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Ahmed Rashid on the Benazir Bhutto Assassination

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, a regular guest on Fresh Air, returns to discuss developments in Pakistan, where former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto died after an attack at a political rally that also killed at least 20 others. Bhutto recently had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile to challenge President Pervez Musharraf for the country's leadership. Ahmed Rashid covers Pakistani politics and culture for various Western publications; he has written extensively about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country.


Other segments from the episode on December 27, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 27, 2007: Interview with Ahmed Rashid; Interview with Mark Ruffalo; Review of the album "Maria Callas: The Complete Studio Recordings."


DATE December 27, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Ahmed Rashid comments on the assassination of former
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

As soon as we heard about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto this morning we
called Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist who has written extensively about
politics in his country and about Islamic extremism in Pakistan, Afghanistan
and Central Asia. We've spoken with him several times about President
Musharraf and the parliamentary election for which Bhutto had returned after
eight years of self-imposed exile. She hoped to become prime minister, a
position she held twice in the past.

At the rally in which she was assassinated she spoke about the risks she faced
during her campaign, saying `I put my life in danger and came here because I
feel this country is in danger. People are worried. We will bring the
country out of this crisis.' Less than two hours after she was killed, we
recorded a brief conversation with Ahmed Rashid from his home in Lahore,
Pakistan, where it was about 8 PM.

Ahmed Rashid, did you ever expect that this would happen? I know that you
knew that Benazir Bhutto was in danger, but did you think she'd actually be

Mr. AHMED RASHID: I think nobody in Pakistan wanted to believe that such a
thing could happen even though, of course, the fear was always there. When
she returned to Pakistan three months ago there was a horrible bomb blast in
which 140 people were killed. But people even then didn't want to accept the
fact that maybe that was an assassination attempt. People thought that maybe
that bomb blast was there to scare her off from fighting the election. But
clearly what has happened today has been a very well planned and thought out
assassination attempt using a combination of a sniper and one or two suicide

And it has left a devastation in the country. People are grief stricken.
People are in shock. There is severe rioting taking place as I speak in
Lahore and right in...(unintelligible)...and right across the country as
people burn government vehicles and attack government buildings. So there's a
very, very severe reaction to her death.

GROSS: What are likely to be the short- and long-term consequences of the

Mr. RASHID: Well, I think the short-term consequences are most likely to be
the cancellation of the elections on the 8th of January in which Benazir
Bhutto was a candidate. And there could well be the declaration of some kind
of martial law or emergency tonight because of the chaos that is griping the
country. And we have to remember that we're only...(unintelligible). Several
of her party stalwarts have died with her and there's going to be a funeral
followed by 40 days of mourning. So I don't think the military is going to
take the risk of leaving the country to...(unintelligible)...without a much
tougher kind of regime while all this takes place and all this grief is

I think in the long term, it's very difficult to say what is going to happen.
If there is a military regime under Musharraf, General Pervez Musharraf, I
really don't think people are going to accept that. And we could see a, down
the road perhaps, another military coup and the ousting of President
Musharraf. I don't think people are going to accept a second martial law
emergency under Musharraf.

We should remember that Musharraf carried out an emergency order November 3rd,
thereafter which he sacked the senior judges. He curbed the media. He threw
something like 10,000 people into jail. While he just lifted that emergency a
week or earlier so that these general elections could be held on January the
8th. And despite the lifting of the emergency there are
still...(unintelligible)...from the judiciary...(unintelligible)...from the
media. But the political parties were going along with the elections.

GROSS: This assassination is a terrible thing for Pakistan. What are some of
the other ways it's likely to reverberate in the country and be really, you
know, bad for the country?

Mr. RASHID: Well, I think obviously there's going to be enormous
international concern because Pakistan is on the front line of terrorism, the
battle against al-Qaeda; the Pakistani Taliban have been making enormous
headway in the northern areas of Pakistan in recent weeks. And they will be
celebrating this assassination, and they will no doubt in the next few days be
taking advantage of it by launching more offenses against the army. There is
enormous concern in the last few weeks also about Pakistan's nuclear weapons
and the control of it, and who is in control of them. There's enormous
concern about political stability given the fact that we were heading towards
this election which was supposed to restore some kind of democracy. All these
questions will now be raised afresh and anew with, I think, much greater
trepidation than there was before.

GROSS: What do you expect you'll be doing tomorrow?

Mr. RASHID: Well, tomorrow obviously, you know, people will be--there will
be the funeral. Benazir's husband is arriving from his exile in Dubai. We
don't know if the children are coming with him. Her funeral is going to be
obviously a very, very emotional event. She will be taken no doubt to her
home village...(unintelligible)...her father and her grandfather are buried.
And the population in that area are absolutely very, very close to the family
and there's going to be very, very strong emotional themes there, no doubt.

GROSS: Will journalists be able to report openly on what happened to Benazir
Bhutto and what is happening in response to that, or is there still a lot of
censorship now?

Mr. RASHID: Well, there have been very severe media restrictions even now.
(Unintelligible)...the army has banned all live broadcasts. What has happened
tonight with this assassination are that all the local media channels are
actually broadcasting live right from the rally where she was assassinated and
they're broadcasting from the hospital where she was taken for operation.
Now, we don't know quite what is going to happen tomorrow. I mean, will there
be live broadcasting of her funeral, for example, will the government allow
that to happen? Or will there be very severe, even severer
restrictions...(unintelligible)...the night.

GROSS: Thank you so much for talking with us. I know you're really busy
right now. We'll let you go. Thank you, Ahmed Rashid.

Mr. RASHID: Thank you very much, indeed.

GROSS: Journalist Ahmed Rashid spoke to us from his home in Lahore, Pakistan.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Actor Mark Ruffalo on his new film, "Reservation Road,"
previous films "In The Cut," "You Can Count On Me," recovering
from brain surgery, being a father, acting and the human condition

This week we're featuring a holiday series retrospective of some of our
favorite interviews with actors and musicians from 2007. Today we have an
interview with Mark Ruffalo. He starred or co-starred in such films as "My
Life Without Me," "We Don't Live Here Anymore," "Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind," "Collateral," "Zodiac" and "Reservation Road."

He was discovered by critics and audiences in the 2000 film "You Can Count on
Me" in which he played Laura Linney's troubled brother. We'll start with that

This is written by Kenneth Lonergan, who was a playwright and screenwriter,
and you had worked with him before the movie.

Mr. MARK RUFFALO: That's right.

GROSS: And you star with Laura Linney. You play two siblings who, as
children, were orphaned when their parents were in a car accident. And you
develop in very different ways. She becomes this kind of stable single
mother, you know, raising her child in as good a home as she can manage on
her, you know, job in the local bank. Whereas you, you're really like
troubled, you're lost, you're drifting, you're broke and you're needy. And
you come to see your sister for the first time in a long time, and this is a
scene where you're meeting at a restaurant after not seeing each other for a
long time, and you make a confession to her.

(Soundbite of "You Can Count on Me")

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) I actually got to confess to you, Sammy,
that the reason that you may not have heard from me for a while is that I've
been unable to write on the account of the fact that I was in jail for a
little while.

Ms. LAURA LINNEY: (As Sammy) You were what?

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) I served a little time, I guess, down in
Florida. It's just for some...(word censored by station).

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) What?

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) It was for bull...(word censored by

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) What did you do?

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) I didn't do anything. Does it occur to you
that maybe I was wronged?

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) No!

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) Well, could you please let me...

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) Oh my God!

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) Could you please let me tell you what

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) What happened?

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) I got into a fight in a bar down in
Florida, which I was not the one who instigated it at all. Then they worked
up all this bull...(word censored by station)...against me and they threw in
the pen for three months, and I didn't write you because I didn't want you to
get all upset about it. I just figured that you would figure I was on the
road for a little while. It was stupid; I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you

But you want to know what? I can't run around doing stuff or not doing stuff
because it's going to make you worry. Because then I come back here, I tell
you about my...(word censored by station)...traumas and I get this wounded
little `I've let you down' bull...(word censored by station)...over and over
again. It just cramps me. I just want to get out from under it. Yeah, back
into...(censored by station)...I'm explaining myself to you again.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) Can you please stop cursing at me?

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) I realize that I'm in no position to
basically say anything ever, but it's not like I'm down there in some redneck
bar in Florida, I'm having an argument with some stripper's boyfriend and I
suddenly say to myself, `Hey, this would be a great time to really stick it to
Sammy and get myself locked up for a few months.'

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) Hey!

(Soundbite of clinking)

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) You don't write me for six months, I don't know where
you are!

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) Sorry.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) I don't know if you're alive or dead, and then

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) I'm sorry.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Sammy) You show up out of nowhere, you tell me you were in

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Terry Prescott) I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Sammy.
I'm really sorry.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney in a scene from "You Can Count on

That's a really great scene. And that's also really early in your film
career, right?

Mr. RUFFALO: Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah. You just kind of captured a certain, like, you know, like,
defensive, lost, depressed kind of speech in that.

Mr. RUFFALO: It's almost like, it's an iconoclastic modern brokenness.

GROSS: Modern brokenness, exactly. Can you talk about, like, getting to that
place, doing that scene?

Mr. RUFFALO: You know, it was introduced to me months, a year before, as a
one-act play...


Mr. RUFFALO: ...that Kenny gave to me. I had no idea it was part of a
movie, and we did it for a little one-act play festival. And I was so turned
on by the material. It spoke to my youth, people I grew up with, a certain
ennui and lost, these very clever, smart sort of gifted kids who just lost
belief. And I saw them all around me. And it was sad, because they were, in
many ways, stellar, and also--but somehow lost their heart along the way. And
they were different than the kids who were straight-A students, and like the
really well-behaved kids, like the perfect kids who were like the models at
that time. And these kids were much more interesting, much more original,
much more alive in so many ways, but had somehow lost faith somewhere along
the way.

And that was a big--it felt like a big part of my generation from where I came
from, you know? And they were the punk rockers and the artsy people and so on
and so forth. And so...

GROSS: Did you feel like you were in that category yourself?

Mr. RUFFALO: I was sort of on the edge of it. I didn't have the sort of
courage to rebel as loudly and deeply as they did, but I was in it enough to
witness it. And all of those `uhs,' `you knows,' `you, like,' `I mean,' `it's
just,' you know, all of that was written exactly--is spoken exactly as Kenny
Lonergan wrote it. He was a stickler for it. And he was able to capture a
whole sort of patois of a certain aspect of my generation.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RUFFALO: And as I've traveled around, all my travels, people are like,
`That was my brother. That's me and my brother. That's the way my'--you
know, it seems like it's very American in its nature.

GROSS: My guest is actor Mark Ruffalo. We'll talk more after a break. This


GROSS: My guest is actor Mark Ruffalo. His films include "You Can Count on
Me," "In the Cut," "We Don't Live Here Anymore," "Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind," Collateral," "Zodiac" and "Reservation Road."

Why don't we hear a scene from "In the Cut" and, you know, there's this kind
of like sexual mutilation murders...

Mr. RUFFALO: Yeah.

GROSS: ...and you're investigating them. And one of the body parts is found
in front of a beautiful college professor's home, and in investigating her you
also become very flirtatious with her and involved with her.

Mr. RUFFALO: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Let's hear a scene. And she's played by Meg Ryan.

(Soundbite of "In the Cut")

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Detective Malloy) You don't remember anything, didn't see
anything, didn't hear anything, no cries in the night?

Ms. MEG RYAN: (As Frannie) No. I don't remember seeing or hearing anything
unusual and I sleep with the windows open.

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Detective Malloy) Mm-hmm? You do that a lot?

(Soundbite of things being shuffled)

Ms. RYAN: (As Frannie) Can you tell me how it happened?

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Detective Malloy) Her throat was cut and then she was
disarticulated. Here's my card. My number's there. If you're going to
remember anything, give me a call, all right?

(Soundbite of footsteps)

Mr. RUFFALO: (As Detective Malloy) Do I know you from someplace?

Ms. RYAN: (As Frannie) I don't know.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Mark Ruffalo and Meg Ryan in a scene from "In the Cut."

So what impact did this film have on you after hours?

Mr. RUFFALO: Oh, that was a really interesting time.

GROSS: Well, let's explain a little bit, if you don't mind my mentioning it,
this was a period--I believe this is the period--you had had a benign brain

Mr. RUFFALO: That's correct.

GROSS: And had surgery for that, and had a, you know, an extended period of
recovery, and I think this was the movie you made first afterwards.

Mr. RUFFALO: Yes, there was a movie called "My Life Without Me" with Sarah
Polley that I did just before this.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. OK.

Mr. RUFFALO: I had a, you know, a sort of co-starring part in that, but it
was really her film. And then this was my next kind of big jump back into
acting after, you know, many months of, you know, these kind of side effects
and complications from the surgery. And I was very nervous. You know, they
go and they tinker around in your head and it leaves you slightly disoriented.
And any illness--I think I could speak for a lot of people--when you recover
from something like that, it leaves you a little--it sort of does a number on
your confidence. And you see your sort of--your mortality. And so I had fear
that maybe I had lost my ability to act. After brain surgery, you're kind
of--you're confused, it takes a long time. There's some cognitive
dysfunctions and all that sort of thing.

And I was very nervous, but also very desperate. Because, you know, you fall
out of the Hollywood scene, and I really felt like I'd fallen between the
cracks, and I was having a hard time getting work and even getting people to
meet with me. And, you know, by providence, I got a call from Jane Campion
that, at the time, was casting "In the Cut," and, you know, I'd put on 40
pounds from steroids that I was given to recover, and I went in and I met Jane
Campion and talked about the script. And it ended up terrifying me, but I
also felt very passionate about what I could do with it. And I was also very
raw and desperate and kind of vulnerable. And she reacted to that. And then
she basically, after three hours of discussing the part and arguing about the
part in certain places, you know, she asked me to do it.

GROSS: You know, one of the things I imagine must've been strange doing the
part after this period of recovery is, I mean, when you're not feeling well,
you don't really want to be seen.


GROSS: You know, you feel vulnerable, you feel kind of broken, and you feel
kind of, you know, cut off from the rest of the world in some ways.

Mr. RUFFALO: Yes. Yes.

GROSS: And to go from that into like being on a large screen, you know, blown
up super sized, with people paying attention to your every gesture, you know,
every eye blink, it's such a completely different frame of mind. It must be
so difficult to go from the vulnerable recovery one to the like, `I am on
screen' version.

Mr. RUFFALO: Thrust in.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. RUFFALO: Yes, thrust right in to the world stage, kind of. Yeah, and in
a way a lot of that actually worked for the part.


Mr. RUFFALO: I mean, he's not exactly--he isn't a vulnerable guy, but there
was something that was edgy and dangerous about me at that time. And very
frightened. And a lot of that sort of, I think, manifested itself in that
performance, which I'm really--you know, at risk of sounding egotistical--I'm
really proud of that performance, you know?

GROSS: Oh, you should be. It's a very good performance.

Mr. RUFFALO: Well, thank you. Thank you very much. And so it meant so much
to me on so many different levels that that succeeded. It was sort of my
chance to come back, it was a chance to break away from my "You Can Count on
Me" role, Terry Prescott, which kind of broke my career.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RUFFALO: I mean, broke me out. It gave me a chance to prove myself as a
man and to prove myself as a character actor, which is the tradition that I
come from. So it had an enormous amount of immediacy and almost a desperation
about it that I think really sort of makes that piece special.

GROSS: Mark Ruffalo recorded in October. We'll hear more of the interview in
the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with actor Mark Ruffalo. His
movies include "You Can Count on Me," "In the Cut," "We Don't Live Here
Anymore," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Collateral," "Zodiac" and
"Reservation Road."

You know, your career actually got off to a pretty slow start, right? You
were a bartender for nine years while you were trying to act.

Mr. RUFFALO: Yeah.

GROSS: So what was one of the highlights of your bartending years? What was
one of the most difficult incidents you had to handle?

Mr. RUFFALO: I had a friend of mine start a fight in a bar, and it was
mostly--all the highlights were the bar fights, really. Those were sort of
the man-making moments of a pacifist, a peace-lover, a peacenik like myself.
And, you know, I went into bartending very timid and very afraid, and I walked
out of it a little bit more of a man.

GROSS: What's a fight? Did you have to actually break up fights yourself?

Mr. RUFFALO: I had one--I mean, one guy like really started to get physical
with somebody, and I don't know why I did this, but I just--he was much bigger
than me, and I really knew the--I immediately just--I basically grabbed his
windpipe and dragged him out of the bar. And, you know, he was threatening to
kill me and all these things, and it was really out of control. And it was
terrifying to me, but I was, you know, it was just one of those moments where
something else kicks in that's survival-oriented. But it was horrible, as
well, and I didn't like that I did that, and I sort of, you know--and I didn't
hurt him ultimately, but it did stop him immediately, and it stopped this
whole very--what was turning into an incredibly ugly bar fight.

GROSS: Did the fact that you could do that give you confidence that you could
handle roles as, for instance, cops?

Mr. RUFFALO: It opened up this thing that, yeah, that I had, I could handle
myself in that situation. You know, I got into a fight when I was a little
kid, and it must've only lasted a couple of minutes, but it felt like an
eternity, and I hated every second of it, and I was very terrified of
confrontation from that moment on. And then here I am as a young actor
struggling and closed down to--fearful of confrontation, which all modern
drama is based on.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. RUFFALO: And I was able to sort of break through it, you know, and
actually, I felt like, `OK, you know what? I have that in me. I mean, I can
do that. I can play those parts. I can access that.' You know?

GROSS: So that bartender thing was a good experience for you in the long run?

Mr. RUFFALO: Well, I mean, it was--you know, the whole bartending thing was
the last place, you know, I'm reading, you know, I'm reading Rilke and, you
know, and Pablu Neruda's love poems and then going in this really
rough-and-tumble bar every night and doing a play and passing out my little
playbills. And, you know, with all these guys, some of them were heroin
addicts, some of them were just like never read a book in their lives, you
know, and here I was straddling these two worlds. And it was very tough. I
mean, a guy got killed outside our door one night, a gangster, and there was
some retribution. We were asked to wear bulletproof vests and...


Mr. RUFFALO: You know, it couldn't have been, in many ways, more of like a
crash course in just a macho, manly world of testosterone.

GROSS: Now, I think you started a theater company, the Orpheus Theatre, is
that right?

Mr. RUFFALO: Yeah, that's right. Me and a group of young actors that I went
to acting school with all got together and we were at the Stella Adler
Conservatory, and they had the school stage sitting empty every night, and so
I went to the administrator and I said, `Listen, I want to start a theater
company. We should be able to work out, you know, these tools that we've been
given.' And so we were given Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights on the
stage, and that was kind of the beginning of what would be my Los Angeles
theater career.

GROSS: So what was the focus of the kind of theater you wanted to do?

Mr. RUFFALO: We were doing mostly some Chekhov, we did "Long Day's Journey
into Night," we did some Tennessee Williams. They were kind of American
modern classics, some of them, and then we'd, you know, try and dabble with
some Shakespeare. But a lot of it was the stuff that Stella was sort of
teaching at the time, which was a lot of the American classics or world
classics, the modern classics.

GROSS: It must be great to start your own theater company, because that way
you can--it's a small group and you give yourself parts. You decide what you
want to be and you give yourself parts.

Mr. RUFFALO: Yeah, I mean...

GROSS: You're not dependent on somebody else to confer acting on you.

Mr. RUFFALO: Exactly. And I could do a $5,000 production, a $2,000
production of...(unintelligible). So I could do a $2,000 production of
"Waiting for Godot." And no one came.

GROSS: But you got the experience.

Mr. RUFFALO: Yes. But I got to play some of the greatest parts for a young
actor in, you know, the history of world theater. So that was, you know, I
worked it out on a stage in front of a very, very, very, very, very small
group of people.

GROSS: My guest is Mark Ruffalo. We'll talk more after a break. This is


GROSS: My guest is actor Mark Ruffalo. His films include "You Can Count on
Me," "In the Cut," "We Don't Live Here Anymore," "Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind," "Collateral," "Zodiac" and "Reservation Road."

You know, a little earlier when we were talking, you were talking about "You
Can Count on Me" and "In the Cut" as being the movies that you made after
emerging from an extended period of recovery after having surgery for a benign
brain tumor. Would you mind if I just asked you a couple of questions about
that period?

Mr. RUFFALO: No, shoot.

GROSS: What were some of the things you had to regain when the surgery was

Mr. RUFFALO: Well, certainly balance was immediate. I lost my hearing in my
left ear, and so my balance was completely shot. You know, so I was
falling--it was actually comical, I was just falling down all the time for the
first couple of months. Walk a few steps, fall down. And then, you know,
every hour you're under anesthesia they say it's a month of recovery, so
that's 10 months right there. And they say you have cognitive dysfunctions,
which, you know, can be simple things like finding your way home from one side
of Washington Square to the other, which I got lost doing one night.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RUFFALO: And just, you know, kind of abstract sort of processes. These
kind of abstract creative ideas seem to get a little muddled, as well. So
there was a time of kind of getting myself back, you know, getting your sense
of self, sense of independence, sense of, you know, I had to completely
basically give my life over to my wife at the time.

GROSS: What about things like facial expressions that are so important in
your acting?

Mr. RUFFALO: Ah, yes. Well, during the course, I had--of recovery--my face
miraculously became paralyzed on the left side of my face.


Mr. RUFFALO: And no one seemed to really know exactly why that was
happening. They pretended like they did for a little while, and then slowly
but surely I caught on to the fact that they had no more of an idea than I
did. And they tried a bunch of different things and it didn't seem to be
coming back, and, you know, there was some speculation that it wasn't going to
come back at all, or it was only going to come back 20, 30 percent. And as an
actor just starting my career, that was pretty devastating news. With a
newborn and recently married and, you know, everything ahead of me in so many
ways. And so a big part of the recovery was praying, hoping, going to
healers, doing all kinds of therapies.

GROSS: Did the tumor and the period of recovery force you to change certain
patterns of behavior or ways of acting that you wouldn't have otherwise given
up, but in the long run like you're happy you were forced to change?

Mr. RUFFALO: Yeah, I mean, I was someone who's always prone to deep, deep
depressions, and those seemed to come to an end. I mean, the length of them
certainly did. And that's something that I'm very grateful for. Also...

GROSS: You don't get them anymore?

Mr. RUFFALO: I get them. Man, believe me, I get them--but I don't slide
down the well the way I used to.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RUFFALO: And I just learned to appreciate acting in a way that I didn't
really understand what it meant to me at that time.

GROSS: What does it mean to you different now than it did earlier?

Mr. RUFFALO: It's kind of my way to be fully realized as a human being, I
feel like. You know, it's my relationship to the world that's just going to,
you know, make my life sort of as full as it could possibly be.

GROSS: Were you afraid, after you recovered, that other, like casting
directors wouldn't believe that you were fully recovered and they'd be afraid
to hire you?

Mr. RUFFALO: Well, I heard someone was like, `We heard you had AIDS. We
heard you were in rehab. We heard you're an alcoholic.' I mean, it just went
on and on and on. And, yeah, I mean, you're damaged goods. You know, even
today, I don't like to talk about it. But because it's you, Terry, I will.

GROSS: I appreciate that.

Mr. RUFFALO: Because I know you'll handle it well. You know, there's a
perception in our culture where, if you're ill, you're damaged. You go to the
damaged goods box.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RUFFALO: With the, you know, with the toys, the misfit toys. And that
was frightening to me. And also people sensationalize these things into
making it, `Oh! It's the actor with the brain tumor!'

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RUFFALO: And I'm not the actor with the brain tumor. I'm much more than
that. And any person who's been ill is much more than simply their illness,
so yeah. And it took a long time to--it didn't take as long as I thought it
was going to, but it took a long time to sort of get back into the groove that
I was in before the brain tumor.

GROSS: There's some roles that you've had in the past few years that are more
kind of, like, the existential guy, the guy who, you know--I'd say this maybe
even about like "Zodiac," you know, the detective that you play.

Mr. RUFFALO: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: He's kind of obsessed and everything, but there's a distance from
emotion, a fatalistic quality, accepting that life is dark and difficult and
that that's just the way it is.

Mr. RUFFALO: Well, someone who's much brighter than me--and I'm going to rip
off his quote--`the joyful participation in the sorrows of the living,' that's
Joseph Campbell. And, you know, I don't know why I see that, but I have a lot
of empathy for the human race...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RUFFALO: ...and its march through time and its connection to suffering
and hardship and difficulties, as well as joy and, you know, the beautiful
things in life. And there's something very poetic to me about that. And so
maybe I'm attracted to that when I see it. You know, it's something that I'm
always slightly aware of.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RUFFALO: You know, there's just the epoch nature of our existence, you
know, that spans many, many, many, many decades, centuries, where the human
experience is universally sort of riddled with difficulty and exaltation. And
so part of me poetically sees that. So, maybe that's--and I admire it, and I
revel in it in a way. And so maybe that's, you know, maybe that's what you
pick up on in some of the work, maybe.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Now, here's just a completely different question.


GROSS: I know your mother is or was a hairdresser and you have a couple of
siblings who became hairdressers.

Mr. RUFFALO: Yes. Yeah.

GROSS: So when you're getting like your hair and makeup done for a role, can
you converse with the person doing it on a real, like, technical level because
you grew up with it?

Mr. RUFFALO: They hate me, because, like, OK, `You know what? Get the
thinning shears out. That probably--I'd go with the quarter-inch thinning
shears here, right up in here, just to like--actually, just give them to me,
I'll do it.' And, I mean, I know they hate me. And, you know, it would be
like me giving people line readings, I think, a director giving an actor a
line reading. I grew up in it, I watched it, I've been around it. And I've
had many, many, many, many, many, many haircuts. So it's kind of funny. I
know when I work on a movie I end up, at some point, cutting my own hair, to
everyone's horror, you know.

GROSS: What movies have you done your own hair for?

Mr. RUFFALO: I cut my hair for "In the Cut."

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. RUFFALO: I cut my hair for "Eternal"--the more kind of...

GROSS: You had a mustache on "In the Cut," too.

Mr. RUFFALO: Yeah, that's right. (Unintelligible).

GROSS: Was that your idea?

Mr. RUFFALO: Yeah, I wanted it, and there was a lot of fighting going back
and forth between Jane and the producer, like, `Nobody likes a man with a
mustache.' And I was like, `He has to have a mustache.'

GROSS: Why does he have to have a mustache?

Mr. RUFFALO: I was hiding behind it, you know?

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. RUFFALO: It was my disguise, I think, to be able to inhabit that guy
without being self-conscious, I think, maybe.

GROSS: So you think you needed it more than he needed it?

Mr. RUFFALO: Probably, yeah. And then, you know, "Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind," which is a pretty wild hairdo.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RUFFALO: I cut that, too. I mean, and eventually someone else comes and
cleans up the mess I make, but those were some.

GROSS: Well, Mark Ruffalo, it's really been great to talk with you. I really
like your acting.

Mr. RUFFALO: You, too.

GROSS: Thanks so much.

Mr. RUFFALO: Thank you, Terry. It's a real pleasure and honor to talk to

GROSS: Mark Ruffalo recorded in October of 2007.

Tomorrow we'll continue our holiday week series featuring some of our favorite
interviews from 2007 with actors, filmmakers and musicians. We'll hear from
Nancy Cartwright, who does the voice of Bart Simpson and Al Jean, an executive
producer of "The Simpsons" TV show and a writer and producer of "The Simpsons

Coming up next, Lloyd Schwartz reviews a 70 CD box set. Who merits such a
massive compilation? Maria Callas. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Lloyd Schwartz on the 70-disc box set "Maria Callas: The
Complete Studio Recordings"

Even 30 years after the death of soprano Maria Callas at the age of 53, not
only have her recordings remained in print but new material has continued to
surface. EMI is commemorating its 30th anniversary by issuing and re-issuing
what classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz considers some significant early
recordings and videos. Here's Lloyd's review.

Mr. LLOYD SCHWARTZ: No single performance can ever quite capture a great
artist's full range. But Maria Callas' range was so great that it takes a
70-disc collection to tell the story. "Maria Callas: The Complete Studio
Recordings" is the a digitally remastered set at a bargain price of every
complete opera Callas ever recorded, four of them twice at opposite ends of
her career, plus all her recital CDs arranged in the order she made them,
which is especially revealing given the way her voice, like her physical
appearance, kept changing. You can hear her artistry deepening as her vocal
limitations increased.

The very best recording I know of "Aida"'s complex "Ritorna Vincitor!" is one
Callas made quite late in her career--and by accident. During a break in a
difficult recording session someone played a tape of another soprano singing
this aria. `This is not Verdi or "Aida,"' she exclaimed. `Come on, Nicola,'
she said to the conductor, `let's sing it.' I can't think of a more powerful
depiction of a character torn apart by inner conflict.

Ms. MARIA CALLAS: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. SCHWARTZ: Callas demonstrated a profound understanding of human
suffering whether depicting innocent victims or characters who cause their own
grief. But these recordings also prove her to be a master of comic timing and
mercurial mood swings. In some of her best roles--Carmen is a memorable
example--she can be simultaneously tragic and comic.

Ms. CALLAS: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. SCHWARTZ: Callas started to record in 1949 when she was a hefty
25-year-old and her big, blossoming voice could handle just about anything.
She astounded the opera world by singing exquisite coloratura and heroic
Wagner within the same week.

But what made Callas legendary was her unique ability to inhabit a role, to
become the character she was singing, which is why hearing all her recordings
is so amazing. No singing voice ever had a more astonishing variety of color
and inflection. And on a new DVD compilation, "The Eternal Callas," you can
actually watch her uncanny ability to change character. As Carmen she tilts
her head back, juts out her jaw, lets an ironic knowing smile flicker across
her lips and defies you to resist her. Yet in the same concert--same hairdo,
same evening gown--her face, her look is completely different, contrite yet
still proud as Verdi's Princess Eboli who curses the fatal gift of her own

Ms. CALLAS: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. SCHWARTZ: This DVD mostly recycles material previously available. But
there's a special bonus, the first commercial release of a rediscovered 1957
New Year's Eve telecast from Rome of Callas singing "Casta Diva" the druid
priestess Norma's fervent invocation to the moon. You can hear the
trance-like devotion in her voice and see every nuance of that devotion on
Callas' radiant face.

We're lucky recordings and videos document her career so thoroughly. Thirty
years after her too-early death these ambitious new releases are a great
reminder of how much she had to give.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix and
teaches English at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He reviewed EMI's
"Maria Callas: The Complete Studio Recordings" and the DVD "The Eternal


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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