Born on November 22, 1967, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Mark Ruffalo made his stage debut in 1990, and a decade later his career took a major turn with a role in the film You Can Count on Me. Parts in such high-profile films as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Shutter Island followed, and 2012 found Ruffalo headed to a new level when he portrayed the Hulk in the smash live-action film The Avengers. Having already received an Academy Award nod for 2010's The Kids Are All Right, Ruffalo earned additional Oscar nominations for his role in the dramas Foxcatcher and Spotlight.
Born on November 22, 1967, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Mark Ruffalo spent his teenage years in Virginia Beach, Virginia, before moving with his family to San Diego after high school. He eventually settled in Los Angeles, studying acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory and subsequently co-founding the Orpheus Theatre Company. The theater was a platform for Ruffalo’s own acting and he landed small parts on TV and in films as well, but it was a meeting with playwright Kenneth Lonergan that changed his fate.
Ruffalo began appearing in Lonergan's plays, notably This Is Our Youth, which led to his landing the male lead in Lonergan's soon-to-follow film You Can Count on Me (2000). Ruffalo’s performance drew critical and popular attention, and he took his first steps onto the Hollywood map. Notable roles came one after the next, and Ruffalo had prominent parts in such films as XX/XY (2002), Windtalkers (2002) and In the Cut (2003).
During his ramp-up to wider success, Ruffalo suffered a setback in 2002 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The surgery to remove the tumor, which was determined to be benign, led to a period of partial facial paralysis, but Ruffalo recovered fully and his career picked up right where it had left off.
Although Ruffalo had not yet appeared in a blockbuster-type film, he continued to turn in solid performances, and in 2004 he appeared in four more movies: We Don't Live Here Anymore, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 13 Going on 30 and Collateral, films widely varied in genre and therefore collectively showcasing Ruffalo’s range.
After 2004, Ruffalo slowed down a bit, but he was nevertheless consistently appearing on screens across the world. Films such as Just Like Heaven (2005), All the King's Men (2006), Zodiac (2007) and Reservation Road (2007) all helped to build Ruffalo’s already blossoming reputation in Hollywood. (He also managed to appear on Broadway in 2006, where he earned a Tony Award nomination for his starring role in Awake and Sing!)
Ruffalo changed gears a little in 2009 when he directed the indie film Sympathy for Delicious, which was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. That year he also starred in The Kids Are All Right, which led to his first Academy Award nomination. The film also helped him garner Independent Spirit, SAG and BAFTA nominations, among a host of others.
Playing Bruce Banner in 'The Avengers'
A high-profile role in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island (2010) preceded Ruffalo's biggest role to date: that of Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk, in the 2012 blockbuster The Avengers. He reprised this role in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was released in May 2015.
In addition to the Hulk, Ruffalo has tackled other interesting roles. He appeared in the crime thriller Now You See Me (2013) with Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, the sex-addiction indie comedy Thank You for Sharing (2013), with Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim Robbins, and the musical drama Begin Again (2014), with Keira Knightley.
'The Normal Heart' and 'Foxcatcher'
Returning to his theater roots, in a sense, Ruffalo took on the lead in The Normal Heart, a TV adaptation of an acclaimed Broadway play about the beginning of the AIDS crisis. The 2014 cable movie proved to be a hit with television viewers. More than one million people tuned in to watch the premiere of the star-studded drama, also featuring Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons. The Normal Heart wowed critics as well and earned Ruffalo an Emmy Award nomination.
Later that year, Ruffalo appeared as one of the lead roles in the drama Foxcatcher, playing a wrestler affiliated with millionaire and self-appointed trainer John du Pont. The film, co-starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, garnered major awards buzz and critical interest, and Ruffalo earned both Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for his role.
Continuing his string of successes, Ruffalo delivered a strong performance as a manic-depressive father trying to prove his parenting abilities in the 2015 comedy-drama Infinitely Polar Bear, snagging a Golden Globe nomination for his work. He later earned another Oscar nod, this time for his portrayal of newspaper reporter Mike Rezendes in the 2015 drama Spotlight, which follows the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Boston. The film itself won an Academy Award for best picture in 2016.
Personal Life and Activism
Ruffalo is widely known as an environmental activist, particularly focusing his efforts on combating fracking in New York state. At Dickinson College to receive an environmental award in early 2015, Ruffalo notably told graduates, "I'm here to tell you that 'activist' is not a dirty word." Living that message, Ruffalo founded the Solutions Project, which pushes for 100 percent renewable energy, and is active with Water Defense, a group dedicated to clean water initiatives.
Ruffalo has been married to actress Sunrise Coigney since 2000, and together they have three children.
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