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Interview: Mark Ruffalo for "Zodiac"

By Paul Fischer Wednesday February 14th 2007 05:49AM
Mark Ruffalo for "Zodiac"

Mark Ruffalo has played his fair share of cops, so why are another one? That and many other questions were put to one of Hollywood's hardest working actors, as he and Paul Fischer talked serial killers, cops and Hollywood.

Question: What research did you feel necessary to do or do you think everything was pretty much ....

Ruffalo: Done for me?

Question: Done for you.

Ruffalo: I actually ended up doing quite a bit of research. The one thing I wanted to do was get together with Dave Toschi. And so I went to San Francisco for a few days and spent some time with him at his work and hanging out with him. And that was a big part of the whole performance, was that time I spent with him.

Question: Now you've played a cop a number of times, a few times. What is about that profession that's intriguing and what do you do to try and make ...

Ruffalo: Those different?

Question: Yeah, to try and give it as much interest as possible.

Ruffalo: They're as close to being bad guys as you can get without being a bad guy so they're walking a very fine line, you know. And I mean they're certainly in the realm of good and bad and black and white and all that. So it usually has some dramatic stuff around it. It isn't like I choose it - those are the only jobs they're giving me too you know, that they offer me. There's this projection that we like go around like, 'Oh yeah I'll take that'. No. They're the only jobs they give you. You'd be surprised how little there is of choosing. And it's ended up that I've been a cop a few times now and how that's happened, I don't know. I've been running from cops most of my life. But how that's happened .....

Question: Can you give more information about that?

Ruffalo: No that's - if we're going to do a special I might. But how you change those up is actually just going and spending time with these guys. And they're all different from each other. They all have different styles of policing each city. You know, New York style is different from L.A. which is different from San Francisco. The 70s is different and the people are different. So although I've been playing a lot of cops I hope that they haven't been all the same performances.

Question: This is really a cop where you're involved in the nuts and bolts of police procedures. But then they add in the red herrings, the frustrations, particularly over the market closure and all this - this was different in that respect.

Ruffalo: Completely, yes. This is the most kind of procedural police work I've done and it is all about procedure the movie. I mean the other things that I've done was more, like Collateral which is a much bigger cop conceptual thing or In the Cut which is really about the love story. But this is the most procedural thing and that has its own amount of work and research that has to go much deeper than laying in your hand.

Question: Is that how you normally interpret them?

Ruffalo: Sometimes yeah.

Question: But it's a real life character who is still around?

Ruffalo: Yeah. He's a real guy and I feel like I owe it to him to be as honest about who he was and what it cost him and what he went through as I can for the movie. And that's basically what I said to him when I went to meet him. He's like: 'I just don't know why you're here to talk to me'. And I said 'I'm here because I want to honour you, man'. 'I want try and be as honest about your life as I possibly can in the context of this film.

Question: Did he respect that? .

Ruffalo: Yeah I mean I had to say to him four or five times but after a couple of hours he was very open and you know you spend a couple of days with somebody and they start to trust you and then they reveal themselves to you more and more.

Question: Well he had also been played in various forms like sometimes - Steve McQueen in Bullet was based on him. Did he talk to you about that?

Ruffalo: Yeah he's also kind of a - he had a pop culture sort of iconoclastic career too. He's been in front of the cameras. He told me the story about that. He's like, 'Oh by the way, he didn't' base his character on me. He saw me getting coffee one day and I had my holster on and he just walked over and said "Where did you get that holster?" and that's really as far as it goes'. But then he brings in his pictures of him and Steve McQueen and Michael Douglas.

Question: What about the obsessive nature of his character. Could you relate to that?

Ruffalo: To Dave? Dave Toschi? Well I mean shit, I've been doing this for twenty something years and you have to be a little obsessed I think to keep going. I don't relate to it - I don't have that kind of obsession. I guess I do in my acting and what I want and what I'd like my career to look like and all that and I keep hammering at it and this was like a career defining moment for him. And actually when it all blew up in his face it destroyed him and his family.

Question: I would imagine you're at the point in your career where you would have said no to another cop movie at this point. What made you say yes to this one?

Ruffalo: The first thing is the calling part of it, is that David Fincher rang and I'd like to work with him. And then I pretty much go by the material. I mean that's pretty much first and foremost. Then I read it and I just thought it was - there's a whole metaphorical side to this movie about where we are in the world today and about the way we treat evidence and law and presumptions and so that also struck me as well. Sociologically where we are today in the world because of a lot of presumptions, because we didn't follow the letter of the law in evidence, because we weren't as thorough maybe as some of these cops were back then. And so there was that aspect of it too. There was the metaphorical aspect as an artist. And then there's me just playing this guy, this real guy that really took this journey. And I saw a picture of him and I was like 'I have never played that. I have never played that guy'. So that was another thing. Have I done it? I

Question: So what are the challenges for you. You were sort of joking about what the offers are or what have you but you still have a very respectable career.

Ruffalo: I hope so.

Question: You still get great roles. What are the challenges for you to find characters and find projects that you can really sink your teeth into?

Ruffalo: Well there's not a lot of great writing you know. What happens now is that there's, it's writing by committee and they want - even this movie, the release of this movie, OK? This movie could have been released in November. It stands up with anything that's out there right now I think. But because it's a serial killer movie that they don't catch the serial killer in the end, everyone's like freaked out. They don't know ... 'What do we do with this movie?' you know. And it's that sort of mentality that is making the world a much smaller place. It's just the surer thing, the surer bet, you know. So characters are less interesting, stories are less risky.

Question: Are you a cynic?

Ruffalo: Listen. Not only is that glass half empty - it's also a little glass.

Question: Do you see this movie getting under the skin, I mean this case has a way of getting people wrapped up in it. Did you see it happening with the film makers? Did it happen to you?

Ruffalo: It's like the perfect snake eating its own tail. Fincher, who became obsessed with this case makes a movie about obsession - about people's obsession about the case. It just keeps going around and around and around.

Question: So Fincher is obsessive is he?

Ruffalo: Fincher is, when he's working on something, becomes obsessed with it. He wants to know every little detail about it. He is so detailed oriented. Only because he doesn't want to be the guy who shows up and knows less than anybody else there. He is an incredibly conscientious film maker. As far as his work ethic, and I mean I have never worked with him before. But he steeped himself in this material. He steeped himself. I mean we probably came closer to solving this case than anybody has. I mean, we had the resources, we had the people, we had the technology. I mean we've been able to do stuff with ... he'll talk to these cops and they'll say 'I never knew that'. He'll spit out pieces and they're like 'I never knew that' - guys that worked on this case, whose whole life was this case.

Question: What are you doing next now?

Ruffalo: I'm hanging out with my kids.

Question: You are taking a break?

Ruffalo: Yeah. I'm looking for a job.

Question: I thought you were going to do The Brass Wall.

Ruffalo: They're still writing it. You know, God help us, that happens. Yeah, they're in the middle of writing it and I'd like to do it but that's months and months away.

Question: You didn't make anything after this?

Ruffalo: I did Reservation Road, yeah.

Question: Now Robert Downey in his career has taken on characters like Iron Man. Do you ever see yourself doing something heroic and superhero like?

Ruffalo: Why not? Maybe, I don't know.

Question: You think you'd be open for the roles?

Ruffalo: I'll read it. You know, I'll definitely read it. I want to be the Obliviate.

Question: Fincher's movie Seven kind of defined a certain kind of serial killer genre movies for years. Was he consciously trying to show the opposite side of the real life frustrations?

Ruffalo: I think he said to himself 'If I'm going to do this I'm going to totally, you know, just recreate it for myself'.

Question: Well he's not the only great stylist you've worked with. What do you think the combination of Spike Jonze and Where the Wild Things Are? How do you think audiences are going to bind to that?

Ruffalo: It's hard to tell. I haven't seen any of it. But from being there and working with him and seeing some of the creatures and stuff, it's going to be really exciting. And I think it will be, you know Where the Wild Things came up that was like, that freaked people out that book, kind of. It caused a stir. It was disturbing to some people you know? And I know that when he was making the movie the author told him, 'Listen, I don't want you to stay true to this book. I want you to be as out there as I was when I did this' and so it's a mum, a single mum who's trying to raise this wild child and she has, you know, kind of a boyfriend around. He comes from a troubled home, the boy, so it has some darker tones to it than your usual kids' movie.

Question: And who are you?

Ruffalo: I play the boyfriend. I have a small part in it. But I play the boyfriend who is like stealing the quarters out of a change dish. I mean, that says everything about him, you know.

Question: What will you and your wife be doing for Valentines Day? Anything fun?

Ruffalo: We're going to try and get a room at the Chateau. and I'll get in. No I don't know what we're doing.

Question: Don't get the one next to Lindsay Lohan.

Ruffalo: No is she still there?

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