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HomeEntertainmentA Dance with Tragedy: The Incredible Life of Mark Ruffalo

A Dance with Tragedy: The Incredible Life of Mark Ruffalo

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“The Avengers” star Mark Ruffalo had it rough from the cradle. However, through sheer determination, courage, and talent, the lovable actor made it big in his career and overcame his tragic past.

It only took one hit for Hollywood icon, Mark Ruffalo to shoot his way to stardom, taking on the image of Marvel’s Bruce Banner AKA Hulk. Much like his fame, one hit to his health almost sent everything crumbling down.

Having forayed into showbiz in the nineties, Ruffalo gradually climbed the Hollywood ladder until he landed his character-defining role on “The Avengers.”

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Who is Mark Ruffalo?

Mark Ruffalo is an American actor famous for playing Hulk in the Marvel superhero flick, “The Avengers,” and its numerous sequels.

While playing Hulk fast became his most notable gig, his rise to fame began long before that, with movies like “This Is Our Youth,” “You Can Count On Me,” and “13 Going On 30.”

However, his numerous opportunities would have amounted to naught if the actor had not positioned himself in the right state of mind and body to soar higher. Notably, he almost never got those chances.

With a life filled with daunting struggles, health challenges, tragic losses, and a close call with death, it is beyond incredible to imagine that Ruffalo not only lived to tell the tale but has a trail of awards and accolades to sing of his Hollywood successes.

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Faced With Depression From Childhood

Mark Ruffalo hardly remembers a time in his life when he wasn’t alienated, troubled, or aggrieved. Even as far back as his childhood, before he had it all figured out.

The Wisconsin native admittedly dealt with dysthymia, a long-running, low-grade depression as a kid, which followed him well into his adulthood.

During an interview, the actor opened up about his battle with depression, admitting the mental health condition had plagued him his whole life.

Ruffalo always felt alienated in his childhood, but never figured out the reasons, until later in life when he attributed them to undiagnosed ADHD and Dyslexia.

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Jumping Off A Bridge

Those struggles continued into his teenage years when the world expected him to have his future set in stone. 

Watching his peers lay out their big post-graduation plans, Ruffalo only felt more embarrassed as his biggest dream was to become an actor.

Unable to open up to his parents about his true ambitions, the icon spiraled further down into his mental abyss. He began smoking and spent most of his time puffing cigarettes, surfing, or wandering aimlessly.

Admittedly, that period of his life felt like he was about to jump off a bridge. Somewhere along the line, his family moved to Los Angeles, availing him the opportunity to attend classes at Stella Adler Conservatory.

He eventually co-founded the Orpheus Theatre Company, kicking off his acting pursuits.

Developing A Brain Tumor

For Mark Ruffalo, his brain tumor was the health crisis that changed his life as he knew it. He received the disheartening diagnosis while his wife, Sunrise Coigney was pregnant with their first child.

Due to his wife’s condition, the star kept his diagnosis a secret for months. The couple eventually welcomed son Keen in 2001. Weeks later, “The Dentist” star successfully underwent surgery to treat his condition. But that only resulted in more health complications.

Living With Partial Paralysis

Despite being successful, the 54-year-old’s surgery led to the loss of hearing in his right ear. Additionally, one side of his face became completely paralyzed, which spelled doom for his peaking career.

The icon who was filming “The Last Castle,” at the time of his diagnosis admitted his health issues forced him to take a break from acting.

He retreated to his home and lived in self-imposed exile to keep friends, colleagues, and the media from discovering the severity of his condition.

Soon, the harsh realities of being unable to work dawned on him. He tried getting back on the screen by negotiating with director M. Night Shyamalan to include a plot twist to the movie, “Signs” where his character became paralyzed.

However, doctors soon made it clear to the dad of three that working in his condition was not an option, shattering his last hope of returning to the big screen.

He Saw it Coming

Before the health crisis took over, Ruffalo had some sort of premonition, which he credits with his early diagnosis. He once recounted how he dreamt one night that he had a brain tumor.

The dream was unlike anything he had ever experienced, prompting the icon to consult a doctor. A CAT scan confirmed his biggest fears as it detected a brain tumor indeed.

Medical experts diagnosed him with acoustic necroma, also letting him know the treatment came with some risks, including a possibility of developing partial paralysis. The star took his chances and ended up losing cognitive function on one side of his face.

The Long Road To Recovery

Ruffalo learned from the doctors that his chances of regaining motor control of his whole face would become slim after six months of paralysis. His fears heightened when he reached the six-month margin with no improvement.

However, he beat medical odds eventually, as he slowly gained the ability to make very slight movements. The actor admitted to gaining 40 pounds during those excruciating months.

He also experienced a loss of balance resulting from the prescribed drugs and even dropped his newborn son once accidentally. Things like tying knots became huge tasks for him.

After months of acupuncture, countless therapies, herbal therapies, massage, and other forms of treatment, he experienced a dramatic recovery. By then, news of his diagnosis and surgery had made their way into the tabloid.

Tragic Loss

While his numerous health scares contributed to shaping Ruffalo into the legendary actor he became, two important losses in his life take the front seat.

One of his first tastes of grief came with the loss of his best friend, Michael, to suicide. Like himself, Michael was a depressed kid, which fostered their instant connection.

Ruffalo admitted his best friend was the only person he ever knew who was as sad as him and could relate to his plight. Hence, his death served as a turning point for the star. He recalled:

“When he died, it rocked me out of a dark depression. The moment he left, I realized death wasn’t an escape, that suicide wasn’t an answer.”

While the first major loss the legend experienced eased him of his life-long depression, helping him realize the value of life, his second, his brother’s, threatened to take him back into that dark pit. Luckily, he soon scaled through the loss of his brother, as every other challenge life threw at him.

Does Mark Ruffalo Have A Brother?

The actor grew up as one of four kids born to Marie Rose and Frank Ruffalo. He had two sisters and a beloved brother Scott, who became a stylist like their mom.

Sadly, his brother left the earth prematurely, leaving a nick in the actor’s heart. Despite not having a foothold in showbiz, news of his demise rocked the Hollywood media in 2008, leaving the question, “who is Mark Ruffalo’s brother,” and “how did he die?” lingering on many lips.

While answers to the former surfaced in no time, the latter remains a mystery as Scott’s murder remains unsolved to date.

On December 8, 2008, Scott, a 39-year-old hairstylist received a shot in the head at his Beverly Hills condominium. Paramedics found him alive and transported him to a hospital, where he died a week later.

Investigators ruled his death as a homicide, and not a Russian roulette mishap as initially believed. Two people, Shaha Mishaal Sdham and her boyfriend Brian Sofield were investigated as possible witnesses. However, the case reached a dead end when Adham passed away in 2012.

Coping With The Loss

Ruffalo spent years trying to come to terms with the loss, almost losing his faith in humanity. Following Scott’s demise, the star took a break from Hollywood, admitting the loss acted as a final thing that kicked him over.

Armed with the realization that life was short, the actor fired his agent and publicist, took his wife and three kids, and relocated to a secluded home in New York. But he soon retraced his Hollywood roots.

Having endured so much, the icon emerged stronger, and more equipped with important lessons to help him navigate life. 

He now considers his tumor as a blessing, as it helped him see a new perspective, and figure out exactly what he wanted from his life and career.

Years later, he is a highly sought-after actor, with hundreds of movie credits and the recipient of numerous awards including the Emmys, Screen Actors’ Guild, and the Golden Globes among others.

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