Mark Ruffalo is best known for his work in films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, You Can Count on Me and his latest hit The Kids Are All Right, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. When he's not working alongside big-name leading ladies (Laura Linney, Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet), he's raising his three kids—Keen, 8, Bella, 5 and Odette, 3—with his wife, Sunrise Coigney, in upstate New York. On Thursday, February 24, Ruffalo was on hand at the New York Public Library's main branch in midtown to promote the National Educational Association's Read Across America Day—it coincides each year with Dr. Seuss's birthday, on March 2. At the Target-sponsored event, Ruffalo (and other celebrities including Uma Thurman and Keri Russell) read their favorite Seuss books to city kids. Ruffalo spoke with Time Out Kids about the importance of reading, his family's favorite city spots and how being a parent has changed his life.
Why did you get involved with Read for America?
Well, I'm raising three kids and it's something I'm right in the middle of. With the budget cuts that are happening across the United States, and the attack on the public school system, it's good to see a company like Target really filling in the gap in the private sector. It's an important program for the whole culture. I've seen how important the love of reading is for my kids, one of whom has some reading issues that he's overcoming. His love for books is really pulling him through. We didn't realize that all those years we had been reading to him, he developed a love for books.
Are the kids big Dr. Seuss fans?
Big. They love The Lorax , even though it's a more adult book.
What other books do they enjoy?
The Boo and Baa series. I've read Boo and Baa in the Woods a million times. My daughter and son both love the Magic Tree House series. We've read The Giving Tree, Treasure Island and a lot of the Caldecott Medal books, too. And now they're getting into Harry Potter and Inkheart. My son reads aloud to practice. He'll read to the girls, which is very inspiring, because we weren't sure if he was going to be able to read. We recently read The Fart Book; they really like that. They think it's hilarious.
Wow! It's great that reading is such a big part of your family's life.
Yes; we try to mitigate the television to one day a week. You have your struggles and there are plenty of moments when you just want to turn on the TV and run away to get a moment. But when you're walking by and the kids are sticking a book in your lap, it's great.
What is it like raising three kids?
It's a lot of work. It's a big thing to do, and it takes a lot of time and patience and focus. It's also fun and very rewarding.
You live in upstate New York. Do you bring the kids to the city often?
We make excursions every couple of months. We go to FAO Schwarz, of course, and run around there. They play with everything and they're allowed to get one thing. We also love the Museum of Modern Art. And the last time we visited, we went to the new space section of the American Museum of Natural History. It's really cool. The planetarium is amazing—that meteorite! My kids were tripping on that. And they have an amazing store there as well. They love Central Park, too. And they're getting to the age where we can start taking them to shows. I took my son to see Awake and Sing! when I was on Broadway a few years back, and he sat there and watched.
You have a pretty big weekend coming up with the Academy Awards. Congratulations on your Best Supporting Actor nomination. What do your children think about all this?
They don't really get it. My son knows that I'm up for an award that's really important to an actor. As I was walking out, he said "Papa, can you tell Tom [our babysitter] to let me stay up and watch?" I said, "Sure, man." But living where we do, most people don't watch the type of movies I'm in, so we lead a very normal life.
That was it like working with Julianne Moore and Annette Bening on The Kids Are All Right?
It was a really good experience. I only worked six days on that movie, but it was a great six days. That was going to be my last acting gig for a long time, but it reminded me of how much I actually like what I do. The business part is a drag, but doing it on that level with an ensemble of great actors is wonderful. I work off other people.
What's next for you?
I'm filming The Avengers starting in May. I play Dr. Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Finally, a movie my kids can watch! My son saw 13 Going on 30, which he really likes, but he's too young to see any of my other movies.
How has being a parent changed your life?
I'm probably not as selfish as I once was. And I've become more patient. Kids are just reflections of who you are. They pick up on all of your bad habits, so you learn a lot more about yourself. I got a lot of gray hair, let me tell you.