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A Minute With: Mark Ruffalo on mixing it up in acting and film

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actor Mark Ruffalo has played characters ranging from a gay AIDS activist and a sperm donor to a recovering sex-addict and an FBI agent and will reprise his role as the Incredible Hulk in next year's "The Avengers: Age of Ultron."

An Academy Award nominee for 2010's "The Kids Are All Right," Ruffalo, 46, is appearing in U.S. theaters in the musical film "Begin Again" and will be seen later this year as an Olympic wrestling champion in "Foxcatcher."

The versatile actor has also worked behind the camera on the award-winning film "Sympathy for Delicious" and is the founder of the non-profit group Water Defense, which works to keep water clean.

Ruffalo, whose brother was murdered in his California home in 2008, spoke to Reuters about his aversion to violent roles, his washed up record producer in "Begin Again" and a desire to return to Broadway.

Q: In "Begin Again" you play Dan, who reassesses his life. Did you identify with your character at all?

A: Only in the most minute way. A lot of times I think as people, as actors, we have pretty much a universal understanding of probably every aspect of what it is to be a human being at some point in your life.

As an actor you are turning up the volume on different aspects and qualities. A lot of Dan I understand but I am not as extreme as him and it hasn't happened to me as extremely as him. But I ... understand what it is to have shifting priorities and feel your fallibilities and your sense of mortality.

Q: The film is very musical. Have you ever played an instrument?

A: I was a bass player in a punk rock band in the 80s, like a garage band, so I knew how to play the bass in a rudimentary way. I'm not saying I am talented in any way.

Q: You've done a lot of indie as well as big studio films. Which do you prefer?

A: They each have their drawbacks and they each have their strong qualities. But essentially you are still doing the same thing in each one. You are listening and responding in a place as a character.

The power of a small movie is the concentration of energy over a specified period of time and the relationship that you have with the people you are working with is much more intimate. In a bigger movie you have the luxury of more time, a bit better toys, more preparation, more comfort but you lose a little bit of the intimacy and the immediacy. I find myself trying to find a way to do both.

Q: Several years ago you moved your family from Los Angeles to New York. Why do prefer New York?

A: Part of it is I grew up in a place that had water and seasons and trees and a lot of greenery. Part of it is the open nature of the culture here. It is a much more diverse culture. It is not so film centric. It is not a one-industry town like Los Angeles can be.

Q: You have played vulnerable, sensitive characters. Are there other types of roles you would like to do?

A: I just want to keep going further and further beyond myself ... The gun-play stuff just doesn't interest me. It is a fantasy in a really destructive way that is very sexist and macho and so I never really found myself being interested in that. I have been a witness to what guns do to people in real life.

Q: Your career started on the stage. Do you want to go back to the theater and Broadway?

A: I'm dying to go back to the stage and have an idea to take this ("Begin Again") to the stage ... I think it is a character that would be great fun to play on the stage ...

There's a lot I want to do. I want to get back into directing. I love that. I'm moving more into producing and I'm doing a lot of work with the environment and renewable energy with Water Defense solutions project.

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)

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