Award-winning actor Mark Ruffalo has an impressive list of appearances on both the stage and the big screen. It’s understandable, then, that he may have shared projects with other big names in the past. But Ruffalo didn’t know that he once worked on a film with his current fellow superhero Brie Larson.
If you’re a movie buff or a Ruffalo fan, you’re probably familiar with the illustrious actor’s romcom career. Before he became a big name in the Marvel Comics Universe (M.C.U.), Ruffalo was warming romantics’ hearts in feel-good films. In fact, he was the male lead in several such movies during the 2000s.
Long before their Marvel Studios connection, Ruffalo starred alongside Gwyneth Paltrow in 2003’s View From the Top. But this wasn’t the only time that the actor’s past roles have linked him to movies based on comics. Indeed, in 2004 he appeared in 13 Going on 30 alongside female co-star Jennifer Garner.
Garner actually played the Marvel Comics assassin Elektra in 2003’s Daredevil and 2005’s Elektra films. Although she didn’t make it into the modern-day superhero films, another actor from 13 Going on 30 did. It was a memorable experience for Ruffalo, as he told Entertainment Tonight in April 2019.
“We had the sweetest time,” Ruffalo recounted. “[Garner] was a big star then, but I was kind of just starting out. She was just so lovely. We were making this really sweet movie that had a great message for young girls. We were all sort of coming into our own in that moment.”
But although 13 Going on 30’s main cast is common knowledge, its supporting cast is less so. You see, fewer people know that Brie Larson also appeared in the romantic comedy. She played a minor role as one of the Six Chicks, the fictional school’s mean girls who ruled as its popular clique.
It seems, however, that Larson’s presence went under Ruffalo’s radar and that he was unaware they’d shared the film. Of course, that was all before Larson became the star she is today. In fact, the future Captain Marvel wasn’t a big name until her breakthrough TV role in 2009’s United States of Tara.
In a coincidental case of foreshadowing, Larson’s character poses as a superhero within United States of Tara’s universe. Princess Valhalla Hawkwind, as her alter ego is called, even has her own music video. And since then, Larson’s career has gone from strength to strength (literally, in the case of Captain Marvel).
The 2010 cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is another notable role for Larson. She played the titular character’s ex-girlfriend and selfish singer Envy Adams. When she performed the song “Black Sheep” it was a chance for Larson to showcase her vocal talents. And in addition, Scott Pilgrim features another familiar face to Marvel fans.
Larson stars alongside none other than Chris Evans, who went on to play Captain America in the M.C.U. However, the actress’ breakthrough movie role was arguably the 2013 drama movie Short Term 12, where she took the lead. It told the story of a young woman who supervises a house for wayward teens.
For her performance, the Austin Film Critics Association awarded Larson with two awards – Best Actress and Breakthrough Artist. It was perhaps the first time she’d experienced such a level of success on the big screen. But it wasn’t the last, as a later characterization from Larson proved wildly successful among critics and fans alike.
The role in question is Larson’s performance as Joy Newsome in the 2015 drama movie Room. The young actress portrays a woman who gets abducted and imprisoned in an underground shed-turned-prison. Larson’s character raises a child in her tiny world as she tries to free them both from their cell.
As a result of the talent behind Room, the film received a huge list of nominations and awards. Larson herself won several, including an Oscar and Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actress. During her film journey Larson found a passion for empowered female characters, as her portrayal of Captain Marvel demonstrates.
Indeed, the calibre of Larson’s work all but ensured she’d be the perfect addition to the M.C.U. franchise. But how would she fit in alongside an established cast of actors comfortable in their roles? After all, most of them already had several superhero films under their proverbial belts – including the aforementioned Ruffalo.
Although there’d been other movies based on Marvel Comics before, the M.C.U. as we know it began in 2008. The film Iron Man – starring Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow – took box offices worldwide by storm. Prior to the movie, Iron Man was largely unknown as a superhero beyond the comic books.
Iron Man set the standard for M.C.U. movies and featured a post-credit scene hinting at future film crossovers. The Incredible Hulk was released later that same year, with Edward Norton in the titular role. And although it didn’t quite reach the popularity of Iron Man, it was nevertheless thought to be a success.
Downey Jr. reprised his now-signature role as Iron Man in Iron Man 2 in 2010. But the following year continued to introduce new characters to the expanding M.C.U. world. In 2011 the studio hit another home run with the fourth film in its franchise. Specifically, Chris Hemsworth took up the hammer for his breakout role in Thor.
The Thor franchise spawned two inevitable sequels – Thor: The Dark World in 2013 and 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. Each one introduced a host of fan favorite characters, including Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie. It also cemented Hemsworth as the actor worthy enough to take up the mantle for M.C.U.’s big crossover project.
The M.C.U. added its patriotic symbol of heroism just after Thor’s first film with Captain America: The First Avenger. Cap’s appearance – portrayed by Chris Evans – was the studio’s green light for their 2012 culmination of superheroes, The Avengers. However, one face was missing. Edward Norton, who previously played the Hulk, was nowhere to be seen.
In fact, while Marvel negotiated with Norton about his return to the role, the idea ultimately dissolved. Instead, romcom veteran Ruffalo stepped into the Hulk’s large shoes. The casting department had actually considered him for the part prior to Norton. But in any case, Ruffalo now said he was happy to carry the torch from his predecessor.
“I’m a friend of Ed’s,” Ruffalo told Entertainment Weekly in 2010. “The way I see it is that Ed has bequeathed this part to me. I look at it as my generation’s Hamlet.” In addition, Ruffalo has another claim to fame when it comes to the not-so-jolly green giant.
Specifically, Ruffalo is the only actor to play both the Hulk himself and his alter ego Bruce Banner. “I’m really excited,” he gushed. “No one’s ever played the Hulk exactly; they’ve always done C.G.I. They’re going to do the Avatar stop-action, stop-motion capture, so I’ll actually play the Hulk. That’ll be fun.”
Critics loved Ruffalo in the role of Marvel’s mean, green fighting machine and many praised his performance. Indeed, he was so effective that Marvel Studios contracted him for any of its forthcoming Hulk appearances. In addition to The Avengers, Ruffalo showed up as Banner in a 2013 Iron Man 3 cameo and as both alter egos in Thor: Ragnarok.
Furthermore, Ruffalo’s Hulk returned to fight alongside his fellow heroes in the three Avengers sequels. The original Avengers’ box office success wavered only slightly with its 2015 follow-up film, Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, Avengers: Infinity War was the most financially successful superhero movie of 2018.
Avengers: Infinity War won many of its viewers’ hearts by uniting the majority of M.C.U.’s signature superheroes to fight Thanos. Indeed, fans loved seeing the classic members of the Avengers fight alongside some newer faces. These included the likes of Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Spider-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
On the other hand, Avengers: Infinity War also broke hearts by killing off a large portion of its cast. Consequently, the heroes needed some extra firepower to take on Thanos in the eagerly awaited 2019 sequel Avengers: Endgame. And one particular character had it in spades – Captain Marvel, played by M.C.U. newcomer Larson.
Larson’s own movie, Captain Marvel, was released just a month before Endgame to largely positive reviews. It even broke a record for the first female-led movie to gross over a billion dollars worldwide. However, at first Larson was unsure about tackling such an illustrious role as Captain Marvel in the M.C.U.
In the end, Larson decided Captain Marvel would allow her to represent and empower a wider audience of women. So now she’s appearing alongside the surviving heroes in Avengers: Endgame, including the Hulk. So why doesn’t Ruffalo remember Larson from 13 Going on 30? He revealed the truth at the Los Angeles Avengers: Endgame global premiere.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight on the red carpet, Ruffalo spoke about his time in the M.C.U. The interviewer asked if he was his children’s favorite superhero. Ruffalo said, “No, not any more, they’re kind of digging Black Panther more. But they also dig me too.” And he also said that he held off a pre-screening so he could watch Endgame with fans.
“I wanted to see it with an audience, I wanted to be in that experience with you guys,” Ruffalo continued. “That’s when it really means something.” Then Entertainment Tonight questioned the actor about his past connection with Larson – and he seemed surprised there was one. Ruffalo threw back his head and laughed.
Ruffalo’s wife Sunrise Coigney announced that she’d previously discussed the subject with Larson. “Which one is she?” Coigney asked. “She told me she was in the movie, but I didn’t know which one she was, though.” It then seemed like the pair couldn’t wait to see the picture that Entertainment Tonight was to hand them.
Ruffalo quickly spotted Larson out of the line-up and his amusement only increased. “She was a mean girl,” he exclaimed. “Oh my God, that’s amazing! Wow, I didn’t know that, does she talk about that?” Entertainment Tonight informed the actor that not only does Larson still discuss the role, but she considers it to have been an inspirational experience.
Entertainment Tonight continued, “[Larson] said that’s how she learnt she wanted to be a director one day. Because she loved all the stuff going on and she learned she wanted to stay in the business.” It would seem that passion is still with Larson. She’s directed two short films, as well as the Netflix feature Unicorn Store, which she also produced.
Ruffalo, in turn, revealed that he didn’t actually have any scenes with Larson in 13 Going on 30. So they didn’t directly work together and that’s why he can’t remember her being on the project. However, he seemed thrilled by this new connection. And it’s not the only thing they have in common, either.
To be more specific, both Ruffalo and Larson are keen activists in their own right. In Ruffalo’s case, he’s a passionate advocate for environmentalism and is especially vocal against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In fact, his endorsement and promotion of the anti-fracking documentary Gasland led to some misunderstandings.
His involvement resulted in a rumor that the Department of Homeland Security had added Ruffalo to a terror advisory list. But the actor himself denies the allegations. In 2010 he told the Wall Street Journal, “I’ve never been stopped at the airport and I think that the story has snowballed into this incredibly fantastical thing.”
“His name is not in any of our bulletins,” Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency’s representative, Maria A. Smith, added. “There is no list. We never even had a list.” And although Larson hasn’t had quite the same experience, she nevertheless speaks out for what she believes in. For example, she’s a firm believer in gender equality.
Larson supports a wide range of causes that are topical both within the movie industry and outside it. For example, she attended the Women in the World Annual Summit and discussed Hollywood’s gender pay gap. In addition, Larson’s a supporter of the L.G.B.T.Q. community and has challenged President Trump on his transgender rights stance.
The actress is a high-profile supporter of sexual abuse survivors, too. In fact, she stood among the 300 females to create the Time’s Up initiative in 2018. She also appealed for greater diversity among film critics so the industry can hear more voices. Unfortunately, this resulted in an online trolling campaign of Captain Marvel.
So it seems that one of Larson’s main motivations for fame is to reach a wider audience. “I’d put it all on the line and be an activist for the rest of my life,” Larson stated during a Jane Fonda interview for The Edit. “Because it doesn’t feel right to me to be quiet.” That certainly sounds like something Captain Marvel would say.