Mark Ruffalo’s career has been a story of struggle before his great success as one of the top actors in Hollywood. He found fame later in life but beforehand, he had to deal with depression and time as a young burnout. As with many successful actors in Hollywood, success is not a straight path, and Ruffalo had a lot of challenges before he found the success she had always wanted.
Ruffalo knew in his heart that he wanted to be an actor and finally caught a break with a solid movie role, but unfortunately, it was at the same moment that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2001. He kept the diagnosis a secret from his family until his wife gave birth to their first child. This is not an easy feat to achieve, but he overcame the health problems he had faced with the help of good doctors and the support of his loving family. However, there are still lingering effects of the brain tumor that Ruffalo struggles with today.
Not only has Ruffalo gone on to have more children since coming out of the surgery, but he has also found better success in Hollywood by bagging the coveted role of Bruce Banner and the Hulk in the “Avengers” franchise and starring in more than 30 movies in the last 20 years.
Not only is he now a brilliant actor, but he is also a committed family man. He and his wife have been married for 22 years and have a very beautiful love story.
Ruffalo was born on Nov. 22, 1967, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to father Frank Lawrence Ruffalo, a construction painter and Marie Rose (Hebert), a stylist and hairdresser, according to IMDb. Ruffalo spent his teenage years in Virginia Beach, Virginia, before his family ended up moving to San Diego after he graduated from high school.
Ruffalo’s dream of becoming an actor began at a very young age. When he was eight years old, The Observer reported that he watched the television premiere of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He said about the movie, “It made me want to be an actor … Brando’s magnetism and that fearlessness and the vulnerability. His raw presence was slightly effeminate, balanced. It was more real, more honest. And I guess it became about looking for the things that seem honest to me, that really reflect life, that are the things that turn me on about movies.”
However, Ruffalo has been candid about his early years, telling New York Magazine that he wandered aimlessly, surfing and smoking after graduating from high school, almost ready to jump off a bridge. He also told The Observer that he suffers from a low-grade chronic depression that afflicts him daily even today.
When he felt like he was going nowhere, Ruffalo told Variety, “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.” While he was nervous about what was to come, his excitement had no bounds.
Ruffalo said, “Here I am, this kid from Kenosha, Wisconsin, who was dyslexic, could barely read, I barely got through high school and I went in and I talked to Joanne.” He continued, “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.”
Ruffalo got his big break in the 2001 thriller “The Last Castle” alongside Robert Redford and James Gandolfini when he received the distressing news about a medical diagnosis. Strangely, he only went to the doctor because he had a dream that he had a brain tumor, and he was right. He told The Guardian that it was such a clear and unusual dream that he knew he had to go.
“It wasn’t like divine intervention in any way, though that’s how some people explained it to me,” he said. Ruffalo was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, which ended up being a walnut-size tumor behind his left ear.
His wife, Sunrise Coigney, was pregnant with their first child at the time, and the soon-to-be father did not want to stress her out. “He didn’t tell anyone for weeks,” Ruffalo’s mother said to Men’s Journal. “When he finally did, I was like, ‘Oh, my God. How could you bear all that?'”
It was only a week after their son Keen was born that Ruffalo decided to tell his wife and his family. Then, two weeks later, he had surgery.
His Short Hiatus
Express UK reported that Ruffalo was “certain” that he was going to die. Thankfully, however, he came out of the surgery alive but not without major challenges. The process of healing was a hard one for the movie star, especially because it left one side of his face paralyzed. His hopes for a career in Hollywood seemed dashed, and he shut out the world, going into a self-imposed exile.
He told the Guardian, “I tell you, I was so desperate to get better after my surgery that I tried everything – energy healers, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, everything, everything. There was nothing I wouldn’t have tried.”
But eventually, the muscles regained their movement, and he was able to use his entire face, although he is still deaf in one ear today. His recovery was miraculous in some ways, but it left him worried about whether he would have a future in Hollywood because of his long hiatus and the weight gained from steroid treatments.
Fortunately, Ruffalo’s hiatus was not as long as he had initially thought, and he went on to appear as the romantic lead in several films throughout the 2000s and also found work in theater. He was even nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his role in “Awake and Sing!” in 2006.
While he had found work in romantic comedies, Ruffalo also showed that he could work in any genre and also appeared in thrillers and films with darker themes throughout the 2000s. However, one of his biggest films from this time was the fantasy romantic comedy “13 Going on 30.”
Playing The Lead
In “13 Going on 30,” Ruffalo played the character of Matt, who was the best friend turned love interest of main character Jenna Rink, played by Jennifer Garner. The film has since become a staple in the romantic comedy department and is recognized as one of the most memorable films of the early 2000s. Ruffalo and Garner even reunited for Ryan Reynolds’ film “The Adam Project” in 2022.
As the 2010s began, Ruffalo continued to ride a great wave of success in his career. He signed with a new talent agency and quickly got to work becoming one of the stars in what would become a huge movie franchise.
The actor landed the role of Bruce Banner and the Hulk in “The Avengers” in 2012, replacing Edward Norton in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. Ruffalo reprised the role in later films in the franchise, including “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in 2015, “Thor: Ragnarok” in 2017, “Avengers: Infinity War” in 2018 and “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019. He also made cameo appearances in a few other Marvel films.
According to Screen Rant, Norton and creative executives in the Marvel franchise had creative differences and couldn’t decide on the direction they wanted to go for a solo Hulk film, thus resulting in Norton being replaced.
However, Ruffalo had briefly been cast as the main character as Norton originally passed on starring in “The Incredible Hulk,” but plans changed. Norton and Marvel had been able to work out a deal pertaining to the film, and the film carried on without Ruffalo in the starring role.
According to Screen Rant, director Louis Leterrier was over the moon with the original casting but saddened when Ruffalo was let go. “One day, Mark was cast, and then over a weekend, he was not,” the director said. “It tore my heart.”
It’s clear that portraying Bruce Banner and the Hulk has been a life-changing experience for Ruffalo, and it’s a role that he doesn’t seem to be leaving any time soon. According to IMDB, he is set to star in the upcoming show “She-Hulk” as his beloved character. Other notable stars that are set to appear in the television series include Jameela Jamil, Tim Roth and Tatiana Maslany, who will be playing the title role.
Ruffalo has several other projects in the works, according to IMDB. He is set to appear as the character Duncan Wedderburn in the 2022 film “Poor Things.” A show called “All the Light We Cannot See” is currently in its filming stages, and the film “Newsflash” is very early in its development as it is still in the pre-production phase.
As a talented actor in most genres, it’s easy to see why Ruffalo is loved and adored by fans and respected by critics. Over the years, he has been nominated for a handful of awards, including Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for his roles in “Spotlight,” “Foxcatcher,” and “The Kids Are All Right.” Having been nominated for at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, Ruffalo is one of the few stars who belongs to such an elite group.
Meet Sunrise Coigney
But as we know, Ruffalo has not only made it in Hollywood, but he has also gone on to have a beautiful family. Along with his son Keen, Ruffalo and his wife Coigney are parents to Bella Ruffalo, born in 2005, and Odette Ruffalo, born in 2007.
According to IMDB, Coigney was born on Sept. 17, 1972, in San Francisco, California. She is best known for being an actress in films such as “Campfire Stories” and “In the Cut.” The latter film also starred Ruffalo. Coigney and Ruffalo married on June 11, 2000, after dating for two years.
Speaking with Men’s Journal, Ruffalo explained how he and his wife didn’t pick out their children’s names until after they were born. He said, “We had a lot of names picked out. But when Keen was born, we took one look at him and said, ‘None of those fit.’ For the first two weeks we tried a new name every day.” The actor explained that he and Coigney then got a call from the Department of Records stating that they needed a name by noon that day.
Fortunately, Ruffalo had a dictionary nearby and scanned it for any option that might be a good fit. When he got to the K section, he asked his wife, “Baby? What about Keen?” They found out that it meant sharp, interested in and fond of. Ruffalo continued, “She was like, ‘That’s perfect.'”
According to The Sun, Coigney stepped away from being an actress in the spotlight to instead be a stay-at-home mom. She opened a home decor store in 2017 and launched a website called Sunny’s Pop the following year.
Still Going Strong
“I had a woman once tell me, ‘You know, Sunrise, you’ll always get a second chance at your career, but you’ll never get a second chance with your children,'” Coigney said.
She has also shown just how dedicated she is to helping her famous husband during times of need as well as being there for him during times of celebration. According to The Sun, Coigney joined Ruffalo on-screen via zoom when he accepted his Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in 2021. Keen and Odette also made a virtual appearance, cheering on their dad during his acceptance.
Ruffalo and Coigney’s love story dates back to the late 1990s, and it’s clear that there was a connection between them immediately. “I saw her and was like, I’m going to marry that girl,” Ruffalo said, according to The List. However, he still needed to win over Coigney.
“I was living in a converted garage, and she was there for that, she was game,” he explained. Not only was Coigney understanding of Ruffalo’s situation, but she was incredibly supportive of his career decision to become an actor and knew he had what it took to make it big in Hollywood.
Ruffalo said, “She believed in me. She was like, ‘I know you’re a really good actor,’ and I was like, ‘You haven’t really seen me act yet.’ And she was like, ‘I just know it, I can tell.'”
Through all of the ups and downs, Ruffalo and Coigney have stayed together for more than two decades as they near their 22nd wedding anniversary. They have built a supportive relationship and wonderful life together.
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