You know him as the Hulk, but he's also an environmental activist who co-founded two nonprofits. During his residency as the recipient of the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism, Mark Ruffalo gave advice to Dickinson students on acting, environmental activism and resiliency—and made his best guess on which Avenger would make the best presidential candidate.
20. "When I moved to a rural farming community in upstate New York, it happened to be in the middle of the shale gas boom, and I started to hear anecdotal stories from people living there. Life gets really real when you’re talking with people who are struggling for existence."
19. "The poor people in the world are suffering the most from this system [of market-driven energy use]. It’s violent to go into a community and poison them, even if that violence is in slow motion."
18. "Actors sell all kinds of stuff. Why not sell something that’s actually good for us all? Something we care about?"
17. "A creative act is throwing yourself out into the unknown. The more you do that, the more you grow as a person and artist."
16. "Theatre and film acting can be entertaining, but they also have a place in the culture that meets a social need. In order for a piece to bring bigger change, it has to be something that bubbles up from the culture, and the culture has to be ready to receive it. It can become a focal point of a movement and conversation that is already happening ... film, theatre, music, books and art can work, in a subtle way, to take on a question or problem in our culture."
15. "We face a world begging for us to re-address many of its systems, and the only way to do that is to make people really uncomfortable—starting with ourselves. Change starts with being uncomfortable; then you make others uncomfortable. To do that, you need to challenge belief systems that no longer apply."
14. "You organize around an issue. You find people with like minds, you get the science and you offer solutions."
13. "Where you see change is needing to happen, act up. It’s fun. It’s enlivening. It creates community. The alternative is an inner deadening. I say, 'Go for life, always.' "
12. "The world is leaving behind fossil fuels. … It will be a beautiful world when we won’t send kids overseas to fight wars for energy."
11. "Here’s a chance for a lot of decency to flood back into our nation, through defense of these issues. We all want clean water when we turn on our tap. These are issues that bring us together."
10. "Whatever your mind tells you is a limit is a lie; limitations are lies we tell ourselves. … [If you are nervous in the face of a challenge,] you can make a choice. There is an intelligence that is the master—you can talk to your nerves and say, 'I know you’re there, but you’re not in control of me.' ”
9. "Those places where you find resistance in yourself, that’s where growth happens. You challenge assumptions you have, assumptions created in your own minds."
8. "The people leading this movement are not celebrities. They’re people who are passionate, people who care. Everything takes time. The more you stay at it and surround yourself with people of like minds, you can begin to effect change."
7. "Real power comes from relationships you have with yourself. That love spreads to the world around you. That’s where you start, and it grows out from there. You fight for what you love ... You’re unbeatable when you have love on your side."
6. "If you’re fighting for something you love and acting from love—even if it creates righteous anger—you're inoculated against the toxicity of anger. … Love is what sustains you through your discomfort. It’s what carries you through your darkest times."
5. "I’d say that 99 percent of the time I have a good time, because I love acting. I also keep my standards for myself high but my expectations for other people low. And I’ve learned something from every director I’ve worked with, even the ones who were struggling."
4. "Through acting I’ve gotten to meet people I would never have come in contact with. It’s been a wonderful education and continues to be."
3. "I was nearly 30 before I could pay my rent by acting, before I could get my car out of impound and keep it out. But I needed time to develop my technique, and I needed to be exposed to different places and people, to see what it is like to not be a white person of privilege. I needed a little bit of the gritty."
2. "The Hulk—that whole genre of superhero movies and storytelling—it’s everywhere right now. It’s a phenomenon that crosses class, economic, linguistic barriers. And it takes us into a dialogue with deep cultural history—with mythology, the fight between good and evil, right and wrong. Some people connect with it, and others don’t. But as a society, it’s resonating with us right now. Why is that? It’s a really interesting question."
1. "[When asked which Avengers character should run for president]: I guess I need to take myself out of it [laughs]. It would probably be Scarlett Johansson who deserves it. It'd be the Black Widow. She’s smart, tough, she's a feminist, she knows how to control her anger. I'd have to give it to her."
Compiled by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson; video by Joe O'Neill; photos by Carl Socolow '77.
Published October 12, 2015