Mark Ruffalo tells me he has, until now, kinda shied away from playing the villain of the piece. He licks his lips as he declares that it’s “so much fun to finally get to play the bad guy.”
He refers, of course, to his Duncan Wedderburn, the calculating cad of the first water he plays with zest in Yorgos Lanthimos’ delicious movie Poor Things.
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“The bad ones are the best and I was scared of it,” he tells me at Saturday’s BAFTA Tea Party, set on a mammoth, chilly terrace at The Maybourne Beverly Hills.
As I toyed with Ruffalo’s thesis in my head, I was unable to conjure any roles he’s played that were, hitherto, downright dastardly. His Bruce Banner stroke the Hulk in the Marvel movies is essentially decent, as was Mike Rezendes the crusading journalist he portrayed in the Oscar-winning Spotlight.
Ruffalo shakes his head and says, “I really didn’t think I could do it. Being a bad person on screen, breaking whatever expectations. It’s such a flashy part and I had never really dug my teeth into anything like that — and man was it freeing and liberating and just joyfully wicked!”
He says it was never a case of avoiding such roles. ”Nobody asked me to do them and so this is the one time where they saw me in a part I don’t think many people would have possibly seen me in. It’s not so much avoiding it, they don’t really come my way. Now they will, hopefully.”
He laughs, agreeing that he’ll be begging to play a nice guy again. ”From one extreme to the next.”
Indeed, he plays “another f*cking psychopath,” he says, in Bong Joon Ho’s Mickey 17, due for release in March.
“This guy’s like a nasty dictator, fascist, narcissist; we know the type!”
Ruffalo explains that the Mickey 17 character’s a commander of a colonizing outer space excursion. “He’s as bad as any of these a**holes running around today.”
He loves playing such parts, he tells me. ”It’s a whole new era.”
Next up is an FBI agent for HBO in Task, a miniseries from Brad Ingelsby and Jeremiah Zagar.
He plays a good guy “but complicated,” he says. “He’s badly damaged but fighting for good.”
The character’s the head of an investigation that involves murder and kidnapping. Cameras roll in March.
Task is in the “same universe, it’s in Philly,” as Ingelsby’s award-winning Mare of Easttown, the blockbuster of a drama that starred Kate Winslet as a homicide detective. “At some point those two might run into each other in the future, that’s what they’re saying. It’s not set, nothing’s set,” he adds.
“The writing’s amazing. Now let’s see if I can do it,” he says.
I can see all these people vying for my attention, but my eye alights on Andrea Riseborough and her partner Karim Saleh.
“I think you maybe got my makeup on your face,” Riseborough says as she directs me to where her blush has brushed off on me as we hugged.
The air embrace is tricky because if one’s off by an eighth of an inch, one can be covered in all manner of glitter.
Seeing Riseborough reminds me that she also has a Winslet connection, though more directly than Ruffalo fantasizing about their Ingelsby characters meeting up.
Riseborough appears with Winslet in the Ellen Kuras film Lee and in the Stephen Frears HBO drama The Regime.
She also appears opposite Domhnall Gleeson in the miniseries Alice & Jack.
In a few days, Riseborough will be off to Sundance for the premiere of Funny Birds, “where Catherine Deneuve plays my mum.”
It’s directed by Marco La Via and Hanna Ladoul and is executive produced by Martin Scorsese.
The clock’s ticking towards 3 o’clock, where if this were a larky Noel Coward comedy, everything would actually stop for tea. But this is a Tea Party right in the middle of awards season, and right on top of the Critics Choice Awards and the Emmy Awards. Very few actually stop for a cuppa; most guests knock back champagne or coffee.
Coffee! Whatever next? Bad enough that there were four different types of milk. This is how the Empire was lost.
At least there were scones; albeit three choices of scone – with vanilla essence, wheat-free or with raisins.
Maria Bello, a sunshine vision in yellow, appears. She’s so good as Jordan Forster in Netflix’s hit series Beef. Bello’s performance is in the running for a best supporting actress citation at today’s Critics Choice Awards.
But we’re more interested in chatting about food!
Bello’s wife, Dominique Crenn, chef and owner of the Michelin three-starred restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, also runs the Golden Poppy in Paris, where the couple reside. The cuisine at the Parisian establishment has a “Californian flavor,” Bello cooed.
Stars came and went. Emily Blunt and Cillian Murphy from Oppenheimer stayed mere minutes, it seemed.
Ditto Maestro’s Carey Mulligan, who caught up with Saltburn filmmaker Emerald Fennell. Some of the best moments in Saltburn involve Mulligan and Rosamund Pike, who wore a terrific afternoon tea dress.
Archie Madekwe, also very good in Saltburn, was tea-partying too.
So was Rustin’s Colman Domingo who announced he was wearing “chocolate today” as in “the color chocolate.”
A perfect segue to The Color Purple’s marvelous Danielle Brooks and Fantasia Barrino.
Bridgerton and Fellow Traveler star Jonathan Bailey tells me that since he and I last spoke at the Golden Globes, he has been back in the UK “and back here again.”
He explains that after last Sunday’s Globes, he flew to London and on “Tuesday both Michelle Yeoh and I were in make-up on the set of Wicked.”
Bailey tells me that filming on both parts of Universal’s Wicked will be completed soon. He also somehow found time to shoot for two days on the Netflix show Bridgerton. Now, those Bridgerton folk know all about tea parties.
Alexander Payne, director of the super film The Holdovers, was seen hovering by the scones, but one had to admire his fortitude in not sampling one.
I suggest to Payne that The Holdovers is the kind of film that can be enjoyed at any time of year and not just the winter holidays. He nodded in agreement. ”It’s a Wonderful Life can screen any time of year, same with The Holdovers.”
It seemed as if several hundred guests visited the tea party, though the only ones who stayed the full three and a half hours were BAFTA CEO Jane Millichip and Joyce Pierpoline, the new North America board chair.
Millichip played the space exceptionally well and one minute she was chatting animatedly to American Fiction’s Cord Jefferson, Jeffrey Wright and Laura Karpman … the next it was … actually, I confess I can’t remember. Oh, it was May December’s Julianne Moore. And then maybe The Killer of the Flower Moon’s Leonardo DiCaprio followed by Loki, aka Tom Hiddleston.
The whole affair was sponsored by Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic and BBC Studios Los Angeles Productions.
Now, I have this to say about the tea that was brewed at The Maybourne.
The urns that were used had clearly once contained coffee, because my tea, my tepid tea, was contaminated by coffee.
I’m so up myself that I travel with my own tea. It’s Fortnum & Mason’s Ceylon Orange Pekoe and the most important factor is the freshly boiled untainted water. I travel with my own mini kettle too. I’m sipping a cup as I write.
I’m more than happy to assist in the tea-making preparations for next year’s BAFTA Tea Party.