​Mark Ruffalo on going for broke

Actor Mark Ruffalo is a man of many talents -- as Anthony Mason discovers in our Sunday Profile:

The actor Mark Ruffalo was a championship wrestler in high school. For his role in the new film "Foxcatcher," he goes back to the mat.

Was it the most physical role he's had? "Oh yeah, it was tough," he said. "I was in a lot of pain and I hurt myself a lot."

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Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo in "Foxcatcher."
Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics

"Foxcatcher" follows the tragic true story of wrestling's Schulz Brothers, Dave (played by Ruffalo) and Mark (played by Channing Tatum), both Olympic champions, who fall under the eerie influence of millionaire John duPont (played by Steve Carell).

N.Y. Film Festival review: "Foxcatcher" a winner

Ruffalo wrestled all through high school before giving it up for acting in his senior year.

"My mom was a hairdresser," he said. "My aunt was a hairdresser. My brother was a hairdresser. My sisters are hairdressers."

"So what happened to you?" asked Mason.

"I don't know. I went way off the tracks!" he laughed.

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Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley in "Begin Again."
Weinstein Company

On screen he's become known for his extraordinary range -- playing a disgraced music executive in "Begin Again" ...

... a gay activist in "The Normal Heart" ...

... a hulking superhero in "The Avengers."

But it all started slowly for Ruffalo, who studied acting at the Stella Adler School in Los Angeles.

"So how long were you here for?" asked Mason.

"So it was a three-year program and I ended up staying for six years," Ruffalo laughed. "I was working on my craft, man!"

And for a long time it was bartending that actually paid the bills.

"I literally could go right back to setting up this bar," he said on a return visit to L.A.'s Good Luck Bar, one of his many gigs -- and where he even had a drink named after him.

"I had a drink that I sort of became famous for, and they started calling it a Markarita!"

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Actor Mark Ruffalo with correspondent Anthony Mason.
CBS News
After more than 600 auditions, Ruffalo finally broke through in 2000, playing Laura Linney's troubled brother in the film, "You Can Count on Me."
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Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney in "You Can Count on Me" (2000).
Paramount Classics

"And all these casting directors were like, 'Where did you come from?'" said Ruffalo. "I'm like, 'What are you talking about? I've been under your noses for the past 10 years! Where have you been?'"

But just as the things were breaking Ruffalo's way, doctors discovered a mass in his brain -- a tumor.

"Yeah, it was scary," he said.

"And you hadn't been married that long, and you had a kid."

"She was pregnant. She was due. Bascially I found out, then our baby was born two weeks later, our son Keen."

But he didn't tell his wife, Sunrise. "No. I didn't know how to tell her without making her afraid. And so I just waited until after."

"So you were sitting on this in your head for a month?"

"Honestly, I thought I was going to die. And so when my son was being born, it was very loaded."

The tumor was benign, but the surgery to remove it left one side of his face paralyzed.