DOUBLING DOWN

Os­car nom­i­nee Mark Ruf­falo plays twin broth­ers in har­row­ing drama IKnowThisM­uchIsTrue, writes Michele Manelis

Sunday Territorian - - TV -

AF­TER spend­ing nearly a decade bat­tling bad guys and bud­dy­ing up with su­per­heroes as Bruce Ban­ner/the In­cred­i­ble Hulk in the Avengers fran­chise, Mark Ruf­falo turns to more se­ri­ous fare in the up­com­ing saga I Know This Much Is True.

This three-time Os­car nom­i­nee serves dou­ble duty, star­ring as iden­ti­cal twin broth­ers Do­minick and Thomas Bird­sey. Do­minick is a di­vorced con­struc­tion worker, while Thomas is in­sti­tu­tion­alised with para­noid schizophre­nia.

The har­row­ing drama about a dys­func­tional Ital­ian-Amer­i­can blue-col­lar fam­ily, based on the best-sell­ing novel by Wally Lamb, is cen­tred on Do­minick’s strug­gle to care for his brother, whose men­tal ill­ness in­ex­orably wors­ens.

Ruf­falo col­lab­o­rated with writer- di­rec­tor Derek Cian­france (Blue Valen­tine, The Place Be­yond

the Pines) in what was a labour of love for them both.

“Ul­ti­mately it’s a jour­ney of self-ac­cep­tance, of self­for­give­ness, and of for­give­ness of the past,” says Ruf­falo.

“I re­ally felt it had ev­ery­thing I wanted to say at this point in my life and at this time.

“It’s a homage to my fam­ily and it’s a homage to Derek’s fam­ily. Like me, he’s Ital­ian-Amer­i­can and he’s had very sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences to those I’ve had in the world. We poured ev­ery­thing into this. All of our love, all our ev­ery­thing.”

Ruf­falo, 52, grew up in Wis­con­sin with a brother and two sis­ters, though, trag­i­cally, in 2008, his younger brother died of a gun­shot wound (the case re­mains un­solved). His fa­ther worked as a con­struc­tion painter and his mother is a hair stylist. I Know This Much Is True res­onated with Ruf­falo for myr­iad rea­sons.

“I come from a work­ing-class fam­ily and I think there’s a real no­bil­ity in that. And as a sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion Ital­ian [he’s traced his lin­eage to Cal­abria at the turn of the cen­tury], I wanted to see a movie about the real Ital­ianAmer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence out­side of gang­sters and thugs, the only story we ever hear about. So, this was a chance to get into that his­tory,” he ex­plains. “It was per­sonal to me.”

Ruf­falo has en­joyed a di­verse ca­reer and has switched ef­fort­lessly from com­edy to drama – from 13 Gong On 30 (2004), to

Zo­diac (2007) and Shut­ter Is­land

(2010). Other no­table roles in­clude The Kids Are All Right (2010),

Fox­catcher (2014), Spot­light (2015), The Nor­mal Heart (2015) and last year’s en­vi­ron­men­tal thriller Dark Wa­ters.

I Know This Much Is True took a gru­elling six months to shoot (at var­i­ous lo­cales up and down the US east coast) with a cast rounded out by Melissa Leo, Rosie O’Don­nell, Imo­gen Poots, Juli­ette Lewis and Kathryn Hahn. Ruf­falo serves as ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, as does orig­i­nal au­thor Lamb.

Play­ing Thomas Bird­sey, the heav­ier-set twin, re­quired Ruf­falo to pack on more than 13kg.

“Derek was very ret­i­cent about tak­ing on this project be­cause he didn’t want it to look like any other twin movie or TV show where it ap­pears as though the ac­tor ran off, put on a wig, and ran back to do the scene,” Ruf­falo says.

“So, we shut down pro­duc­tion for three months (fol­low­ing the prece­dent HBO had set when they al­lowed Matt Bomer time to lose 18kg for A Nor­mal Heart), and I could gain weight or grow a beard or cut my hair. I saw the twins as to­tally dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and with Thomas be­ing on med­i­ca­tion, he’d be bloated.

“So, it took me six weeks to put on the weight. I ate loads of pasta, mashed pota­toes and oat­meal with lots of but­ter, maple syrup and whipped cream. And so, we shot Thomas af­ter we were done shoot­ing Do­minick.”

As for the mo­ments when both broth­ers share the screen, Ruf­falo was able to draw from his ex­pe­ri­ence with green-screen as the Hulk and Bruce Ban­ner.

“I knew how to do that tech­nol­ogy in a way where it didn’t feel too ar­ti­fi­cial or too tech­no­log­i­cally heavy. And to be to­tally hon­est with you, this was a much eas­ier thing to do than it was to do the Hulk.”

Speak­ing from his home in up­state New York, he says of the world’s cur­rent state in lock­down: “My daugh­ter told me that she thought that this was Mother Na­ture’s way of giv­ing a stern but gen­tle warn­ing of what’s to come, and to show us how ill-pre­pared we are with the sys­tems that we have in place to deal with it.

“This is a ver­sion of cli­mate change in a very con­cen­trated way, and I do see it as a mo­ment for us to re­ally test how we’re able to deal with a mas­sive, cat­a­strophic shift in our weather sys­tems.” A com­mit­ted po­lit­i­cal pro­gres­sive (who en­dorsed Bernie San­ders twice), and an ar­dent en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist, he says, “ev­ery day is Earth Day for me”.

“I’m fight­ing ev­ery day for our beau­ti­ful blue orb in the uni­verse, as a lot of peo­ple are do­ing,” he says pas­sion­ately.

But Ruf­falo re­mains an op­ti­mist. “I be­lieve that in ev­ery dif­fi­cult thing there’s a sil­ver lin­ing, there’s a gift that can­not be re­ceived in any other way but through some dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ences,” he says.

“I’ve had a brain tu­mour (he was di­ag­nosed in 2002 with a be­nign acous­tic neu­roma, and un­der­went surgery to re­move it), I’ve lost peo­ple even to mur­der, and as hard as those things have been, I’ve al­ways re­ceived a very spe­cial gift out of them, and I see that same sit­u­a­tion with COVID.”

I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE

8PM, MON­DAY, FOX SHOWCASE AND STREAM­ING, FOXTEL NOW

Dou­ble take: Mark Ruf­falo stars as twin broth­ers Thomas and Do­minick in IKnowThisM­uchIsTrue.

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