Mark Ruffalo is an environmental activist and actor known for his portrayal of Bruce Banner Marvel's "The Avengers" franchise. He has also received Oscar nods for the films "The Kids Are All Right," "Foxcatcher" and "Spotlight." Born to second-generation Italian American parents, he spent his teen years in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he graduated from First Colonial High School. He then moved with his family to San Diego, California, and later to Los Angeles, where he took classes at the Stella Adler Conservatory and co-founded the Orpheus Theatre Company. With the OTC, he wrote, directed, and starred in a number of plays, but overall his luck with acting was not great, and he spent the next 9 years earning his living being a bartender.
Through a chance meeting with writer Kenneth Lonergan, Ruffalo began collaborating with Lonergan and appeared in several of his plays, including the original cast of "This Is Our Youth" (1998), which led to Ruffalo's role as Laura Linney's troubled, aimless drifter brother in Longeran's acclaimed, Academy Award-nominated 2000 film "You Can Count on Me." He received strongly favorable reviews for his performance in this film, often earning comparisons to the young Marlon Brando, and won awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and Montreal World Film Festival.
This led to other significant opportunities, including the films "XX/XY" (2002), "My Life Without Me" (2003), "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004) and "We Don't Live Here Anymore" (2004), which is based upon two short stories written by Andre Dubus. He attracted controversy for his steamy sex scenes with Meg Ryan as a sleazy, potentially dangerous homicide cop in Jane Campion's dark psychosexual thriller "In the Cut" (2003), and appeared opposite Tom Cruise as another homicide detective in Michael Mann's acclaimed crime-thriller "Collateral" (2004). Ruffalo has also cornered the market in romantic leads in "View From the Top" (2002), "13 Going on 30" (2004), "Just Like Heaven" (2005) and "Rumor Has It" (2005).
In 2002, Ruffalo was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery, which resulted in a period of partial facial paralysis, even though the tumor was found to be benign. He fully recovered from the paralysis and returned to good health as well as an active life and movie career.
Ruffalo is also widely known as an environmental activist, particularly focusing his efforts on combating fracking in New York state. Receiving an environmental award at Dickinson College in early 2015, Ruffalo notably told graduates, "I'm here to tell you that 'activist' is not a dirty word." Living that message, Ruffalo founded the Solutions Project, which pushes for 100 percent renewable energy, and is active with Water Defense, a group dedicated to clean water initiatives.
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