Mark Ruffalo was 'really scared' by his “Poor Things” character

Mark Ruffalo was 'really scared' by his “Poor Things” character

The actor wasn't sure he could pull off the physical comedy required for Duncan Wedderburn, but costar Willem Dafoe helped him find his footing.

As the foppish, mustachioed scalawag Duncan Wedderburn, Mark Ruffalo is one of the most entertaining elements of Poor Things. It’s also a refreshing change of pace for the actor after spending much of the past decade in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But in a new interview with EW, Ruffalo admits he was more than a little intimidated when he first read Tom McNamara’s script for Poor Things (adapted from the 1992 novel by Alasdair Gray).

“I thought the script was amazing, but also, it really scared me. I was like, ‘Are you sure this is the part you want me to read for?’” Ruffalo tells EW, in a joint interview with costar Willem Dafoe. “I read it and I was like, ‘I don't know if I could pull this off.’ Gladly, I was proven wrong by Willem.”

<p>Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures</p> Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in 'Poor Things'

Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in 'Poor Things'

Although Ruffalo and Dafoe only share one scene together in Poor Things — when Duncan goes to the house of Dafoe's Dr. Godwin Baxter to help with a legal matter, only to find himself immediately smitten by Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) — they did hang out together a lot on set. Dafoe’s constant encouragement helped soothe Ruffalo’s nerves regarding the more slapstick aspects of his character.

“I haven’t done a lot of comedy,” Ruffalo notes. “But we had this rehearsal and we got to really play and goof off; I found a lot of stuff in there. He was egging me on all the time.”

Dafoe adds, “He was making me laugh all the time!”

Ruffalo continues, “I was a total sucker for it. I just only wanted to make him laugh, and so I was pushing it more and more. He would be like, ‘Okay, you’re really going to do that?’ And I did!”

Another person who helped Ruffalo find his footing as Duncan was costume designer Holly Waddington, who worked with the actor to imbue the character's comical energy into his outfits.

"We had many fittings and worked through a lot of the ideas together,” Waddington tells EW. “I initially had in mind satirical illustrations of powerful men of the 19th English establishment which I had pinned across my reference boards. Often these men have their chests 'pumped' out in the most ridiculous fashion with exaggeratedly arched spines, narrow shoulders, hands on hips, and curvaceous thighs and bottoms. Most interesting to me was that the postures create a sense of pompousness and self-importance.”

Waddington says they played around with body padding to help recreate the posture: “Mark was very game and extremely generous in how much he was willing to explore and play with these ideas.”

After all the workshopping, Waddington streamlined the padding down to a corset and a pair of long johns — which, she says, eagle-eyed viewers can spot in the sex scenes “if you look carefully!”

Poor Things — directed by Yorgos Lanthimos — is playing now in limited release.

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