In many ways, Mark Ruffalo saved the best for last this year.
When “The Normal Heart” premiered to critical hosannas (and ultimately a slew of Emmy nominations, including one for Ruffalo), his performance as Ned Weeks seemed incapable of being topped. Ruffalo found the heart under the prickly exterior of the Larry Kramer manqué in the writer’s fictionalized retelling of the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City and the founding of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Fearless and furious (much as the real Kramer), Ruffalo’s Ned is also capable of heart-rending vulnerability, as when he nurses his dying husband and rages against the bureaucracy that willingly turns a blind eye to the deaths of thousands of homosexual men.
And then came “Foxcatcher.”
Ruffalo also had a charming, affable leading-man turn in “Begin Again” this year, as a weary record label exec whose passion for music is reignited by a young singer-songwriter, but his turn as real-life Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz in Bennett Miller’s retelling of a bizarre true story is a prime example of an actor at the peak of his powers.
A former wrestler himself, Ruffalo took on the role partly because he had never seen the sport represented on film in the way he knew it to be. But a righty 46-year-old playing a lefty 33-year-old presented its own particular challenges.
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