Mark Ruffalo gained 30 pounds to play a larger twin of himself

I Know This Much Is True
Mark Ruffalo most recently starred in Dark Waters, the true story of Robert Bilott, a lawyer who went from defending corporations to going after DuPont. Celebitchy wrote that Mark was the perfect choice to portray Bilott because he is committed to and passionate about important causes.

One of Mark’s upcoming roles requires him to address another important issue: living with mental illness. Mark is going to play twin brothers, Dominick and Thomas Birdsey, in HBO’s adaptation of Wally Lamb’s 1998 novel, I Know This Much Is True, out this April. Mark spoke during the TV Critics Association Winter Press Tour about the challenge of needing to gain 30 pounds to play Thomas, and being daunted by the responsibility of portraying someone who lives with a mental illness. (In the book, Thomas has paranoid schizophrenia):

[Mark] shot the scenes where he played the other twin Dominic before the scenes with Thomas, where he had to put on the 30 pounds in just a five-week timeframe.

‘When you’re force feeding yourself some of the romance of food leaves,’ Ruffalo stated at the panel, where he was wearing an olive green suit coat and pants with a grey dress shirt.

‘Those five weeks were kind of lonely, I’d been away from my family and (Thomas) hears voices, and I was imaging that life and there was a couple weeks where I was just staying by myself, going down into the heart of this mental illness and studying it,’ Ruffalo said.

The actor revealed he felt a great deal of pressure to get the aspects of mental illness right on camera.

‘There’s an element of mental illness in this project and you want to be as honest as you can to that, and it means a lot to me to be honest to that which means going into that world and getting to know it and getting comfortable with it,’ Ruffalo said.

‘I was really afraid to play it, I think it’s a really an important issue and I want to tell it as honestly as possible, the responsibility of playing it was really apparent to me,’ he added.

[From The Daily Mail]

I can’t imagine how difficult and un-fun it must be for an actor to either need to gain or lose weight quickly for a role. Mark said that “the romance of food” was gone, and I could relate, though for a different reason: Years ago, I had extensive oral surgery, and thought that eating soft foods (like ice cream, yogurt, and mashed potatoes) for a bit would be nice. After Day 3, I was desperate to eat crunchy things again.

I’m always wary when I hear about a movie focused on someone who lives with mental illness: Of course, every experience of a single illness is different for each person who has it, but I always wonder how much research someone (either an author or a screenwriter) did when creating a particular character. I appreciate that Mark took this part of his portrayal of Thomas seriously and didn’t want to lean into harmful stereotypes about people who have been diagnosed with mental illness(es). There aren’t a lot of actors whom I would easily trust to do a great job with a character like Thomas, but Mark is absolutely one of them. This is the first I’m hearing about the project, but I’m so glad that Mark is the star. I’ve loved him since I saw Thirteen Going on 30, but I also love when he takes on roles like the one in Deep Waters. He seems to always take his work (whether acting or activism) seriously, and I respect that so much.

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photos credit: HBO and Getty

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21 Responses to “Mark Ruffalo gained 30 pounds to play a larger twin of himself”

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  1. SM says:

    The shot with two Marks so different from one another is amazing. I already want to see it

  2. Pineapple says:

    I will be so interested to see how he plays this role. In just reading his comments you can see the forethought in his work. XO I recently saw him in an HBO documentary called Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution. If I didn’t love him before … man, he is one principled human. He went to Arizona to help reinstate their solar power sector, wish he’d come to Ontario!! XO

  3. Doodle says:

    This is one of my favorite novels! I’m both excited and extremely nervous about this movie. I hope they don’t mess it up.

    • Moco says:

      Me, too! I didn’t know they were making it into a movie. It’s a fabulous book and I’m relieved it’s Mark Ruffalo.

    • Sarah says:

      I’ve had this book on my shelf for about 20 years, maybe I should finally dust it off and give it a go.

  4. smcollins says:

    This is the first I’m hearing about this project, too. I will definitely watch it when it airs. I understand his trepidation, considering the subject matter, but he’s such a phenomenal actor I have complete faith that he’ll do the role(s) justice. I’ve loved him since You Can Count On Me and find him to be such a versatile actor, not to mention sexy as hell (lookin’ at you The Kids Are Alright)!

    • Lady Baden-Baden says:

      Sexiest to me in Begin Again with Keira Knightley. That LOOK he gives her when he leaves her place after they ALMOST do it. Sigh….

    • Ivy Rose says:

      You Can Count on Me is one of my very favorite movies, too! Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney were perfection. And the music as he’s walking up the hill near the end of the film, when you can see on his face what a burden he carries – oh, it’s just so heartbreaking and honest. The soundtrack, the script & directing by Kenneth Lonergan, all so great.

      Mark Ruffalo does genius work & he’s a strong, vocal advocate for progressive causes. This new film is in good hands.

  5. Alexandria says:

    Wow playing twins is already not easy and then to play a bigger or thinner twin, that takes a lot from an actor.

  6. Lady Baden-Baden says:

    Maybe this is a stupid question… but couldn’t they use makeup and clothing rather than him risking his health like that? Less costly too I imagine, considering the enforced time delays. Or is he big on ‘method’?

  7. Rachel says:

    OMG let’s give him an oscar for his weight gain!!

  8. Nikki* says:

    IIt really messes with one’s body to gain or lose lots of weight fast; Tom Hanks developed Type 2 diabetes after doing that for a role, and said he won’t take a role that requires that again. Christian Bale was semi-starved for a role, and I thought how hard that must have been for his WIFE, seeing him skin and bones! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Mark Ruffalo, and hope he’s fine after this.

    • BeanieBean says:

      He’s older, so it will be harder to lose the weight.

      • Snazzy says:

        True. I suppose the difference is that with that marvel money he can hire chefs and coaches, which can also help him get back into good, healthy shape

  9. Dizzy says:

    That’s crazy. Gaining weight at his age on purpose is so unhealthy. I hope he got paid big bucks for that. I don’t think it’s worth your health.

  10. Amanda Bennett says:

    Check out 1998’s Safe Men. Mark has a small but adorable role.

  11. BeanieBean says:

    To me, he looks like a shorter version of Vincent D’onofrio.

  12. Skatrine says:

    I had jaw surgery in 2018 and thought a liquid diet wouldn’t be THAT bad, but after a week or two I basically stopped eating except to stay alive because I couldn’t handle another soup or protein drink