Mild-mannered Mark Ruffalo, who plays super hero Hulk in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, sounds off to Mindfood about serious issues close to his heart.
A concerned expression appears on Mark Ruffalo’s face. “Is this boring the hell out of you?” he asks, amidst waxing lyrical of his love for the physical transformations he often undertakes for work. For last year’s Foxcatcher, he gained 35 pounds of muscle to play a pro wrestler and an Oscar nomination.
I assure him that he’s far from boring, though it’s amusing to even hear such words of self-doubt from this much acclaimed actor’s mouth. It’s not surprising this midwestern-born ‘everyman’ star is highly regarded as one of Hollywood’s most decent, normal celebrities.
On the Walt Disney lot in Burbank some of the cast of the eagerly-awaited Avengers: Age of Ultron has assembled to promote the movie which hits screens this week. Ruffalo reprises his role as Hulk/Bruce Banner from the 2012 original, The Avengers, which grossed unmitigated box office sales of US$1.5 billion worldwide.
Does he share any commonalities with his famously ill-tempered alter-ego, Hulk?
“I had a quicker fuse when I was younger but that has quieted down in me,” Ruffalo says. “There are things that make me angry, of course, like social injustice, environmental injustice, there’s plenty of things that can get us mad in the world today, but I don’t lose my temper the way The Hulk does, to any degree like that.”
Speaking about superheroes, as one can’t avoid when talking about, it’s a subject can lend itself to some pretty silly questions, though the answers can be surprisingly insightful.
What is the most impressive power Ruffalo can attest to having in real life? Without hesitating, he offers, “I can disappear into the world in a way that most actors can’t. Literally, I can walk onto a subway and not be recognised at all, which at this moment in time is a feat in itself.” He smiles. “That is my superpower. I can disappear at will.”
What would he most like to do if he had the choice of any superpower? He takes the opportunity to answer a potentially frivolous question in a serious manner.
“I’d like to take the 400 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere and drop it down to 200.”
Ruffalo is an avid supporter of the 100% Campaign, which advocates 100% clean energy for 100% of the people, as well as supporting the ‘Put Solar On It’ campaign. He’s also involved in anti-fracking groups including Artists Against Fracking.
“I’m in the entertainment business and sometimes my job is just to entertain and sometimes it’s to engage people in deeper questions. Sometimes it’s to teach. Sometimes it’s to illuminate some part of the human experience that maybe you wouldn’t normally consider before.”
Ruffalo utilises social media to spread the word which can often inspire a backlash particularly when certain actors speak out on subjects considered controversial.
He says, “Oh, I’ve been called names on Twitter but the wonderful thing about Twitter is, is for the first time an actor can interface with an enormous group of people in a very personal way, a direct way, but still have the safety of distance.
“And sometimes you’re not going to agree with people, but I believe it’s in the ethos of the American culture and the American identity that we can have that dialogue and that we’re not always going to agree. Sometimes there are forces that want to shut that up. I don’t see that as part of the American ideal or identity and so, I continue,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. “A lot of people get afraid of being called names but this whole idea that we have to be afraid of ideas in America or that we’re not allowed to speak about certain things is …” he says, his voice trailing off.
“And the other thing,” he continues, a little exasperated, “because you’re an actor you’re immediately not qualified to have an opinion or an understanding of a situation? Well, that’s the antithesis of the American Dream, the American identity.” He shakes his head. “I find it laughable.”
But it seems for the most part, Ruffalo’s views have had a constructive effect on the community at large. “Look, I don’t aspire to be the smartest guy in the room but I’d like to be an informed guy in the room. I find that when you do come out and you do know what you’re talking about, and I’m not talking about making stupid or inflammatory statements, but statements that are engaging in the debate, for the most part people respond positively to it,” he concurs. “Most of the reaction to Twitter or Tumblr is positive.”
For all his activism, naturally, Ruffalo is considered a leader in the world of environmentalism. Not surprisingly, the term doesn’t sit well with him given that he’s not for the spotlight.
“Well I don’t feel like a leader, but I do see that some people see me as a leader. I was one of the first people to speak out on some of the environmental issues and so a lot of people shifted their attention on me, but I have to say that the world that we are living in today, there’s a lot of leaders and they do it in different ways, I just happen to be a more recognisable public figure, and so I reluctantly embraced the leadership role that I have been given, and I understand it’s a big responsibility.” he says.
But back to the subject at hand, without revealing too much about the plot, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, positions technology as the enemy. Ruffalo says, “It’s interesting that Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking came out a month ago saying that we should stop the unfettered technological revolution into Artificial Intelligence because they believe once we get into A.I. and weaponry that could be the end of the world, or the end of mankind. It’s interesting that this movie deals so much with that same question,” he says. “But I’m interested in technology. There are wonderful things in store for us in the future.