Ruffalo says 'The Avengers' not much of a career switch
Actor Mark Ruffalo, centre, poses with members of the U.S. Military before the premiere of �The Avengers� before the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York on Saturday, April 28, 2012. (AP / Evan Agostini)
Published Monday, April 30, 2012 6:53PM EDT
TORONTO - Mark Ruffalo says he's ready and willing to take on an action-packed Hulk movie franchise.
The laid-back actor, best known for playing lovable ne'er-do-wells in indie films including "The Kids Are All Right" and "You Can Count on Me," says he's found a comfortable groove playing the monstrous green superhero in the new 3D feature "The Avengers."
Ruffalo admits he was initially unsure about taking on the high-octane role, and tried to talk director Joss Whedon out of casting him.
But he eventually warmed to the idea of taking his career in a radically new direction.
"It did actually really scare me to step into this world and I didn't know that I could pull it off," Ruffalo said Monday during a round of interviews in a Toronto hotel alongside Canadian co-star Cobie Smulders.
"It took some convincing from people like (co-star) Robert (Downey Jr.) and Joss."
Ruffalo plays mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner in the eye-popping 3D spectacle, while also taking on his destructive alter-ego The Hulk through performance-capture technology.
He joins a star-packed cast including Downey, who reprises his role as billionaire playboy Tony Stark/Ironman, Chris Hemsworth, who returns as thunder god Thor and Chris Evans as the ultimate soldier Steve Rogers/Captain America.
Also along for the ride are Scarlett Johansson as Russian spy Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as expert marksman Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, director of an international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., and Smulders as Fury's second-in-command, Agent Maria Hill.
The Marvel dream team is called together when Thor's power-hungry brother Loki threatens to take over the world with the help of some nasty extraterrestrial masters, spurring an all-out aliens-vs.-freaks war in downtown Manhattan.
Ruffalo said he tried to give Whedon all sorts of reasons he wasn't right for the dual roles of Banner and The Hulk, parts previously tackled by Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno in the late '70s TV series "The Incredible Hulk," Eric Bana in the stylized Ang Lee film "Hulk" from 2003 and more recently by Edward Norton in the Toronto-shot 2008 version, "The Incredible Hulk."
They included the fact he can't shake his trademark slow drawl, which is not the most conducive to rapid-fire quips of most big-budget Hollywood action films, he chuckled.
But in the end, Ruffalo said he found the Hulk's bookish alter-ego and self-destructive tendencies to share a few traits with many of the hapless screw-ups on his resume. And he realized he's at a stage in his career where he can afford to take some risks.
"The thing that I was always worried about was just getting pigeon-holed by a big part like this," he said.
"But now I'm at a point where I have a big enough body of work where this isn't going to make me or break me, really. It'll help, in a lot of ways. It'll help get movies made that I love that I've been trying to get made, that have proven very difficult to get made because I don't have that name value."
It'll also give him a project that his three young children can actually watch, he adds chuckling.
The Vancouver-born Smulders said she's grateful to Whedon for giving her a shot to prove her worth on the big screen, noting she fretted over whether she could successfully fit into a massive popcorn blockbuster after spending the bulk of her career on a TV sitcom.
Smulders, who plays proud Canadian singleton Robin Scherbatsky on "How I Met Your Mother," said she even hired a weapons specialist in Los Angeles to show her how a secret agent would handle firearms.
"He showed up at my house one night after my child had gone to bed with a duffel bag full of weapons," said Smulders.
"He showed me how to unload, load, (about) safety, how to hold them, how to stalk somebody, how to enter a building, how to exit a building, all these things that you're supposed to know. I wanted to go into this movie just having that in my body and not having to think about that on the day."
Although Smulders and Ruffalo don't share much screen time in the film, they displayed an easy rapport during a day of media interviews that saw them trading barbs and musing on the possibility of reuniting for another "Avengers" feature, or making cameos in the upcoming "Ironman 3" and "Thor 2" features.
Ruffalo said he'd want Whedon to be involved if he were to reprise his role as Bruce Banner, and admitted he's already imagined what such a film might look like -- Banner would attempt to have a family but it would be torn away from him.
And like the over-the-top display in "The Avengers," there'd be moments of absurd humour thrown in for good measure.
"We were thinking maybe he goes back to India, and when he does turn into The Hulk they think he's Krishna come back, incarnate, they're all just out of their minds," says Ruffalo, letting his mind spin.
"Wouldn't that be hilarious?"
"The Avengers" opens Friday.