardinal Law in jail,” says Ruffalo, who was raised Catholic. “That guy shouldn’t be living in a palace in the Vatican. He should just be in jail.”
Ruffalo, of course, is continuing his duties as a member (Bruce Banner/The Hulk) of the The Avengers, the last of which was the summer’s box-office behemoth Age of Ultron. He’ll be a part of a planned Thor sequel, and co-stars in next year’s magic caper Now You See Me 2.
But Ruffalo, who’s married with three children, is often busiest off-set. Earlier this month, he gathered other stars in Beverly Hills to protest Gov. Jerry Brown’s use of fracking in California.
“We live in this special time where you can’t hide anything anymore,” says Ruffalo. “All of the past wrongs are going to come to light.”
Let’s start with a plea.
You may already know the story of the Schultz brothers, Dave and Mark, both gold-medal Olympic wrestlers, and their stormy relationship with their wrestling-obsessed benefactor, John DuPont. If you don’t, it’s only a click away on Wikipedia. But — here’s that plea — do not click! Sit on your hands. And watch Bennett Miller’s brooding, gloomy yet altogether riveting Foxcatcher without foreknowledge of the shocking end.
There’s another shock we can freely discuss, though, and that’s the physical transformation of Steve Carell, doing some of his best career work here as the disturbingly eccentric DuPont, bearing a nose that renders him almost unrecognizable (though eerily similar to the real DuPont.) Yet even more than his face, it’s Carell’s voice — high, tinny, and frighteningly odd _ that lingers in our heads after the credits roll.
Though ultimately a three-person tragedy, Foxcatcher begins as the story of one: Mark Schultz, the younger, brawnier brother, thoroughly embodied by Channing Tatum in a thrillingly physical performance. A couple years after his 1984 gold medal in Los Angeles, Mark is down on his luck, eating instant Ramen noodles at night and living on $20 gigs showing his medal to schoolkids.
Suddenly a call comes from Foxcatcher Farm, the sprawling Pennsylvania estate where DuPont, heir to the storied gunpowder (and later, chemical) fortune, lives with his elderly mother (the formidable Vanessa Redgrave, making the most of a few lines and some supremely icy looks). Mark is whisked by helicopter into a lifestyle he can’t refuse: being coached and owned, essentially, by DuPont.
Their first meeting, in a luxurious paneled library, is beautifully captured by Miller and screenwriters Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye: A painfully uncomfortable, inarticulate Schultz listens as DuPont utters staccato bursts of mumbo jumbo. “I’m a wrestling coach.” “I’m an ornithologist.” “I’m a patriot.” To Mark, it means one thing: A place to live and train. DuPont also wants the older Schultz, but the sunnier, more stable Dave (a vital and appealing Mark Ruffalo) is settled with a wife and two kids, and has no intention of moving. “You can’t buy Dave,” Mark explains.
At first, things go well. Mark leads a hand-picked team at Foxcatcher, with dreams of Olympic glory in Seoul in 1988. He accompanies DuPont to lavish events and speaks of him as a father.
But DuPont proves highly erratic, veering from gestures of generosity to fits of venom. He shoots bullets into the ceiling of the wrestling gym. He purchases a military tank complete with machine gun. He plies Mark with cocaine, and lures him to private wrestling bouts, just the two of them, in the middle of the night.
As Mark flounders, Dave agrees to come on board; even the solid brother, it appears, can be had for a price. Mark seethes with jealousy, but needs his brother badly. Dejected and overweight at Olympic trials, he destroys his hotel room in a tantrum, then almost destroys his body in a massive binge on room-service food. Only Dave can get him back on track.
Miller, who illustrated the highs and lows of baseball so well in Moneyball, is equally adept at portraying the peculiarities of wrestling here, and how those physical moves — beautifully choreographed and executed — sync with deeper psychological currents.
If you know from news accounts how things went for the Schultzes at Seoul and beyond — how terribly low it all sank — then you’ll be prepared for the stunning climax here. If you don’t, so much the better. A meditation on the corruptive force of money, a glimpse at the intoxication of sports, and just a really twisted real-life yarn, Foxcatcher ends in a snowy Pennsylvania winter. But the chill sets in a whole lot sooner than that.
Foxcatcher, a Sony Pictures Classics release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some drug use and a scene of violence.” Running time: 134 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
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Milwaukee has been selected as one of five cities for an early premiere of an HBO film.
“The Normal Heart” stars Kenosha native Mark Ruffalo as well as Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons and Alfred Molina.
It’s based on the Tony Award-winning play by Larry Kramer and is about the AIDS crisis in early 1980s New York.
Brad Pitt is producer.
The movie will be shown at the Landmark Oriental Theatre on May 21.
Milwaukee was selected along with Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco to see the film before it airs May 25 as part of a partnership between Milwaukee Film and HBO.
HBO spokesman Mike Hopper says Milwaukee is one of the top markets for “Game of Thrones” viewership, so there is a definite audience for HBO in Milwaukee.
Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo will star in an HBO movie adaptation of “The Normal Heart,” the play about the onset of the AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s.
HBO said that Ryan Murphy, maker of “Eat Pray Love” and the TV show “Glee,” will direct the film.
Larry Kramer’s play about the men who joined him to help form the Gay Men’s Health Crisis debuted in 1985 and was brought to Broadway again in 2011, winning a Tony Award for best revival.
Roberts will portray Dr. Emma Brookner, a paraplegic doctor who treated several of the earliest AIDS victims.
Ruffalo plays Ned Weeks, who sought answers when he saw the disease begin to kill many gay people he knew.
Alec Baldwin and Julia Roberts have signed on to star in the film version of Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning autobiographical play “The Normal Heart,” which follows the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The two stars join Mark Ruffalo, who was already cast as protagonist Ned Weeks, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Baldwin will play Weeks’ brother and Roberts will play the doctor who understands the seriousness of the mystery sickness.
The roles are meaty. The 2011 Broadway production won awards for Ellen Barkin in the party Roberts is taking and John Benjamin Hickey in the role that Ruffalo will play on the big screen.
“Glee” creator Ryan Murphy is directing.
The play debuted off-Broadway in 1985 and was revived in 2004 in Los Angeles and London. It debuted on Broadway last year.
“White Collar” star Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons, who won an Emmy for “The Big Bang Theory,” are also part of the cast.
Baldwin is a strong equality supporter who lobbied New York lawmakers to back the bill that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.
Murphy is at the forefront of bringing issues of gay equality into the national conversation, The Hollywood Reporter says. His TV show “Glee” features several gay characters and story lines, as does his cable hit “American Horror Story.”
Oscar-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo appears at a fundraiser for the LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin on May 21.
The event is at Fierte, 5733 Third Ave., in Kenosha.
Admission is $25. Call 262-764-9713 for information.
Mark Ruffalo told MTV he’ll star in the long-awaited film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking 1984 AIDS play “The Normal Heart.” Ryan Murphy (creator of “Glee”) will direct, with Kramer adapting his work for the screen. Barbra Streisand held rights to the film for 10 years but never got around to making it, reportedly due to creative differences with Kramer. No surprise there – they’re both famously difficult. Ruffalo is currently on-screen in Lisa Cholodenko’s lesbian family flick “The Kids Are All Right.”