Movies

Mark Ruffalo looks to con-man pal for inspiration on ‘The Brothers Bloom’

TORONTO — Mark Ruffalo had a criminal acquaintance to help him prep for his role as a con man in the quirky comedy “The Brothers Bloom,” having its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“I know a diamond thief,” the affable American actor, who plays lead grifter Stephen in the surreal globetrotting adventure, admitted with a grin at a roundtable interview at the festival on Friday.

“I’ve known him for a long time and a lot of Stephen is based on this guy. He’s a total con man,” said Ruffalo, who has two other films at the festival this year: “Blindness” and “What Doesn’t Kill You.”

“He’s not just a diamond thief, he was a complete con his whole life – a hustler and the most charming, fun, gregarious, fantastic, bigger-than-life person that I’ve ever come across – and so I oftentimes would think, ‘How would he handle this situation?”‘

“The Brothers Bloom,” set for wide release on Jan. 16, stars Ruffalo and Adrien Brody as swindling but charming siblings who stage elaborate schemes around the world.

British stunner Rachel Weisz plays Penelope, a socially awkward heiress who has $2.5 million they want.

Penelope has mastered a long list of odd hobbies – including card tricks, the unicycle, the accordion and juggling – all of which Weisz had to learn a bit of before filming.

“We had a two-week rehearsal period in which I had to learn to simulate to be able to play piano, banjo, guitar, juggle, skateboard – I’d never been on a skateboard in my life,” said Weisz, who won the 2006 supporting actress Oscar for her role in “The Constant Gardener.”

Brody, who helped Weisz skateboard and rap for the film, said the originality of the script is the kind of thing he’s been seeking out since he won the 2002 best actor Oscar for his role in Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist.”

“I really try to follow my heart, which may be instinct. It’s whatever I find inspirational at that point in my life,” said Brody, sporting a thick beard that he grew “for life” and not for a role.

“I want things to feel new for me and to try new adventures and different genres and take a risk with that,” added the Los Angeles-based star.

Rounding out the cast is Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel”), who speaks only three words in the film but makes a big impact as an explosives-loving sidekick to the brothers.

Scoring two Oscar winners (Brody and Weisz), an Oscar nominee (Kikuchi) and an Oscar-worthy actor (Ruffalo) for the film had American writer-director Rian Johnson “terrified” in the beginning.

That’s because it’s only his second feature next to the 2005 cult favourite “Brick.”

“I grew up making movies, but I grew up making them with my friends, just, like, making shorts – and working with actors was something I was new to coming into ‘Brick,”‘ said Johnson.

“I thought coming out of ‘Brick,’ ‘Oh, now I’ll be comfortable working with actors next time around,’ and then I see all those Academy Awards at the end of their names and see all the magazine covers they’re on and I’m freaked out again.”