From the Avengers Set: Mark Ruffalo

One of the very last interviews of our two days on the set of Marvel’s The Avengers was with the newest member of the Marvel Movie Universe, Mark Ruffalo. Even this close to the movie’s release, there’s still quite a bit of curiosity about how Ruffalo will portray the duality of Banner and the Hulk.

Unlike the other Avengers before their respective solo movies, Ruffalo is playing the one character that’s already been depicted in two other successful movies as well as a popular television show by three other actors.

While we may not have gotten an answer to every question some might have in this group interview, we did get a very clear idea how serious and passionate Ruffalo is about the role. He also was the one member of the cast who shared the most information about the story and the involvement of both Bruce Banner and the Hulk with the individual Avengers and the group as a whole.

Q: Nobody wants to talk to us about anything, and you’re our last interview, so … 
Mark Ruffalo:
Buddy I’m gonna let it rip! (laughter)

Q: What were you told as you walked over here?
Ruffalo:
“Don’t say anything. Of interest.” I would say this and you can print it or not: Hulk may or may not end up being the bad guy in this movie. (laughter)

Q: We saw you breaking out of the helicopter, we saw the containment chamber, Calcutta, and we were told a lot of stuff. What have you filmed so far or you’re about to film that you’re most excited about?
Ruffalo:
I’ve been having a lot of fun with the Hulk motion capture stuff, actually. The only distinction that I hold is that I am the only actor to ever play Banner and the Hulk. So I’ve been working a lot with ILM on him, so no one will be able to blame ILM fully if this Hulk doesn’t work.

Q: Have you seen a good representation of the Hulk?
Ruffalo:
I’ve seen an awesome representation. Here, I can show it to you guys. I can show it to you, but you can’t… take a picture of it. Alright, I’ll do it really fast. (At this point, he has pulled out his phone but is urged by the nearby Feige and the Disney rep to show them what he wants to show us.) I’m the loose cannon of the Marvel family. (laughs)

Q: We talk to a lot of the other actors and we talked about the scenes you’re doing in the mo-cap suit on set, so what’s that like?
Ruffalo:
The first day I was a miserable bastard. A trained actor reduced to the state of a Chinese checkerboard. And then once I got over everyone laughing at me …

(The Disney rep comes back and tells Ruffalo he can’t show us the image of the Hulk on his phone, which is met with boos by everyone.)

Q: Where is Banner’s mental state when we pick this up? In the last movie, he was really miserable.
Ruffalo:
Yeah, it’s hard to watch a movie with a guy who doesn’t want to be there. I think Banner’s aging and living with this thing since now it’s been two years since his last “one.” We’re kind of going for this world-weariness of accepting and trying to get to the point where he can live with it, and maybe master it. Come to peace with it. There’s this nice kind of ironic ryness to Banner. He’s not sulking and miserable. We had talked about it being a throwback to Bill Bixby, which was the Banner that I grew up on basically. He had kind of a charm about it him, and this world-weariness. He was on the run, but he was still able to flirt sometimes and smile sometimes, and occasionally he’d crack a joke. When you have a movie where there’s so many characters you end up getting about 10 minutes screen time with your particular character. So in the screen time that we have we’re trying to bring out this charm in him, and maybe this idea that he wants to be a superhero. I mean, he looks at Stark and he’s like, that’s the dude who did what I was intending to do. He’s the model. He made it work. So Banner and Stark have a very cool relationship in the movie.

Q: What about the scenes without the mo-cap? Are there scenes where they’re trying to use Banner for his scientific skills?
Ruffalo:
Oh yeah , there’s a lot of that. He ends up being an intricate component to the first part of the movie. They aren’t really after him necessarily to be the Hulk. They’re really after him for his gamma expertise. So there’s a big portion of the movie where he’s doing a lot of that–helping them kind of crack this riddle.

Q: Was doing the mo-cap one of the reasons you took the job, or did that just come later after you were hired?
Ruffalo:
No that was right when we were talking about it, that was one of the things. That we would take the “Avatar” technology – that really interested me, because I’ve always loved those old Hulks, but you don’t really see the resemblance of the guy, and I don’t feel they’ve quite captured it yet. So I was very excited to take that Avatar technology and see what that would do.

Q: So you had signed on prior to seeing the script?
Ruffalo:
Yes, I did, which is a big no-no for me.

Q: Can you talk about the script? Everyone’s been saying what a good script it was.
Ruffalo:
Yeah, it’s hard to have this many characters, this many storylines, and have each character start to make an arc. That was my worry. I said, “Joss, don’t put me in there if I’m just going to be standing around. There’s no reason to.” He’s like, “No, no, no, don’t worry – everyone’s gonna have their voice, and their sort of own little character arc – and he’s really come through on that. He was kind of enough to give me a couple of scenes, where he was heading – and we worked a lot together on the script. He’s a very confident writer; he’s really collaborative, and I’ve seen him be that way with a lot of the actors. I think the script is in really good shape.

Q: Can you talk a little about the first day? Everyone’s in costume – were you in that scene? Was everyone in costume?
Ruffalo:
Yeah, and I was like, “Where’s my costume man? This sucks!” They all looked dope and ripped up, and I’m there in a not very flattering linen suit, but I was thinking, “Wow, here’s the team and here I am – a total outsider,” but I think that really works for Banner, and I think it really works for Banner in this particular story.

Q: Did you sense a special energy when you guys were filming?
Ruffalo:
Oh yeah, it’s The Avengers! There they are! And they’re all pretty remarkable talents themselves. There’s no one really being dragged along, except for maybe me. It was pretty inspiring. It is, as Downey Jr. calls it, the mother of all comic-book movies. With that comes the terrifying notion that it is the mother of all comic-book movies. (laughter)

Q: Does your version of the Hulk talk?
Ruffalo:
He does.

Q: Is that your voice?
Ruffalo:
As of this moment, I am, but you never know what they’re going to do. They might watch it and go, “Oh my God!” (laughter)

Q: Is it like “Hulk Smash” or is it sentences?
Ruffalo:
Um … is it a sentence? I don’t think it qualifies as a sentence. It doesn’t have all the components.

Q: Who’s the one who gets him into that tent in Calcutta?
Ruffalo:
(rubs his hands together) Black Widow can get anyone into a tent if you know … (laughter) literally and figuratively. (more laughter)

Q: In some versions of the comic, the Hulk has the brains of Bruce Banner rather than being a savage so has anyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. figured out how to do that yet?
Ruffalo:
He hasn’t graduated to that yet, but hopefully he might be on the way to that. I don’t know where it’s gonna go after this, but I feel like we’re trying to open the door to integration of the two. I like it as the guy who tried to break a bucking Bronco. He has some tiny little semblance of control of it, but then again it’s completely out of control. That’s what the last one left off, I felt like.

Q: Would you want to do your own Hulk [movie] after this?
Ruffalo:
Why not? You know, I was a comic book fan when I was a kid and I always loved the Hulk. When “The Incredible Hulk,” that show, came on, I would not miss that. And so if I was going to find myself in that world, this would be the guy that I would be most interested in doing. To make a very short answer long: Yeah, I’d love to have him do his own movie.

Q: Yours is the only character who hasn’t had a chance to play his character yet in another movie. Do you feel added pressure because of that?
Ruffalo:
Hell yeah, man! When I was at Comic-Con – and I’ll never forget this, and Robert didn’t help me with this – when he introduced me, he said “Now reprising the role of the Hulk…” and they were all cheering because they thought it was gonna be Ed Norton, and then he said “Mark Ruffalo!” – and everyone went, “Yeah – huh?” [laughs] And it’s been like that ever since. I made the mistake of going online once and reading the fanboy’s take on my playing Hulk and it was not encouraging. I’ve never done anything that’s had so much scrutiny behind it before I even rolled a frame of film. And Joss is like, ‘You know, you are the only character I’m introducing, so if you go down we both go down.’” (laughter)

Q: Do you have any scenes with Sam or with Robert where you go toe-to-toe with them?
Ruffalo:
I have some great stuff with Robert. I have some stuff with Sam, but a big bulk of my stuff is with Robert. It’s not toe-to-toe really because there’s a simpatico between the two of us, but there’s definitely some nice stuff happening there.

Q: Is the dialogue very fast paced?
Ruffalo:
Um, it’s fast paced, but it has that Joss Whedon kind of interesting inner characters. Ya know Banner – he has so much inner conflict; it’s a lot of that kind of stuff. It’s not like that 30s rat-tat-tat-tat, you know. He’s got some very cool stuff that’s picked up from some of the later comic books.

Q: What are you attempting to base how your Hulk moves?
Ruffalo:
Believe it or not, I looked at a lot of gorillas, and just because they have this kind of lumbering to them that then becomes explosive. I liked that. Plus when you do the motion capture, and you put the suit on and go into a room where they have monitors all around, and you step in front of the camera and there’s the Hulk, it’s literally like putting the costume on. Every move I make the Hulk makes; a very rudimentary version of him. And all of a sudden you get a look at that – and that, the way it moving like that  - is an honest sense of that character. And all of a sudden the image of the Hulk starts telling you how to move. He doesn’t move quickly; he has this kind of lumbering thing, and his shoulders are a little rolled over, ya know.

Q: Did you do any physical training for the role?
Ruffalo:
I did, I went to the gym, but they distinctly told me they did not want me to be ripped up. But I lost 16 pounds. They wanted him to be thin, but still within Bill Bixby’s everyman Hulk.

Q: How do they do it when you’re all on set together? Someone said before they have you on a table?
Ruffalo:
It depends. Some of the stuff they do it’s just me standing on the ground, but for some things they’ll put me on a table so they can get the framing right. And the table puts me right at around the height the Hulk should be, which is eight and a half feet. They’ll do that mostly for framing, or they’ll bring in a cutout – they’ll hold that up, it’s sort of like a backpack thing. It’s all mostly for framing. Once I’m in the mo-cap suit they can pull me out of any scene and put me in anywhere they really want to.

Q: I was wondering when you’re on set as Hulk and you throw your own cars. How does that work? Are you acting like you’re throwing stuff?
Ruffalo:
Well at ILM they actually give you something to throw. It’s just very light, and then when you look up on the screen it’s a car flying across the room instead of a cardboard box. That’s pretty much how they do it. Once they shoot all this – I’ll do it all on set, and then we’ll go back to ILM for three days and refine it. And do it on the stage where I can actually see the feedback of a screen. That’s something they haven’t done before.

Q: Have you been involved in that big fight happening at the railyard? There’s something huge going on, so are you involved in that? Because there is a lot of destruction…
Ruffalo:
Hulk may or may not be involved …

Q: We all saw the concept art.
Ruffalo:
Yeah, he’s over there, and that was my first day here and that was a miserable day. It was smoky, and I felt very uncomfortable. I’m not well-endowed, so those suits don’t really show you off in the most …

Q: Were you wearing less than what Scarlett was wearing?
Ruffalo:
They spray-paint her suit on in the morning.

Q: Obviously Banner would know who Captain America is, so what is your first reaction when you meet him? Can you tell us a little bit about that first scene?
Ruffalo:
We don’t really get to see that moment. We kind of hop over that, but there is a history there.

Q: Have there been any encounters with the other Hulks, like Ed Norton or Lou Ferrigno, or are there plans to get together?
Ruffalo:
I actually called Ed because I’m friends with Ed and wanted it to be copasetic. I didn’t want to step on his feet. He bequeathed it to me, and we had a joke that it’s our generation’s Hamlet. We’re all gonna get a crack at it.

Q: I wanted to get your thoughts on the 3D format…
Ruffalo:
Um, a cool fad? I don’t know, I’m into this whole 4D thing – have you heard about 4D? That sounds cool for this kind of movie. I don’t know, it’s fun to watch a 3D movie, but I don’t know. I have no idea what’s gonna happen with 3D. It seems to be like every few years we roll up something like Smell-o-Rama…

Q: So can we quote you on “3D is our generation’s Smell-o-Rama”?
Ruffalo:
(laughs) Go, man!

Q: Is it going to be weird going back to do a small drama after this?
Ruffalo:
Yeah, I like to try different things. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m kind of a casualty to ADD, and so I like to try different things. I always kind of find myself back in indie dramedies or dramas, but I’ve gone out and done bigger studio things. Nothing ever like this because no one has ever asked me to, so I just go where I find my interests taking me. I don’t really have too much of a plan.

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