Mark Ruffalo stars in HBO’s “The Normal Heart,” about the early years of the AIDS crisis, and the actor’s own experiences as an activist – including his vocal opposition to fracking – helped him relate to the struggles of gay activists in the early 1980s. “I understand what it takes to make change happen, and what it costs you to do it, and how high the stakes are,” he said in our recent video chat (watch it below). “I’m dealing with things that aren’t as existentially threatening as the AIDS crisis was to them, so I can’t say that I know exactly what they went through, but I know … the nature of people fighting a battle that looks like it’s impossible to win.”
In July, “The Normal Heart” picked up 16 Emmy nominations, more than any other telefilm this year, and Ruffalo – dually nominated as an actor and producer – is “deeply moved” by the recognition. He added, “We all knew how important the story was that we were telling. We knew how important it was to so many people who had lost their lives … And so to see it embraced on the level that it has … is incredibly satisfying and humbling.”
The film is based on the semi-autobiographical play by Larry Kramer, who also wrote the screenplay adaptation. “I immediately wanted to spend as much time as possible with him,” said Ruffalo, and getting to know Kramer gave the actor unique insight into the famous firebrand: “We hadn’t really heard the story of this gentler side of him … Mostly it was his heart that struck me as the most profound part about him, and his deep and abiding sense of love that he has for his culture.”
Ruffalo is heavily favored to win at least one Emmy on August 25 – the film has strong odds to win Best TV Movie – and afterward he may find himself back on the campaign trail for his work on the big screen. He earned an Oscar nomination in 2010 for “The Kids Are All Right,” and he has a pair of films this year with the potential to make an impact on the awards scene: “Begin Again” and “Foxcatcher.”
“I’m dreading it,” he admitted about campaigning for awards, but he’s putting it all in perspective: “It’s rare. I can’t even believe that there may be a second shot at it in a career. I never saw myself having the kind of success that I’ve been blessed with.”
Watch our complete interview below, then predict whether Ruffalo will win the Emmy for Best Movie/Mini Actor.