Anatomy of a scene: Mark Ruffalo on Spotlight's "It's Time"

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Mark Ruffalo's turn in Spotlight is another reminder of his craft, quiet charisma, and, when it's called for, ability to totally Hulk out. In this scene from Tom McCarthy's Oscar-nominated drama his character, investigative reporter Mike Rezendes, sporting a Bez crop and a none-more-'90s leather jacket, clashes ferociously with his boss, Boston Globe section editor Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton). The former wants the story of widespread child abuse by priests published before rival papers scoop them; the latter is determined to wait until the story's full scope is discovered. It's a classic battle of wills and we asked Ruffalo to talk us through it.

"I’d spoken to Mike [before filming] because I wanted to know what his attitude was to the hierarchy of The Boston Globe. Was he an outsider? Was he somebody who was pushing this story when there might have been resistance because of [the newspaper's] historical position on the story we uncover in the movie? So that's when this moment comes.

I’m not an actor who plans everything out. I fly by the seat of my pants and I like to get as much information about a character beforehand. Mike didn’t tell me what happened here and he was surprised by where the scene went. He wasn’t there when I shot it – he didn’t see it until he saw the movie – and I think it made him uncomfortable. He told me that I’d captured things that he hadn’t told me, [although] I still don’t know what those things are.

That’s when acting gets really exciting - when you don’t know where you’re going to go and you’re discovering it at the same time as the audience. That’s the trick of playing real people so you’re not doing imitations, so it feels alive and spontaneous. It’s what they say: “forget the work”.

I have a very hard time watching myself anyway and you end up seeing a scene like this over and over again [when you're promoting a movie]. I can tolerate it now."