The Actor Takes NOWNESS Back to the Land at His Rustic Hideaway
Spoiler alert: Mark Ruffalo is married. And has kids. And to add insult to injury, he's also in touch with nature. On a 50-acre plot of land in upstate New York’s Sullivan County, the actor-director has swapped Tinseltown for a real-life Courbet landscape to create an idyllic family home with his wife, Sunrise Coigney, and their three children. NOWNESS made the trip along the foothills of the Catskill Mountains to capture the star in his bucolic environs, complete with vegetable garden, carved wooden animal sculptures, a barn and an eco-friendly guest house. Having purchased the land ten years ago as a getaway, the family relocated permanently three years ago: “The whole guiding idea for living upstate was to simplify,” Ruffalo says. “We asked ourselves, what do we need all this shit for? What is it adding to our lives?” Now balancing country life, fatherhood and an ardent commitment to environmentalism, The Kids Are Alright star hasn’t left Hollywood completely behind; his directorial debut, Sympathy for Delicious premiered this year and he’s revamping the role of The Incredible Hulk for Joss Whedon’s spring 2012 blockbuster The Avengers.
Introduce us to the objects that decorate the front porch.
Our friend Forest Myers made the carved bear. He lives in the area and he’s a fairly significant American modern sculptor in his 60s who was basically our first friend up here. Eventually it found its way into one of Sunrise’s little “living collages,” which is what you see on the front porch. The root chair is also by a local artist who makes furniture out of found wood and objects, and then there’s an old-fashioned milk canister that’s filled with walking sticks that Sunny got at a garage sale. We have turkey feathers and deer bones the kids have found on the property.
Is there a difference in the family dynamic since you’ve moved upstate?
It’s the best thing I could have done for the family as a whole and for the kids in particular. We made a pact to let them be and let them work out their differences on their own. We’re letting them grow a little wild and we step in when it’s essential, but in a lot of ways they figure stuff out on their own and they do it in a way that’s organic and lasts. We live in a small space and we’re really influenced by the natural world around us. Eventually that is reflected in one’s behavior and how you get along with other people. There’s a lot of quiet in the country and there’s a lot of quietness in my children.
Our photographer got a bug bite, and you told him to take this leaf off a plant, chew it and rub it on his legs. How do you know this stuff?
You sort of pick it up. It came from the Native Americans, then the white people learned about it and it became folk knowledge. It’s American wild plantain that you chew and put it on as a balm. We had a naturalist give us a tour of our property; he’s an herbalist and he comes and hangs out with you and shows you what’s medicinal and what’s edible among the wild plants. If it’s mushroom season, he’ll teach you what mushrooms you can eat. He’s awesome.
There’s a sincerity and naturalness that comes across in your performances. Is that a conscious effort on your part?
I don’t feel like that. I feel like I just get by. I do my job and I do it proficiently but I'm not some great actor. Sometimes I get better parts than others and my sensibilities mesh better with certain parts, but I don’t see myself as a great actor.
Are there performances you envy?
All Javier Bardem’s work, all Phil Austin’s work, all Tilda Swinton’s work—she’s a true and great artist. They’re the people I see and I think, “Wow, how’d they do that?”