When Mark Ruffalo learned his movie (due to shoot this month) was pushed four months, the three-time Oscar nominee and Tony nominee found himself without a project. “I was kind of bummed about like, ‘God, man, I’ve been preparing for this,’” he admits. Always in demand, it wasn’t long before offers rolled in, but not until a friend asked him what he wanted to be doing if he could be doing anything in the world did it come to him: “I said, ‘I’d like to be in a play with an ensemble, something that wasn’t all on my shoulders, with a group of great actors that I knew and loved and felt comfortable around, with really good writing that was straightforward and all about acting and not about sets flying and [spectacle].’ And she was like, ‘Well, put that out into the universe.’”
“I fully Secreted it,” he laughs. “Literally, the next day, ten o’clock in the morning I get an email.” It was the offer for Arthur Miller’s The Price on Broadway, after the previously announced John Turturro departed due to his own filming schedule. “I was like, ‘That’s what I wanted!’ It’s Arthur Miller; it’s so f*cking challenging. It feels so immediate, even today—especially where we are today. And it’s such a great cast and Terry [Kinney] is such a great director,” says Ruffalo. “It’s exactly what I wanted—that’s why I came back.”
Ruffalo made his Broadway debut in 2006 with Lincoln Center Theater’s Awake and Sing!, earning a Tony nomination for his performance as Moe Axelrod. Beginning February 16, he makes his return with Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival alongside Tony nominee Jessica Hecht, three-time Tony nominee Tony Shalhoub, and Danny DeVito, making his Broadway debut. Ruffalo will play Victor Franz, a man who martyred his dreams to take care of his father after the Depression. As he returns to clean out his parents’ estate 30 years later, he must confront his estranged brother, his wife, and the appraiser looking to turn a profit.
The actor buzzes with contagious electricity, chomping to get to his third day of rehearsal. “This is where I started,” he says. “This is where I always imagined myself being. I didn’t think I was going to have a movie career like the one I have—and I’m so grateful for it. If I didn’t marry my wife I’d still probably be doing 60-seat theatre in Los Angeles, you know?”
With reverence for the theatre, Ruffalo is an actor eager to test himself. “I feel like it’s where you go to tune up,” he says of the stage, “to really get in touch with what it is to be an actor. This is our medium. It’s not film, it’s not television; one is a director’s medium, the other’s a writer’s medium. This is the actor’s medium. This is where we are in charge, at the end of the day. What happens on that stage, it doesn’t matter what the director’s saying, there’s no one cutting it, no one editing it, it’s ours.”
Which is why in between the Spotlights and the Marvel films, even bringing theatre to the screen with The Normal Hearts, Ruffalo prioritizes the back-breaking work of live performance. “I’m really rusty, and I can feel it,” he confesses. “That’s what our three weeks of rehearsal are for.”