When Mark Ruffalo showed up on the set of “Shutter Island,” he knew he’d be co-starring in a Martin Scorsese film. But he didn’t know he’d be earning an advanced degree of sorts in film studies by attending a Martin Scorsese cinema seminar.
“Shutter Island” is a psychological suspense thriller set in 1954. To suggest the proper tone for his actors, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kinsgley and Michelle Williams, Scorsese held regular evening screenings of classic noir and psycho-dramas from the late 1940s and early 1950s, such as “Laura,” “Crossfire,” “Out of the Past,” “Time Limit,” and “On Dangerous Ground.”
Then he sprinkled in horror flicks like “The Haunting,” “The Innocents,” and “The Seventh Victim.”
“We watched quite a few films from that period, talking about the style, about the way a detective works,” said Ruffalo on the phone from New York. “They had that hard-boiled quality, especially Robert Mitchum in ‘Out of the Past.’ ”
Ruffalo said the cast benefited from a nearly three-week rehearsal period, which is rare. “It was very collaborative. We had these long discussions really breaking down the story, and we were watching all these films. So not only was it a great rehearsal period, it was our own little film school with Marty.”
Ruffalo plays Chuck Aule, partner of DiCaprio’s U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels. The duo lands on Shutter Island, home to a hospital-prison for the criminally insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. They have to work their way through a maze of weird doings, guards and doctors (led by Kingsley and Max Von Sydow), and in the course of the investigation Daniels unearths some psychological skeletons of his own.
“Shutter Island,” based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”), includes several plot zingers that we won’t reveal here. It opens nationwide Friday, February 19.
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