The Baltimore Sun

Actor Mark Ruffalo does it all. He was Laura Linney's shiftless brother in the bittersweet You Can Count on Me; he was the ghostly Reese Witherspoon's bewildered love interest in the comedy Just Like Heaven; and he played a feckless brain-tampering functionary in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In Zodiac, David Fincher's police drama about the late '60s serial murders, Ruffalo is Dave Toschi, the brilliant, offbeat San Francisco detective at the center of the investigation.

Between the Nixon-era sideburns and the insouciant bow ties, Toschi cuts quite a figure. Does it fit the real man?

To a T. I read the script and said, "Wow, this is a cool, kind of hard-boiled noir detective," so I went up to San Francisco and I met him. He was dressed to the nines, and then he pulled out all his old pictures, and it's exactly as he looks in the movie. But he wasn't the hard-boiled detective type. He has kind of a soft voice and a gentle demeanor; he's just a totally original character.

Clothes aside, people in the film really look like they stepped out of the '70s.

You start working on a part, especially when you're going to be working for six months, and you know the character doesn't go to the gym, so you don't go to the gym, and suddenly, physiologically, you start changing a little bit. David [director Fincher] is very meticulous about capturing something genuine - he said, "I really want to bring this time to life in the smallest details" and that was exciting to me. It's all about nuances.

You've just finished working again with Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote and directed You Can Count on Me. What's Margaret all about?

It's gorgeous. I saw a rough cut of it, weighing in at three hours and 15 minutes. ... It's going for something so huge - it's a teenage girl, post-9/11 Catcher in the Rye. So honest, and frightening in a way.

Does it make you worry about your own daughter?

Scares the hell out of me. They're out in no man's land, culturally.

You did some broadcasts on "Democracy Now" with Amy Goodman. How did that come about?

I got involved with the antiwar movement, then Amy Goodman asked me to come on the show. It was basically when they suspended habeas corpus. And no one was talking about this. I was like, "Where are the actors?" Actors used to be a voice in this. I think people are afraid that they'll hurt more than help. I wanted to go down to Crawford when the whole Cindy Sheehan thing was going on, and I was going with a well-known actor friend of mine, and at the last minute he said, "I don't think we should go." I said "Why?" and he said, "Well, you know when actors show up ... it might dissipate her message." And I understand the logic. There has been a right-wing PR move to discredit actors, Hollywood, artists; it's a very smart thing to do, because they've always been the ones who stood up. Actors have always been the voice of change or said, "No, this isn't right." I think there was a very well-constructed political PR move to cut those people down.

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