Mark Ruffalo: Ruffalo Stance
BY Brandon Voss
April 13 2011 4:00 AM ET
Throughout history, itâ€™s always been the artists who express progressive views, and there has always been an attack on artists who speak out against culture wars and military actions. Iâ€™ve seen the right-wing media campaign to discredit people who speak out against their agendas, and itâ€™s been chillingly effective. Iâ€™ve seen it happen with the war in Iraq and Iâ€™m seeing it happen with marriage equality.
Were you raised with these views on gay issues?
My family was Catholic, my grandmother who lived with us was a born-again evangelical Christian, and my father was a BahĂˇ'Ă. I saw these three belief systems at work, but the inclusiveness of the BahĂˇ'Ă faith resonated with me as a young person. They were very kind and loving. Although they too have a problem with homosexuality, they saw it as an issue between that person and God. More than anything, I was taught from them that everyone is equal, and thatâ€™s what I saw in action with those people. That was the truth that I experienced and that lived in my heart past that point.
What was your earliest exposure to gay people?
During my senior year of high school, a really close friend of mine came out to me. He was so depressed, he was suicidal for weeks. I kept asking, â€śWhatâ€™s wrong with you?â€ť Heâ€™d cry, but he wouldnâ€™t tell me. I didnâ€™t know what a problem so big could be, so I thought he killed somebody. Finally, I got him to tell me, and that was the first time I knew a gay person. Iâ€™d heard about gay people, but I had no idea what that was. At the time I was in Virginia Beach, where homosexuals were like an urban myth. All of a sudden, there it was in front of me, and it was a person that I really admired. He asked, â€śAre you not going to be my friend anymore?â€ť I said, â€śOf course not.â€ť You come to a moral question at that moment: Is this person Iâ€™ve known all this time now a dreaded, horrible human being thatâ€™s to be shunned, or is this person just like everybody else, except for a different sexual orientation? Luckily, Iâ€™d had whatever it takes to make someone see a person for who they really are â€” and to stand up and accept that even when other people around you donâ€™t.
Youâ€™ll play gay activist Ned Weeks in Ryan Murphyâ€™s film version of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramerâ€™s seminal 1985 play about the dawn of the AIDS crisis. Frankly, you canâ€™t screw it up.
No, I canâ€™t. Itâ€™s huge. Itâ€™s the same scrutiny with me as the Hulk in The Avengers but from a whole different group of people. Itâ€™s a great honor, but I was hesitant about doing Normal Heart because it probably should be a gay actor. I brought that up to Ryan, but he said that I was the actor he wanted.
Why should it be a gay actor?
It just should be. Itâ€™s time. At what point did they finally let an African American play an African American? There comes a time in our culture when Marlon Brando shouldnâ€™t be playing a Japanese guy. But the other way of thinking is that we should all be able to play whatever, and thatâ€™s sort of how Ryan approached me. More than anything, I wanted to know what Larry thought. Larry speaks his mind and doesnâ€™t suffer fools kindly, God bless him, so I made it a point to make sure I was OKed by him. Iâ€™ve gotten to meet and talk to him, and heâ€™s totally given me his blessing, which makes me feel better about moving forward.
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