Mark Ruffalo on the Hulk's Future, the Dangers of Fracking and "Smear Campaigns" Against Actor Activists

Austin Hargrave

The 'Foxcatcher' star, who co-founded Water Defense, will be honored at the Britannia Awards on Oct. 30

This story first appeared in the Nov. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Onscreen, Mark Ruffalo has been playing all manner of heroes: from AIDS activist Larry Kramer's alter ego Ned Weeks in HBO's The Normal Heart to wrestler David Schultz, who tries to protect his brother in Bennett Miller's upcoming Foxcatcher; from the raging Hulk, Bruce Banner's alter ego, in Avengers: Age of Ultron (which he recently completed filming) to a crusading reporter in Spotlight, a drama about The Boston Globe's Catholic Church exposé that he currently is shooting. But it's Ruffalo's offscreen heroics that will be recognized with the Humanitarian Award at the BAFTA Los Angeles Jaguar Britannia Awards on Oct. 30.

Read more Mark Ruffalo Emailed 'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Director for a Role

The 46-year-old actor has dedicated his free time to diving (sometimes literally) into work for the nonprofit he co-founded, Water Defense, as he crusades against fracking and in support of clean water, free from contamination and industrial pollution.

You co-founded Water Defense in 2010. What are you hoping to accomplish?

It came out of my fight against hydrofracking and the water uses around hydrofracking. We've entered this entirely new era of energy extraction that happens to put water at great risk. We want to build out a national map where we can empower civilian scientists to test the water and create a national open-source mapping of the nation's headwaters. That was the loophole where we were getting screwed. We were always relying on the water testing of the Environmental Protection Agency or the industry itself. It's become imperative to create this national map to take the destiny of our water into our own hands.

Read more Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo March for Climate Change in NYC

Do you feel Hollywood is doing enough for environmental issues?

Yeah, I do. Actors, generally, who get involved with these things have to make some sort of sacrifice, whether it's just their time or the shit that they catch from whatever industry or lobbying group is threatened by them. There's a reason that they'll launch smear campaigns against actors. It's because we happen to have a very deep reach into the culture. There are a lot of people in Hollywood who do take this seriously, and the ones who do really have helped. People see people like me and Robert [Downey Jr.] doing it and still having a career. And Leo [DiCaprio] — he catches a lot of hell, but he's still doing that great, beautiful work. Is everyone doing it? No, but the ones who are are making a change in the world.

You and Robert Downey Jr. just finished shooting the next Avengers movie. Do you know what Marvel is planning for your Hulk character beyond that?

I don't really know what's happening in the whole Marvel universe. I know with the Hulk getting [his own new] movie, they went from an "absolutely no" to a "maybe" after Avengers. If all goes according to plan, then maybe one day there will be another Hulk movie.

Read more Mark Ruffalo Teases Evolved Hulk in 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'

In The Normal Heart and Spotlight, you've taken roles that tackle social issues. Is that something you consciously seek out?

I think there’s entertainment for entertainment’s sake, and then there’s the work we do that translates important messages to our fellow human beings. I’m interested in those stories. They happen to be really good stories, and they’re just really great, challenging parts. I love to entertain people and I like that part of my job, but I also feel like it’s my part of my job as an artist to engage people on the more difficult things.

Between Avengers, Normal Heart and Foxcatcher, you seem to be having a big career moment.

It’s beyond my wildest dreams. Sometimes I’m really surprised by it. It just all sort of happened so quickly, I’m just catching up to it. It doesn’t get much better than this, Mark Ruffalo, you better be grateful for it every single day.


L.A.'s Brits Gather to Toast a Few of Their Fellow Countrymen — and a Couple of Yanks

The annual gala, to be broadcast by BBC America on Nov. 2, will celebrate Iron Man (aka Robert Downey Jr.) and the queen (that's Judi Dench, to you). “I’m thrilled to be hosting the Britannia Awards for a second time," says host Rob Brydon. "The honorees this year are legendary, and have played quite powerful characters – from the Hulk, to M in James Bond, to Ironman – I better watch what I say on stage, October 30!”

EMMA WATSON, British Artist of the Year
Her days as Harry Potter's schoolgirl sidekick long behind her, she traveled to Biblical times in this year's Noah and headlines Alejandro Amenabar's thriller Regression, coming next summer.

JUDI DENCH, Albert R. Broccoli Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment
The Oscar winner next reprises her role as an Englishwoman abroad in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, opening March 6.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy
The five-time Emmy winner, whose career stretches from Seinfeld to Veep, also proved she can hold her own on the big screen in 2013's Enough Said.

MIKE LEIGH, John Schlesinger Award for Excellence in Directing
The British director, known for such contemporary slice-of-life dramas as 2004's Vera Drake, opts for a period piece with his latest film, Mr. Turner, arriving Dec. 19.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR., Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Film
Having just opened The Judge, which he produced with his wife, Susan, he also has been tapped to step back into his Iron Man suit for 2016's Captain America 3.