Boston Globe has published today a great article featuring an interview with three members of the Spotlight Team — reporters Sacha Pfeiffer and Michael Rezendes and editor Walter V. Robinson — on which they shared the experiences on having Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton portraying them.
‘Watching Mark [Ruffalo] re-enact five months of my life was like looking into a funhouse mirror’
By Michael Rezendes | Globe Staff
When I found out Mark Ruffalo was going to play me in a movie based on the Globe Spotlight Team, I immediately flashed on the crazy quilt of characters he has played: the obsessed detective in “Zodiac,” the aw-shucks ladies’ man in “The Kids Are All Right,” and the washed-up record producer in “Begin Again,” to name just a few.
So how was Mark going to play me circa 2001, when I was one of the reporters investigating the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese? Pretty much exactly as I am — or was — it turns out.
At first, watching Mark re-enact five months of my life was like looking into a funhouse mirror, as I slipped into a summer evening at Fenway Park more than a dozen years ago. There he was – or I was – with my short-cropped hair, blue button-down shirt, and black leather jacket, exactly as I would have appeared at a Red Sox game after work.
But it was more than the wardrobe. After the fifth or sixth take of Mark taking guff from an older reporter and an editor, Mark introduced an odd, closed-mouth chuckle that I didn’t even know I used but which former Spotlight reporter Sacha Pfeiffer insisted was eerily accurate.
“Oh my God,” Sacha said, grabbing my arm, as we watched the scene unfold one more time. “He’s got your laugh.”
Weeks later in Toronto, where the movie makers had commandeered an old Sears building and rebuilt the Globe newsroom, it was very much the same. There was Mark at his desk in the ersatz Spotlight digs, spinning his chair around to yell into former Spotlight editor Walter V. Robinson’s office for a little banter, exactly as I had done virtually on a daily basis. It was, for me, like being rocketed back in time.
But I should not have been surprised. When I met Mark for the first time at my home in Winthrop he quickly turned the tables, taking on my customary reporter’s role by whipping out a notebook and using his iPhone to record what turned out to be more of an interview than a conversation.
Mark is as friendly and engaging as he often appears in his films but he’s also intensely devoted to his work. In this case, that devotion meant grilling me for hours about the ins and outs of reporting while trying to understand, as completely as possible, why I remain so dedicated to investigative reporting.
The next day I met with Mark at the Globe, this time observing him as he observed me, another hall of mirrors experience.
For starters, Mark shot video of me as I walked to my desk and settled in for a day of verbal combat. Then he sat with me and listened in as I worked the phone, trying to coax information from sources.
Mark also had a chance to interview my colleagues and came up with a choice anecdote about how I’d recently raised my voice — turning up the volume more than a notch or two, it seems — while trying to get to the truth out of a suburban mayor who had totaled a city-owned car after an event where he’d been seen drinking.
“Can I listen to you yell at someone?” reporter Mark Ruffalo inquired. It was the only time I politely declined to help him out.
It wasn’t always pleasant to be rocketed back in time. For all of us who were on the Spotlight Team back in 2001, investigating clergy sexual abuse was a heart-breaking experience — and more hard work than any of us could have imagined.
Each of us spent weeks interviewing victims, and I had heard more than a few stories I had tried to forget. And yet there was Mark, bringing it all back home.
Mark’s research never seemed to stop. Whenever I was on set, it was not usual for him to seek me out to chat about a scene or ask me to repeat a line, or even just a word or two.
During a break on that funhouse mirror evening at Fenway, Mark approached me for what I thought was going to be a friendly black-slapping moment. Instead, he leaned in close with an urgent request: “Hey, say this line for me.”
Read the full article – and watch a video – at the Boston Globe website.