Only a couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to meet and spend an evening with one of my favorite actors, Mark Ruffalo.
Ruffalo, who has starred in and elevated so many different sorts of films over the years — among them “You Can Count On Me” (2000), “The Last Castle” (2001), “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” (2004), “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004), “13 Going on 30” (2004), “Collateral” (2004), “Just Like Heaven” (2005) and “Zodiac” (2007) — had accepted my invitation to come to Brandeis University for a screening of/Q&A about his latest film, “What Doesn’t Kill You,” along with its director/his close friend Brian Goodman, whose tumultuous journey is chronicled in the film.
[spoiler] As is customary for all of our east coast Contender Q&A events, Brandeis’ chair of film studies and I introduced the film and then left to meet our guests for a pre-Q&A dinner at a local restaurant. Upon our arrival, Ruffalo couldn’t have greeted us more warmly or thanked us more profusely for having him to campus and casting a spotlight on his little film. During dinner, he seemed positively giddy to hear that an overflow crowd had turned out for the screening, including students, dozens of locals who had worked on the film (which was shot in nearby Boston), SAG/AMPAS voters, and numerous members of Goodman’s family. After dinner, he asked me to join him in his SUV for the short ride to campus so that we could continue our conversation, but not before he quietly called to check in with his wife and young children, one of whom caused him to chuckle by saying, for no particular reason, “I won’t let you down, Daddy.” Upon our arrival at campus, he candidly answered questions from me, and then the audience, for 45 minutes, and then voluntarily spent at least as long posing for photographs, signing autographs, and just chatting with audience members until every last person who had stuck around got what they were looking for. Afterward, backstage, he was again as thankful as could be, as if he felt he needed to top the level of gratitude we had expressed to him for flying across the country exclusively for this event, which was considerable.
The reason I mention all of this is that — believe it or not — most actors are not this classy or impressive, and the fact that Ruffalo was did not go unnoticed by the hundreds of people who came out to attend that evening’s event, or by the one person who moderated it. At the start of the evening, I was a big fan of Mark Ruffalo, the actor; by the end of it, I was an even bigger fan of Mark Ruffalo, the man.
Consequently, I have had a heavy heart ever since learning that Mark’s younger brother Scott Ruffalo was shot in the head — one report called it an “execution-style” shooting — outside of his Beverly Hills condominium early Monday morning, and that he is now only barely clinging to life at a Los Angeles-area hospital. I’m told that Mark is by his side, and that Brian is supporting Mark. (News broke early Friday morning that police are now seeking two suspects for the crime.)
[/spoiler] For Mark, this should have been a week for celebration — on Monday, he was unexpectedly nominated for not one but two Satellite Awards, best actor for “What Doesn’t Kill You” and best supporting actor for “The Brothers Bloom.” Instead, it has turned into a nightmare.