Infinitely Polar Bear

Interview to The Daily Telegraph

Here’s an interview Mark did to The Daily Telegraph, again to promote Infinitely Polar Bear:

I loved the way your latest film, Infinitely Polar Bear, managed to tackle something as challenging as bipolar disorder with so much heart and humour. Was that what drew you to it?
Yes, I thought it did tackle a pretty vexed topic with a lot of humanity, which included a lot of love and a lot of humour.

I’ve battled depression since I was a teenager, and a lot of that has gone away since I’ve had my kids. It used to be acting was everything to me, now it’s my family.

You seem to gravitate to films that delve into confronting social issues: artificial insemination in The Kids Are All Right, sex addiction in Thanks for Sharing, HIV/AIDS in The Normal Heart and now bipolar disorder in Infinitely. What is it that appeals to you about these stories?
I guess I like to play with preconceptions about people. And these are interesting people we’re dealing with, because those sorts of social issues bring misconceptions and judgements. We’re not so different, all of us, but a lot of belief systems or hang-ups prevent us from realising that. The human heart is very similar from person to person. Storytelling is a really wonderful way of illustrating how common we are – it’s humanising; it makes it relatable.

You do it very well. And then sometimes, I guess it’s just fun to go and get green and play The Hulk.
Exactly. There’s teaching in acting and then sometimes you get to go and entertain, and it’s just pure sensation. I like to change it up for myself. I like to keep challenging people’s perception of me, too.

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell my sister and me that my mum would turn into The Incredible Hulk when we went to sleep, just to get a rise out of us. Were your kids (Keen, 13, Bella, nine, and Odette, seven) scared of you as The Hulk?
[Laughs] They were, my little one especially.
She got up and ran down the aisle to where I was sitting in the cinema, screaming, “No, Papa, don’t turn into the scary green man!”

Do they come and visit you on the set much?
Yeah, my daughter is going to come on Avengers to do some green screen shots with me, because they need someone with the same height difference as me and Scarlett [ Johansson].
So she’s really excited about that. But a film set for a kid isn’t exciting for very long. Believe it or not, they get bored of me!

You play a loving dad so brilliantly in Infinitely. How has the experience of fatherhood changed you?
It’s no longer all about me, that’s for sure. It’s funny, I didn’t realise how much it would take me out of myself and make me look at the world in a more holistic way.
Every day it opens my heart.

I’ve battled depression since I was a teenager, and a lot of that has gone away since I’ve had my kids. It used to be acting was everything to me, now it’s my family.

You’ve had so many life-changing occurrences. I can’t believe that in 2002 you dreamt you had a brain tumour, and then tests showed you actually did. While you had it removed successfully, half of your face was left paralysed. How did you deal with that, especially as someone who was so passionate about acting?
It was a major loss and to be honest with you, I didn’t think my face was going to come back; the doctors didn’t, either. Luckily, after a year it did, but I spent all that time wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life – it wasn’t like anyone would want an actor whose face was half paralysed.

Did you come up with a plan B?
I was planning to go into directing and writing, or teaching. I started looking at my life without acting and there was just this huge feeling of loss.

But I had a new wife and a baby, and I thought, “Well, I can’t just lie down and die, I’ve got to keep going.” It took me a few years to get back on track after my face came back.

Have you had any prophetic dreams since then?
Nothing to that extent. But I learned to see my dreams as a powerful place to find material and different angles for characters. They’re wonderful gifts to us from the subconscious.

You just attended the Oscars as a Best Supporting Actor nominee for your role in Foxcatcher. Is it more fun to go if you’re nominated?
[Laughs] It’s probably better if you’re nominated in some regard. Those big events always make me a little uncomfortable. But hey, I’m getting better at it. I’m learning to enjoy it.