NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, October 31, 2015, 10:36 PM
To prepare himself to play real life Boston Globe newsman Michael Rezendes in “Spotlight,” Mark Ruffalo embedded himself with the subject for days.
If this acting thing doesn’t work out, Mark Ruffalo would make one helluva good reporter.
To prepare himself to play real life Boston Globe newsman Michael Rezendes in “Spotlight,” the actor embedded himself with the subject for days.
Co-starring Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, the drama chronicles the newspaper investigation that unearthed the Catholic Church’s conspiracy to cover up an epidemic of pedophile priests.
During his research Ruffalo got so engrossed in one of Rezendes’ more current investigations that he commandeered the journalist’s computer to keep replaying a video clip of a patient’s death in a mental institution.
“It was fascinating and there was a point where I said to myself, ‘God, maybe I should be a journalist instead of an actor,’” Ruffalo, 47, told the Daily News of his visit to the newsroom.
Rezendes had a slightly different take.
Michael Keaton as Walter “Robby” Robinson, Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfieffer, John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr., and Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll in “Spotlight.”
“He came into my living room, sat down, and he opened up this big notebook,” Rezendes said, laughing. “And without a lot of introduction or fanfare, he started asking me really deep questions.
“I’ve got to tell you, my first reaction was, ‘This is pretty intrusive.’ But then, of course, I thought, ‘Well gee, how many times have I done this to other people?’”
It’s hard to argue with Ruffalo’s results: Industry watchers predict he should net an Oscar nomination for his performance in “Spotlight,” which opens Friday.
“It’s something that’s so far out of your control,” said Ruffalo of his Academy Award chances. “They want you to do a campaign and all that and that’s kind of a drag — it kind of takes the joy out of it a little bit, to be honest.
“I do want these movies to do well. I do want people to see them, but I only really have control about what happens between ‘action’ and ‘cut.’”
“I was really impressed with Mark’s commitment to the project and to the role and to his work ethic. He could make a good reporter,” Rezendes (left) said.
Ruffalo, one of the most high-profile environmental activists in Hollywood, isn’t super motivated by the lure of awards.
Instead, the first actor cast by director Tom McCarthy saw the chance to portray a different kind of hero than the Hulk he plays in the Marvel movies.
The real-life newspaper investigation, which netted the Globe’s Spotlight Team a Pulitzer Prize, led to 249 priests and brothers being accused of sexual abuse within the Boston Archdiocese. In December 2002, as a result of their investigative work, Cardinal Law resigned from the Boston Archdiocese — though he was reassigned to a plum position in Rome.
“I saw the chance for deeper justice,” Ruffalo said of what drew him to the script.
“Cardinal Law should be in jail, not in some palace in the Vatican … I think that this movie at this moment in time can help those victims find justice and that’s important.”
Like Rezendes, the actor grew up Catholic and that made the idea of tackling a painful subject related to the church a little scary.
“You’re afraid but you also know that the culture is ready for it,” Ruffalo said.
Ruffalo’s hair was cut to mimic the style Rezendes sported in 2001. The real-life reporter sent photos of clothes he owned at the time of the investigation so the costume designer could make spot-on recreations.
All that preparation won over the most important critic.
“He’d often come to me and say, ‘Read this line for me?’ or ‘What do you think of this scene?’” recalled Rezendes of his on-screen doppelganger. “I was really impressed with Mark’s commitment to the project and to the role and to his work ethic. He could make a good reporter.”