May 20, 2024

Mark Ruffalo‘s name holds serious clout in Hollywood these days (no doubt helped by his ongoing role as Bruce Banner/Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), but it wasn’t always like that for the 55-year-old actor. In a new interview with High Snobiety, Ruffalo remembered the casting process for David Fincher’s acclaimed 2007 crime thriller “Zodiac” and being told by studio representatives that nobody cared about him.

“Studios, they weren’t coming to me in that way,” Ruffalo said of his career in the mid-2000s. “I’ll never forget when they were negotiating my deal [for ‘Zodiac’], the studio negotiator literally said to my manager, ‘Look, we don’t give a shit about Mark Ruffalo, we don’t even want Mark Ruffalo in this movie, so you’re going to take what we’re offering you or forget it.’”

The studio’s total indifference to him is one reason Joss Whedon’s offer to Ruffalo to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Hulk came as such a surprise.

“The fact that Joss came to me for the Hulk was so out of the blue,” Ruffalo said. “It’s a tough part – how do you get away with playing a character that doesn’t want to do what everybody wants him to do and sustain that? It’s like a trap. I read it and I was like, ‘I can do something with this.’”

Marvel turned Ruffalo into an action hero, which he said was a far cry from how the industry previously viewed him. While he was always a dramatic actor (see 2000’s “You Can Count on Me”), a string of romantic-comedy box office hits like “13 Going on 30” (2004) and “Just Like Heaven” (2005) painted him as the rom-com guy in the eyes of Hollywood execs.

“What I felt immediately in the film world is, once you did one thing well, that’s what they think you are,” Ruffalo said. “They will just come to you with that part over and over again. And I was like, ‘No.’ My career is not going to be that. I’m going to do as much as I can to try and make people see me in different ways so that I can do more over the years.”

Next up for Ruffalo is an acclaimed supporting turn opposite Emma Stone in “Poor Things.” The Yorgos Lanthimos-directed comedy opens in theaters Dec. 8 from Searchlight Pictures.

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