"You never get over it." The unsolved murder of Mark Ruffalo's brother has shaped his career.


This post discusses mental health and suicide, and may be triggering to some readers.

From a very young age, and throughout his life in the spotlight, Mark Ruffalo has faced unimaginable adversity.

“For a long time, I felt like someone had it in for me,” the 52-year-old told Parade.

“With every new adversity, I protested – almost to God – ‘How much more of this do I have to take?'”

WATCH: In 2018, Mark Ruffalo accidentally spoiled Avengers: Infinity War. Post continues below.

Ruffalo, who was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to parents Frank Lawrence Ruffalo Jr. and Marie Rose Ruffalo in 1967, struggled through many of his schooling years.

Although it was never diagnosed throughout childhood, Ruffalo had undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD, which left him feeling “miserable” throughout school.

“This sounds sappy, but I was always aware of the frailty of human beings, the sorrow in the nature of things,” he told Parade.

“I didn’t know how to live in the world, how to cope. I felt like I didn’t belong.”


At 13 years old, Ruffalo’s family faced bankruptcy.

After his father Frank’s painting business went under, the family were forced to relocate to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where Frank started a new business. When that business went down as well, the family moved once again to a “seedy beach community full of burnouts and meth” in San Diego.

Eventually, after struggling to find work in the beach town, Frank moved back to Wisconsin, leaving his wife Marie and their four children behind.

“Within six months, we went from normal to bankrupt and eliminated as a family,” Ruffalo said.


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At the same time, while Ruffalo’s peers were preparing for life after high school, the teenager spent most of his time smoking, surfing and wandering around aimlessly, in a period he describes as being “just about ready to jump off a bridge”.

When asked about his plans post-graduation, the now Academy Award nominated actor felt “embarrassed” about sharing his dream of becoming an actor, and lied about his plans for the future.

Later in life, Ruffalo was diagnosed with depression, which he has been open about in the past.

“It’s dysthymia. It’s a long-running, low-grade depression all the time,” the actor told Observer in 2015.

“I’ve been struggling with that my whole life. It’s like a low-grade depression that is just running all the time in the background.”

Soon after his father Frank moved back to Wisconsin, Ruffalo, two of his friends, and his younger brother Scott, moved into a small apartment in Los Angeles. It’s a time he remembers as “the best of times, the worst of times”.

In his early 20s, Ruffalo struggled to land roles. In fact, he believes he auditioned for more than 600 roles without hearing anything back. It was a time where the actor often let his anger take over.


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“I was the poster definition of an angry young man with a persecution complex… I was struggling as a young actor, suffering through imagined or real slights from other people’s hands,” he told the New York Daily News.

“There was a time if you came into my apartment, there were pictures and posters hanging in very odd places where they were covering fist holes through walls,” he added.

“Glasses that had been thrown, coffee mugs, books, whatever I could get a hold of.”


But in 1994, the suicide of Ruffalo’s close friend, Michael, changed his outlook on life.

“When he died, it rocked me out of a dark depression,” he recalled.

“The moment he left, I realised that death wasn’t an escape, that suicide wasn’t an answer.”

In the years that followed, Ruffalo slowly began to make a name for himself in Hollywood, appearing in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Suddenly 30, and Zodiac to name a few.


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Happy Anniversary to 13 Going on 30 today! Remember what the world was like when Razzles were all the rage? Missing that time ????

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But in 2001, the actor’s career was briefly put on hold when Ruffalo had a dream that he had developed a brain tumour.

After a CAT scan, Ruffalo was diagnosed with acoustic neroma, a form of brain cancer.

Just weeks after the birth of his eldest son, Keen, Ruffalo had the tumour successfully removed.

Despite the success of the surgery, Ruffalo lost his hearing in his left ear, and half of his face became paralysed.

As a result of the paralysis, which left the actor unable to take on any roles, Ruffalo remained out of the public eye for about a year.

As he chose to keep his condition private, many fans speculated about what may have happened to the 52-year-old.

“I didn’t want any visitors,” he later told New York Magazine.

“I was so unbelievably miserable, and what was worse was people’s reactions to seeing me. It was shattering to them,” he added.

“There were all kinds of rumours about what had happened to me. Drugs, alcoholism, AIDS.”

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Although the chances of Ruffalo regaining control over his face were very slim, the paralysis in his face eventually subsided after a year away from the spotlight. He now remains deaf in his left ear.


In 2008, however, tragic struck once again.

On December 1, 2008, Ruffalo’s brother, 39-year-old Scott, was found with a gunshot wound to his head at his home.

A week after he was shot, Scott died in hospital.

Although the Beverly Hills hairdresser was found with cocaine and morphine in his system, the case was deemed a homicide by police. To this day, his death remains unsolved.

Speaking to Men’s Journal in 2013, Ruffalo opened up about losing his younger brother.

“You never get over it; you just get used to it,” he said.

“You get calloused, a little bit harder maybe, so be on guard for that. But take these tragic things and turn them into something meaningful and worth of the loss. Make it count.”


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Ruffalo has since shared that he has often taken on film roles, such as his role in The Kids Are Alright, as they have reminded him of his brother’s personality.

Following his brother’s death, Ruffalo took a brief break from Hollywood, moving to a home in upstate New York with his wife, Sunrise Coigney, and their three children, Keen, Bella and Odette.

“My brother passing away was the final thing that kicked me over,” Ruffalo told The Telegraph.

“It reminded me that life is short and you’d better do what you want while you have a chance.”

After a brief break from the spotlight, Ruffalo was cast in the highest-grossing Hollywood franchise of all time – the Marvel Cinematic Universe – as Bruce Banner a.k.a The Hulk.

Since then, Ruffalo has starred in a number of Marvel films, the critically acclaimed Spotlight, and Now You See Me.


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The actor and political activist now lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan with his wife and three children.

Feature Image: YouTube/The Graham Norton Show.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

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