In the new film Dark Waters, Academy Award-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo plays a corporate defense attorney who winds up taking on an environmental lawsuit against a powerful chemical company on behalf of two West Virginia farmers. The film is based on the true story of lawyer Robert Bilott. As it turns out, Mark Ruffalo had a unique advantage with making Dark Waters, as he explained to CinemaBlend’s own Mike Reyes in an exclusive interview. Take a look:
Hey, if you’re going to make a feature film dramatization of the events in the life of Robert Bilott, it probably helps a lot to have Robert Bilott! When portraying real-life people, actors aren’t always able to consult with the people they are playing to help with their performance, instead having to rely on second or third-hand information, or just taking their own creative license. That was not the case with Dark Waters because Mark Ruffalo had the advantage of the real Robert Bilott being available.
Director Todd Haynes’ Dark Waters was shot in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Robert Bilott still practices law. Not only that, some of the film was actually shot in the offices where Robert Bilott works, so he was able to see a lot of the filming on the movie take place.
Real-life people often collaborate on films being made about their lives, meeting with the actors playing them to give them insight before filming and the like, but this is another level of collaboration.
In addition to being on set during filming, Robert Bilott was also in constant communication with the man portraying him. The advantage of that is that whenever Mark Ruffalo needed, he could run over to Robert Bilott on set. He could also call or text him, even late at night to discuss the role.
So he had constant access to the wealth of information Robert Bilott provided, and that proved to be a valuable resource for the actor to help with his performance in Dark Waters.
Mark Ruffalo took advantage of that resource too. When he had questions about what his character felt or did in a certain moment, or his state of mind, he was able to go straight to the source and ask the man who actually lived through these events. It speaks to Mark Ruffalo's dedication to the role and how much he wanted to get things right, honoring Robert Bilott and do this harrowing true story justice.
As Mark Ruffalo told Mike, that’s not the kind of resource that most actors have, and it was a big deal for him that he really appreciated. It sounds like Robert Bilott enjoyed the experience as well and seemed to approve of Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of him.
People don’t always approve of how they’re depicted onscreen so this adds a layer of legitimacy to the story of Robert Bilott depicted in Dark Waters and Mark Ruffalo’s performance. Another advantage Mark Ruffalo had? Unlike his role as the Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he can't really spoil this true story.
Dark Waters is now playing. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what movies you can look forward to next year.