We all know Mark Ruffalo as a successful Hollywood actor. He’s earned several awards for his work on-screen, and in his personal life, he’s been recognized for his humanitarian efforts. Mark’s life hasn’t been easy, though. While he’s maintained a positive and upbeat attitude in the public eye, underneath all of the glitz and glamor, he’s been through the wringer.
Ruffalo told Parade magazine, “For a long time, I felt like someone had it in for me. With every new adversity, I protested — almost to God — ‘How much more of this do I have to take?'” Are you wondering what he’s talking about? Keep reading to get all of the details.
Ruffalo’s Early Life
Mark Ruffalo was born on November 22nd, 1967 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His mother, Marie Rose, worked and stills works as a hairdresser, while his father worked in construction. He grew up with two sisters, Tania and Nicole, and a brother, Scott.
Even though Mark struggled with dyslexia and ADD as a child, he described himself as a “happy kid.” He did well in high school. He was on the wrestling team and he acted in community plays.
Getting His Big Break
Mark Ruffalo began his acting career as a theatre actor. The first time he appeared on-screen was in an episode of CBS Summer Playhouse in 1989. In 1996 he was cast in This Is Our Youth, and in 2004, he landed some parts in larger films such as 13 Going on 30 opposite Jennifer Garner and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
In 2012, he was cast as Dr. Bruce Banner (AKA Hulk) in The Avengers. Now, at over 50 years old, Mark Ruffalo is a regular action star.
Things Weren’t Always Peachy At Home
Even though Mark had a happy childhood, his parents worked very hard to make ends meet. His father started his own business that eventually went bankrupt, and the whole Ruffalo family moved to San Diego.
They could only afford to live in a poor neighborhood, and Mark recalls that drugs such as meth and heroin were being sold close to where he was living. We know now that Mark was able to use his acting talent to get himself and his family out of that situation, but for a while, things looked pretty dire.
Some Undiagnosed Issues
We think Mark may have been putting on a brave face when he called himself a “happy kid” because he told Parade, “I was miserable. This sounds sappy, but I was always aware of the frailty of human beings, the sorrow in the nature of things. I didn’t know how to live in the world, how to cope. I felt like I didn’t belong.”
He didn’t know it at the time, but Ruffalo was dealing with undiagnosed ADHD and dyslexia. He only received a proper diagnosis in adulthood.
Turning A Negative Into A Positive
After learning more about his own learning disabilities as an adult, Mark teamed up with the Child Mind Institute. He participated in their #MyYoungerSelf campaign that involved celebrities discussing what they wish they could go back and tell their childhood selves.
Mark did get some help with his disorders eventually. His parents moved away from San Diego and resettled in New York so that Mark could go to a school with a good program for dyslexic students.
A History Of Depression
Ruffalo has been dealing with depression since he was a kid. He never felt like he fit in at school and he felt rather aimless as a teenager. All of his friends and peers seemed to have life goals, and Mark wasn’t sure what he wanted to pursue after graduation.
At his lowest point, Mark spent most of his time smoking, surfing, and wandering around. He said he was “just about ready to jump off a bridge.” Thankfully, Mark was eventually able to get the help that he needed.
His Friend Committed Suicide
Mark was able to overcome his depression, but his best friend wasn’t so lucky. Mark met his friend Michael in an acting class in Los Angeles. The two realized how much they had in common and the quickly became buddies. Ruffalo told Parade, “He was the only one I knew as sad as me who I could talk to.”
In 1994, Michael committed suicide. Mark said, “The moment he left, I realized that death wasn’t an escape, that suicide wasn’t an answer.”
Mark Had So Much To Live For
Michael’s death made Mark value his own life so much more. He missed his friend dearly, but he knew he couldn’t wallow in despair and let depression get the better of him. Michael’s death was a wake-up call for Mark.
Mark took it upon himself to find something to live for. He put all of his energy into acting, and pretty soon after that, he met his now-wife, Sunrise Coigney. Mark and Sunrise have three children together.
The Hard Times Weren’t Over Yet
One night in 2001 while Sunrise was pregnant with the couple’s first child, Mark had a dream that he had developed a brain tumor. He had been noticing some strange symptoms as well, so he went to a specialist and had a CAT scan. Doctors discovered that Mark had a form of brain cancer called Acoustic Neroma.
Mark initially kept the unfortunate news to himself because he didn’t want to distract or worry his pregnant wife, but eventually, after his son, Keen was born, he had surgery to remove the tumor.
There Were Some Complications
The operation was a success and doctors were able to remove the tumor, however, Ruffalo lost his hearing in one ear and one side of his face became completely paralyzed. Mark was working on a pretty high profile movie at the time that had the power to boost his career to new heights, but he had to withdraw from the project so he could deal with the after-effects of his surgery.
Ruffalo hated being away from his craft and he started thinking about how he could work his condition into movie roles. Mark said, “I was scheming things for my character, like, ‘Okay, he had a motorcycle accident and he’s paralyzed on the left side of his face.'”
Recovery Isn’t Easy
Ruffalo dealt with facial paralysis for six months and doctors believed that a full recovery was unlikely, but Mark beat the odds and, with a lot of work and dedication, was able to regain full motor control of his face and hand.
During his recovery, Mark had to take drugs that affected his sense of balance. He had difficulties taking care of his kids and performing daily tasks. Through exercise, acupuncture, herbal therapy, and massage, Mark was eventually able to get back to his old self.
He Didn’t React Well To Being Sick
Mark lived a pretty reclusive life in the year following his surgery. He didn’t want any visitors and he wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to return to his acting career. Mark said, “I was so unbelievably miserable, and what was worse was people’s reactions to seeing me. It was shattering to them.”
The public didn’t know about Mark’s cancer diagnosis, so when he disappeared from the public eye rumors began to swirl. Eventually, Mark spoke to the press about his condition and all of those rumors were laid to rest.
Another Unfortunate Death
We already know that Mark lost his best friend, Michael to suicide, but in 2008, he lost another person who was very close to him. On December 8th, 2008, Mark’s brother, Scott was shot in the head in his own house.
At first, it looked as though the shooting was an accident, but police eventually ruled the death a homicide. To this day, Scott Ruffalo’s murder remains unsolved. We do have some details about the case, though.
The Details Of The Murder
On the night that Scott died, Shaha Mishaal Adham and her boyfriend, Brian Scofield, visited Scott’s house. Shaha said she was there to get the keys to her car. Shaha said that she saw Scott and that he mentioned something about Russian Roulette. Then she heard a gunshot shortly after that when she was outside the house.
Shaha’s lawyer was able to convince police that she was present but not responsible for Scott’s death. Shaha died in 2012, so now the case doesn’t have a witness.
How Mark Reacted To His Brother’s Death
Ruffalo considered stepping away from Hollywood altogether after his brother died. He had already become so disillusioned with the industry and this tragedy could have been the final straw to push him over the edge.
Instead, Mark decided to keep making movies but move away from LA. He tried his hand at directing and thought he had retired from acting altogether until he read the script for The Kids Are Alright. Mark took the role of Paul in that film in honor of his brother.
How He Keeps Moving Forward
In Rolling Stone magazine, Ruffalo explained that he practices meditation to help him cope with his anxiety. Mark said, “It’s pretty much a daily practice that quiets your brain and oddly enough, actually slows down time, so you’re not so much trapped in your immediate reactions to things. My work started to change, my luck started to change. The way the world looked to me changed.”
As his perspective of the world changed, things started to look better for Mark.
He Somehow Ended Up On A Terrorist Advisory List
In 2010, Ruffalo promoted the movie Gasland, a documentary about the negative effects of fracking. Somehow, Mark’s involvement with the film alerted the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security. After that, a rumor started going around that Mark Ruffalo was on a terrorist watch list.
Ruffalo told GQ that he was amused by the rumor and that there was no truth to those stories at all, but somehow, news outlets were still reporting on his supposed connection to terrorism.
Why The Truth Matters
Some news outlets were even drawing parallels between this terrorism rumor and Scott Ruffalo’s death. Mark explained, “Every news organization in the country ran it without bothering to check if it was true. It wasn’t until the Washington Times finally nailed the story that it went away.”
After this incident, the director of the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security resigned from his position after he was caught illegally monitoring activist organizations.
Mark Ruffalo Leans To The Left
Mark is a liberal, and you wouldn’t expect anything less from a man who got caught up in a conspiracy for talking about fracking. The actor is pro-choice. He once said, “I don’t want to turn back the hands of time to when women shuttled across state lines in the thick of night to resolve an unwanted pregnancy, in a cheap hotel room.”
Ruffalo is also a strong supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. He has received some criticism from LGBT groups, however, for casting Matt Bomer, a cis man, as a transgender woman in the movie Anything.
He Came Out On Top
Even though Mark Ruffalo has been through a lot of tragedy and hardship in his life, he’s still been able to balance having a family alongside a successful acting career. Ruffalo has won a Primetime Emmy Award and a couple of SAG awards. He’s also been nominated for Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and even a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album in 2018.
If this man can get out of bed every morning and make art that’s worth watching, we can all do that thing that we’ve been putting off, or make an effort to be better human beings.