Sometimes an actor can draw on personal experience for a role, and sometimes he just has to use his imagination.
For Mark Ruffalo, playing a former sperm donor approached by the children he anonymously fathered in The Kids Are All Right involved quite a bit of imagination.
“I wish they had a sperm bank in my low-income Latino neighbourhood that I was in when I could’ve used it,” Ruffalo says. “I think I wasted a lot of talent back then. If I’d have known, you know, 60 bucks a pop? That was really good money for me. I would be lucky if I made $60 in a day working back then.”
When the kids of the title (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) make contact with Ruffalo’s Paul, it quickly upsets the balance of their home and the marriage of their lesbian parents (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore).
“The 600-pound gorilla is it’s a lesbian movie, and we’re in the middle of this huge debate about gay marriage,” Ruffalo says.
“But what I really loved about it when I read it was how quickly the novelty of the gay marriage and the sperm donor thing just falls away.
“It’s just a really honest movie about family.”
Of course, he’s found some viewers who have a harder time getting past some of the subject matter than others.
“After an interview on TV, a woman said, ‘And by the way, I’m a lesbian, and you lay off our women!’ And she totally meant it,” Ruffalo says.
“At first I thought she was kidding, and then quickly I realized that she was really serious. And that she was going to, like, arm wrestle me or something.”