“I was afraid and had so little confidence… After my audition, the head of the department said, ‘What are you going to do when you realize you’ll never make it as an actor?'” – Mark Ruffalo
Sure, most people are familiar with Academy Award and Tony Award nominated actor Mark Ruffalo today because he’s the Incredible Hulk — in addition to his stellar work in film, television, and theater — but just like all actors he had to have started from somewhere. In his case, Ruffalo went to acting school at the Stella Adler Conservatory, but it was many years before he was cast in substantial roles as an actor. In an interview with Variety, Ruffalo reflects on his experience at the Stella Adler Conservatory and how it prepared him for his blockbuster career.
Ruffalo recalls his first visit to the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in Los Angeles, and how that visit changed his life:
“I was living in San Diego and basically just surfing and smoking weed and going nowhere really fast. Someone told me I should go study there so out of my desperation and my secret of wanting to be an actor, I took the train up there for an interview with my teacher Joanne Linville.”
“Here I am, this kid from Kenosha, Wis., who was dyslexic, could barely read, I barely got through high school and I went in and I talked to Joanne. She interviewed me for like 10 minutes. She was like, ‘You belong here, darling.’ I never had anyone tell me I belong somewhere. I had never been so excited about learning in my entire life as I embarked on that journey.”
However, Ruffalo did not initially feel comfortable participating in class and had to be convinced to do so. He remembers, “It was six months of sitting in class and not getting up to do one thing when Joanne had said to me, ‘Although I think you can learn almost as much sitting and watching, you can’t learn what you have to learn unless you get up and act. You have to work today.’ When I got up that first time, she saw something in me that not even I saw in myself. That day was the beginning for me. I knew I would do it for the rest of my life. I never thought I’d be successful like this, but I knew I found my home.”
In fact, he was surprised by the reaction from the first scene he performed in class. Ruffalo continues, “It was a monologue from Spoon River Anthology, which has these little monologues about all of these kinds of working class American people at the beginning of our country. It was this little piece and I made a character and it worked. Everyone was like, ‘That was great.’ I was like, ‘Really?'”
Nonetheless, it was still a long road for Ruffalo from there — especially because he did not feel confident enough in his abilities as an actor to audition. He explains, “I was afraid and had so little confidence. I did a few play auditions, but my first real audition was after high school for SUNY Purchase. After my audition, the head of the department said, ‘What are you going to do when you realize you’ll never make it as an actor?'”