When I met Mark Ruffalo on the set on Now You See Me last April, it was only a matter of weeks before he would blow everyone away as The Hulk and Bruce Banner in The Avengers, a movie that marked a major transition for the actor previously known for indie dramas and comedies like You Can Count On Me and The Kids Are All Right. Sitting down with Ruffalo on one of the higher floors of 5 Pointz, the iconic graffiti hub in Long Island City, New York, it was tough not to ask Avengers questions-- and of course, it's a little embarrassing a year later to look back and see all these sly questions about a movie nobody had yet seen.
Lucky for us, Ruffalo was on point in sharing what he could about Now You See Me, a heist film about a group of four magicians-- played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson and Isla Fisher-- whose most fantastic trick involves robbing banks and sharing the profits with their audiences. As an FBI agent, Ruffalo is dispatched to catch the thieves in the act, and teams up with an Interpol agent played by Melanie Laurent to get the job done. But when you're hunting down magicians they're bound to always be a few steps ahead, and Ruffalo spends most of the film behind them… until the scene he shot that night in Queens, perhaps.
For more on what I saw on the set of Now You See Me you can catch up with the full set report, and read below for Ruffalo's confessions of magician envy, his delight in taking part in a big action film (that didn't require a motion-capture suit), and how he made changes to the story alongside director Louis Leterrier.
What was it about this project that made you sign on and get involved?
Um — Jesse Eisenberg. I read it and I thought it was a really fun thing. It’s something I’d never done. I got to do some action stuff in it and I thought it was really kind of a clever script. It had a clever twist in it. And I just thought it would be one of those movies that is just a fun ride.
Do you have magician envy?
I’m a little bummed out that I don’t get to do any tricks, but I got something up my sleeve.
You used to work in a bar as a bartender. Did you see a lot of guys pulling magic tricks on women and stuff?
Magicians, just a general note, don’t get laid. I hate to say that.
Do you think David Copperfield got his ass kicked as a kid?
I don’t know, but he’s not doing so badly right now I don’t think.
If you’re a really good magician, I would imagine you could…
You know, we were at a party once and there’s these street magicians that I’ve seen perform. David Blaine, I was at a party and he was doing some stuff and I thought my wife was gonna run off with him. And then Keith Barry who’s one of our consultants on this, who’s actually Woody Harrelson’s consultant who’s a great hypnotist and a great street magician, could be very, very seductive as well.
? Is that a Dave Franco-inflicted wound you have on your cheek there?
This is a Dave Franco special. He whipped a card at me.
A couple of them.
A couple of them, yeah.
You’ve played a police officer before, but what’s different about Dylan?
He’s kind of a rogue, he’s kind of mangy and a little sassy. Most of the cops I’ve played are pretty straightforward cops. He’s much more kind of an outsider, you know? They call it a street agent, you know. There’s desk agents and street agents basically in the FBI. He’s kind of unorthodox and he loves being on the street and he’s tough and he doesn’t shave, he doesn’t really follow the rules. He’s something of a lummox. He’s always screwing things up, but does it with a lot of authority.
And the relationship with Melanie, is there a chemistry between the two of them or is this strictly a professional thing?
No, there’s definitely something happening there, but he would like to keep it professional, but it’s outside of his control in that way.
You said you wanted to do this because of action and you’ve got a big action movie coming out with The Avengers. Is this really different from that?
Well, a lot of the action stuff that I did on Avengers was on green screen or CGI at ILM in a suit and a lot of it was — I was playing with smaller things, you know? People were smaller so I didn’t get to really interact with them.
You didn’t get to punch someone?
No. I got to mess Loki up, but it was actually just a foam roller.
Now about this movie, we heard that you might have been hypnotized and perhaps that there’s a word that someone could say to you and you would either bark or you would do something. Is this actually true or is it a made-up rumor on the set?
Woody got very proficient at hypnotizing people and we were out one night and I don’t know if something was dropped in my drink or Woody actually hypnotized me, but something did happen to me. I don’t want to talk about it much.
Does Melanie know the word?
I’m not telling you the word! No, no, no. It wasn’t a word. It was, I wouldn’t be able to remember the number three.
An actor usually wants to play somebody somewhat empathetic on screen. In a movie like this, and it seems society in general, you want those people to get away with it. We want the people that you’re chasing, while we know societal-wise they should get caught, we want them to get away. What is that syndrome that we have?
Well, when it’s sort of done in a way that you get to know the people. But this has a Robin Hood flair to it and right now there’s definitely a populist sort of view of the world that, you know, people are being taken advantage of and the big people are taking advantage of them, and so the idea of taking from the rich and giving to the poor seems to resonate quite a bit right now, and that’s always been a great story. We like that story. There’s a great quote, “Behind every great fortune, there’s a great crime” and so this kind of turns that on its head. I don’t know why, but, you know, filmmaking could direct you to have sympathy for people that you normally, as a society, wouldn’t have sympathy for.