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Mark Ruffalo Talks About "My Life Without Me"

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Mark Ruffalo Photo from My Life Movie

Mark Ruffalo and Sarah Polley in "My Life Without Me"

Sony Pictures Classics
Inspired by the short story “Pretending the Bed is a Raft” by Nanci Kincaid, writer/director Isabel Coixet crafted “My Life Without Me.” Described as the indie version of “Terms of Endearment,” “My Life Without Me” follows Ann, a young wife and mother (Sarah Polley) who, after finding out she’s got just two months to live, makes a list of things she wants to do before she dies. Keeping the devastating news a secret, Ann’s determined to ensure her husband and children will be able to carry on without her. She also allows herself to travel down a path she never would have explored without the news of her impending death.

“My Life Without Me” features mesmerizing performances from the entire cast, and in particular from Polley, Mark Ruffalo and Scott Speedman. Chosen for the role of Ann’s lover, Mark Ruffalo delivers a nuanced performance that’s riveting.

In this exclusive interview with the critically acclaimed actor, Ruffalo discusses taking on the role of ‘Lee’ and how his own health scare affected his decision to make the film:

What interested you in "My Life Without Me?"
Everything (laughing). First of all, the project itself when I read it, I was really moved by it. I thought it was a really fresh take on the 'cancer victim' genre. I felt like it handled it really beautifully. It brought like a new element to it. The whole who do you tell and when do you tell them question of it really makes for great drama. I think that when you hear that kind of news, it becomes sort of the next thing you think about. How do I tell the people who care about me, should I tell them, and when should I tell them? The second part was the character. I thought it was a really interesting, complex guy. I thought it presented an acting problem of how to make him have some sort of life in the short time that we see him in the film.

Did you see him as a likeable character despite his decision to have an affair with a married woman?
I didn’t really think of how to make him likeable so much, or how to make you say, "Oh well, he's a nice guy. They should be together," or whatever you would use to save yourself. I only focused on where he was in the story, kind of how damaged he was, and then how she opens him up and opens his heart again and brings him back to the living. I think more of that question is in how it’s executed as far as her relationship to her husband. The moment of knowing that you're going to die I tend to feel gives you a sort of "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

Pardon me for bringing this up, but did your own experience play heavily into why you took this role?
Yes, I feel like it was, for me, a perfect sort of reflection of where I was at the time personally, as well. I was able to carry my loss of confidence and my coming back to life in that part.

Did starring in a movie that had to do with the subject of cancer after you've had your own health scare affect you during filming?
No, it was more like the lines and my attention from scene to scene was the thing that weighed on me the most (laughing). But you know, I think it’s just in your body, that kind of experience. It's not something that I think you need to hammer at from scene to scene. It was a kind of thing that was part of me that becomes a part of the film.

'Lee' lives in an apartment that's totally bare - no furniture, no decorations, nothing. How did the setting help you find your character?
You know there's nothing to hide behind. People's identity come so much from their surroundings, what they furnish their lives with, clothes and things. And he had nothing, and so there’s nothing to hide behind. Because of that, I think you really sense his vulnerability. There’s nothing protecting him, there's nowhere to sit, there’s nowhere to rest. Also our relationship to things says how much we're participating in life, metaphorically, and he had nothing. He’s just a ghost haunting what used to be his life.

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