Time for a research binge!

Mark Ruffalo on Inside The Actor's Studio:

I love these things. This show is basically 45 minutes of pointing a camera at some poor guy in a strategically isolated chair who's compelled to answer questions ranging from silly to deeply embarrassing. You really can't get a better format for psych profiling.

The first thing you notice about Mark Ruffalo is that he never looks quite fully-ironed. I have yet to see him play any parts where he looks fully-ironed, either. Sort of like how Angie Harmon never plays anything where she looks entirely unlike a tomboy, and RDJ always manages to spend at least part of the movie looking like a crazy homeless man with puppy-dog eyes. Although, left to his own devices, Ruffalo cops to owning ties. He's got some fairly nice suits and everything matches, plus he can manage to stay clean-shaven when he tries, so I would imagine the scruffy thing is a combination of it fits his personality and he thinks it looks good. (I agree.) I don't know if he was dying his hair when this was taped, but he let himself go a bit gray at the temples for Banner, which I thought was a nice touch. The usual check for watch and ring says he's right-handed and married.

(Checking which hand watches are on is not 100% accurate, incidentally. Among the Avengers crew, Jeremy Renner is obviously left-handed, and draws his bow [badly] that way, with the guards on his right forearm, but wears his watch on his left wrist. One of my dear friends is right-handed and is baffled as to why other right-handed people don't also wear their watch on their dominant hand like she does. Looking for wedding bands will sometimes give false negatives; many musicians especially are out of the habit of wearing them, because they can sometimes get in the way when playing an instrument. Almost no one, however, wears a plain band on their left ring finger in public if they are not married, or consider themselves so.)

The second thing you notice is that this man cannot sit still. I'm inclined to think that he's too coherent for this to be a load of cocaine or a case of hypo-Ritalin-emia, but he can't stop twitching in his chair or fussing with his hands. The stammer and vocal hesitations he uses as Bruce Banner are actually native to him; he is capable of suppressing them when he has a script (he spends 9/10ths of Zodiac pretty much channeling Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo, and I didn't hear it once), but I'm not sure if he can consciously quash it all the way when he's speaking off-the-cuff.

This video provides an excellent example of how almost every pamphlet you've ever read on how to spot snake-oil salesmen and sociopaths is uselessly, awkwardly, hazardously wrong. One of the things everyone "knows" about people is that liars are nervous. It's true that having to produce a story on the fly is an extra cognitive strain and that this can sometimes show, but lying and nervousness are not really very well-correlated. Ruffalo is nervous as hell on this show. Going by the clips on YouTube, Ruffalo is always nervous as hell when he's the only interviewee on camera. It got to be hilarious around the seventh one I found, where he is jittering like mad when someone is talking to him one-on-one but is reasonably calm when he's one of two or three. (Of the other actors in Avengers, he's most comfortable with RDJ by a wide margin, but all of the relationships read as friendly to me.) I don't get the feeling that he's lying in any of these, however. I wouldn't necessarily notice if he were; none of these are exactly high-stakes social situations for an actor, whose job is to go say pretend things in public, and the lower the stress level the fewer signs generally leak out. He's consistent between clips, and he isn't constantly ducking back verbally to correct or refine things he's said, so I'd say he's being at least as honest as any guy would be if someone randomly stuck a microphone in his face, and probably more honest than most.

What he is nervous about, I can only take a semi-educated stab at. He doesn't seem particularly embarrassed by anything he's being asked to talk about; you get the occasional sort of 'heh, kinda weird, I know' chuckle in the middle an answer, but that's a common social communication thing. I find it telling that the anecdote he presents, humorously, as the start of his acting career is about pretending to be moved by the Holy Spirit in order to not feel left out. A lot of people would have done the same, especially at age eight, but there are also a lot of people who would have done it while thinking to themselves "This is insane, but when in Rome, I guess," and other who would have just stood there going WTF? while everyone else threw themselves on the floor. He is constantly scanning for reactions -- even in casual Q&A where he and the reporter are just having a conversation he also flicks his gaze back and forth to check the surroundings and the videographer. My best guess is that he's okay with being a little odd now, but for some reason he really feels he needs to know exactly when he's crossed that line from normal to weird. Once he's sure he's gotten the first funny look of the conversation over and done with, he launches into accents and impressions and the occasional spontaneous Brick Joke and so forth.

Ruffalo is very vehement about being liberal at the end there. Either he and Downey keep politics the hell out of their friendships, or I'm right in thinking that Downey's politics are conservative more than his social views. Their body language still reads so distinctly "we are best buds," it's almost textbook.

If anyone feels the need to fangirl any harder, he also sings, although not all that much. I can deduce from the "Lifetime Original" bug in the corner that this is a truly terrible movie that I will be avoiding for the rest of my natural life, but stupid song aside, his voice is not bad. He doesn't sound like he's had any real vocal training, but he can hit specific notes on purpose, and he knows what a vibrato is and why this is something we use sparingly, like floral perfumes and leopard-print fabric.