In director Louis Leterrier‘s Now You See Me, Mark Ruffalo plays an FBI agent trying to hunt down and capture a group of magicians who pull off bank heists during their death-defying acts. However, while Ruffalo plays a tough guy on screen, he’s anything but that in real life. In fact, in the few times I’ve gotten to speak with him, he’s always making people laugh and trying to have fun.
About a year ago, I got to participate in a group interview with Ruffalo on the set of Now You See Me when the film was shooting in New York. He talked about why he wanted to be involved, working with Leterrier, filming on location in New Orleans and NYC, magicians, what kinds of scripts is he drawn to, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
Here are a few highlights from the interview:
- Ruffalo’s FBI character is described as kind of a rogue. He’s always screwing things up but he does it with a lot of authority.
- Ruffalo says the film has a Robin Hood flair to it.
- One of the reasons Ruffalo responded to the script was that the plot “blew his mind” and completely tricked him.
Here’s the film’s trailer:
MARK RUFFALO: Um — Jesse Eisenberg. I read it and I thought it was a really fun thing. It’s something I’d never done. I got to do some action stuff in it and I thought it was really kind of a clever script. It had a clever twist in it. And I just thought it would be one of those movies that is just a fun ride.
Do you have magician envy?
RUFFALO: I’m a little bummed out that I don’t get to do any tricks, but I got something up my sleeve.
You used to work in a bar as a bartender. Did you see a lot of guys pulling magic tricks on women and stuff?
RUFFALO: Magicians, just a general note, don’t get laid. I hate to say that. [Asks woman] Are you into magicians? [She respondes “No.”]
Do you think David Copperfield got his ass kicked as a kid?
RUFFALO: I don’t know, but he’s not doing so badly right now I don’t think.
If you’re a really good magician, I would imagine you could…
RUFFALO: You know, we were at a party once and there’s these street magicians that I’ve seen perform. David Blaine, I was at a party and he was doing some stuff and I thought my wife was gonna run off with him. And then Keith Barry who’s one of our consultants on this, who’s actually Woody Harrelson’s consultant who’s a great hypnotist and a great street magician, could be very, very seductive as well.
RUFFALO: This is a Dave Franco special. He whipped a card at me.
A couple of them.
RUFFALO: A couple of them, yeah.
You’ve played a police officer before, but what’s different about Dylan?
RUFFALO: He’s kind of a rogue, he’s very spermy, he’s kind of mangy and a little sassy. Most of the cops I’ve played are pretty straightforward cops. He’s much more kind of an outsider, you know? They call it a street agent, you know. There’s desk agents and street agents basically in the FBI. He’s kind of unorthodox and he loves being on the street and he’s tough and he doesn’t shave, he doesn’t really follow the rules. He’s something of a lummox. He’s always screwing things up, but does it with a lot of authority.
And the relationship with Melanie, is there a chemistry between the two of them or is this strictly a professional thing?
RUFFALO: No, there’s definitely something happening there, but he would like to keep it professional, but it’s outside of his control in that way.
You said you wanted to do this because of action and you’ve got a big action movie coming out [referring to The Avengers]. Is this really different from that?
RUFFALO: Well, a lot of the action stuff that I did on Avengers was on green screen or CGI at ILM in a suit and a lot of it was — I was playing with smaller things, you know? People were smaller so I didn’t get to really interact with them.
RUFFALO: No. I got to mess Loki up, but it was actually just a foam roller.
What was your reaction when you saw the first footage of the Hulk in the trailer?
RUFFALO: I thought, “Dammit, they finally got it right!” We talked a lot about how we wanted it to let Hulk have something that was humanistic. It was a big thing. Marvel didn’t want Hulk ever to look like the actor that was playing the part. Consciously they made that choice and Joss and I really fought with them to feel like there’s a little bit of me inside of that monster, you know, there’s a little bit of Bruce Banner inside that monster. When I saw it — I saw it before the trailer — I saw some stuff at ILM, and I was really thrilled about it. I felt like it did what we were trying to go after.
Now about this movie, we heard that you might have been hypnotized and perhaps that there’s a word that someone could say to you and you would either bark or you would do something. Is this actually true or is it a made-up rumor on the set?
RUFFALO: Woody got very proficient at hypnotizing people and we were out one night and I don’t know if something was dropped in my drink or Woody actually hypnotized me, but something did happen to me. I don’t want to talk about it much.
Does Melanie know the word? Will she tell us the word that makes you…?
An actor usually wants to play somebody somewhat empathetic on screen. In a movie like this, and it seems society in general, you want those people to get away with it. We want the people that you’re chasing, while we know societal-wise they should get caught, we want them to get away. What is that syndrome that we have?
RUFFALO: Well, when it’s sort of done in a way that you get to know the people — but this has a Robin Hood flare to it and right now there’s definitely a populist sort of view of the world that, you know, people are being taken advantage of and the big people are taking advantage of them, and so the idea of taking from the rich and giving to the poor seems to resonate quite a bit right now, and that’s always been a great story. We like that story. There’s a great quote, “Behind every great fortune, there’s a great crime” and so this kind of turns that on its head. I don’t know why, but, you know, filmmaking could direct you to have sympathy for people that you normally, as a society, wouldn’t have sympathy for.
When you first read the script, did it twist and surprise you as you were going through it?
RUFFALO: Totally. The plot completely blew my mind. Completely tricked me.
RUFFALO: Yeah, and yeah, that was one of the reasons that I responded to it.
RUFFALO: The Horsemen?
…with what they’re trying to do?
RUFFALO: No. [Laughs] No, he sees it as breaking the law. He’s kind of a black and white guy throughout most of the movie.
I feel like you’re saying this has some element of Occupy Wall Street in it. When you read the script, was that happening already?
RUFFALO: No, that wasn’t happening when I first read it, but it was happening, you know? You could feel it boiling up, but it hadn’t exploded yet. And just by chance this movie’s somehow fit into that movement, some of the themes of the movement. I just think occasionally, culturally films reflect, you know, the time that they come out in without even intentionally doing that. They just happen to catch that, you know?
You’re a particularly politically active actor, so when you say you’re automatically drawn to these kind of scripts?
RUFFALO: Some things yes and some things — I had no idea that this would tie into those themes, but, you know, it’s definitely fun to play that up once it is there. Like, The Kids Are All Right, that just came to me, but I also was like, “In two years when that movie comes out, that’s gonna have an impact. That’s actually gonna be part of the social conversation and in a really positive way,” I thought. And so sometimes it happens like that and sometimes it doesn’t.
RUFFALO: Love him.
Can you talk about what makes him different as a director?
RUFFALO: He’s a very visual director. He sets up really beautiful, compelling shots. He tells the story visually. It’s a second language and so — there’s been a lot of collaboration on the script and he’s been very open to that. He’s just a very gentle, sweet guy so he creates an environment that’s a lot of fun, people are very nice, and I’ve had a very good time collaborating with him on it. He’s very open to ideas, you know?
Has he been interested in what you’re doing as the Hulk having directed the last Hulk movie?
RUFFALO: Well, the funny thing is, is, yes I met with him on that Hulk. Yeah, and so, he came to me and he said, “Hey, we didn’t get a chance to do it then, let’s do it now.”
What’s your relationship in the movie with Common’s character? We haven’t heard much about him tonight.
RUFFALO: He’s my boss.
Is it all coming from him what your character has to do?
RUFFALO: Well, he’s sending me on to this job and I hem and haw about it. I’m like, “You want me to do what? I’m about to blow up this huge organized crime ring and you want me to go do what with magicians? What are you talking about?” You know? And I have a lot of attitude with him about it and he just says, “Hey, shut up and go do what I tell you to do.”
RUFFALO: Yes, I rub up against the crowd.
You’re right in the middle so maybe that has some effect!
RUFFALO: I have two pairs of long johns on and two pairs on up here, and I put on an extra five pounds when I was in New Orleans, and all of that together helps to keep you warmer.
Was that alcoholic gain weight or crawfish gain weight?
RUFFALO: I think it’s a little bit of everything. Beignets, alcohol, crawfish, and tons of food with a lot of butter in it, and deep fried food.
You’re filming in four pretty iconic locations. How much do you participate in the environment in those locations? When you were in Vegas, did you go out? I don’t know if you’ve shot there yet.
RUFFALO: We haven’t gone there yet.
And how was that?
RUFFALO: I totally partook in everything that New Orleans had to offer, and it was great. And now I’m here in New York, which I love being in the city. Yeah, I mean, when you’re on the road, you sort of go crazy and being away from your family you get stir-crazy and lonely, so I try to keep myself involved as much as possible. I’m not a big fan of Vegas, obviously. It’s not my favorite place in the world.
When you sign on for a project often you get the script and as you’re filming, a lot of things change. For your character, how much changed from when you first signed on?
RUFFALO: A lot. A lot! There’s been a couple major rewrites since I signed on and, for me, luckily, I think it’s gotten better over time.
Was there anything that you were inputting meeting with Louis early on?
RUFFALO: Well, yes. When we first met, I had a draft and he said, “Hey, what do you think about this? Would you like to see any changes? We’re about to do a rewrite. What would you do with it?” And that was our meeting and I kind of just told him some ideas and he really liked them, and then I met with Ed Solomon and we went through the whole script together and worked in some changes there. And then when we were rehearsing with the other actors, we were polishing stuff and doing rewrites during that time too. So it’s been a very -– like I said, Louis likes to collaborate and it’s been a very collaborative process from the first meeting to what we’re shooting today. And even the stuff we’re shooting today is changing minutely to fit the location and fit the action. Sometimes dialogue doesn’t work or you don’t need it, and so we’ve been doing that as we go along.
Catch up on the rest of our set visit coverage below:
- 35 Things to Know About NOW YOU SEE ME From Our Set Visit; Plus Video Blog Recap
- Jesse Eisenberg Talks Learning Magic, Reuniting with Woody Harrelson, Why He Signed on to the Project, and More on the Set of NOW YOU SEE ME
- Isla Fisher Talks Performing Escapist Tricks, Her Chemistry with the Cast, THE GREAT GATSBY, and More on the Set of NOW YOU SEE ME
- Director Louis Leterrier Talks Shooting on Location, Practical Effects vs. CG, and More on the Set of NOW YOU SEE ME