Ruffalo honing his romantic side

Actor's in `Heaven' as he stretches, tries out a new genre


September 18, 2005|By Daniel Fienberg | Daniel Fienberg,ZAP2IT.COM

LOS ANGELES - Funny things happen when you challenge Mark Ruffalo. Funny things like 13 Going on 30 and his new film, Just Like Heaven.

"It's not my favorite genre, generally," Ruffalo says of his recent excursions into studio romantic comedy. "But I want to do it. I wanted to try my hand at it, because I was hearing around town, people saying that I couldn't do it. ... And so I was like, `Those are fighting words, my friend.'"

Ruffalo isn't immune to the impact his recent projects have had on his public profile. For all of the awards and critical kudos that something like You Can Count on Me or My Life Without Me might generate, they aren't the kind of films that get an actor mobbed at the mall.

However, things are rapidly changing for the 37-year-old actor.

"I noticed that 13-year-old girls know who I am, which is not my usual audience," he says with a laugh. "And they're quite vocal about it."

In Just Like Heaven, Ruffalo plays Davis, a troubled man who moves into a lovely San Francisco apartment. He wonders why it's such a good deal until he meets the spirit of Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon), the previous occupant. They can't touch, but they can develop something that seems a little bit like love.

"I liked the story of it, I liked the themes of it," Ruffalo says. "Then, as we worked on it, I thought it was a little bit the anti-romantic comedy. Everything's played really real. It's shot dark. You open up with a character who's deeply depressed, who's slightly marginalized. He's not your classic leading man in a romantic comedy."

Fans of the genre need not worry - Just Like Heaven is hardly an anti-romantic comedy. The actor's co-star thinks that his atypical approach to the material, though, is part of why he works so well for viewers.

"I really like the idea that Mark appeals to so many people because he just is who he is," Witherspoon says, with obvious admiration. "He's not posturing or trying to look pretty or have great hair. He's just a real man and he's funny. There's a lot of actors nowadays, American actors that don't think funny is cool, so it's nice to see someone of his caliber doing comedy."

Of course, Ruffalo isn't just doing funny because he thinks its cool. The actor knows that if Just Like Heaven makes $100 million, it helps facilitate funding for the next We Don't Live Here Anymore or XX/XY.

"In the past 10 years since I've been doing independents and occasionally a studio movie, studio movies are starting to look more like independents and independents are starting to look more like studio movies," says Ruffalo. "Both of them see that they can make money."

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