Born November 22, 1967 - After 12 years as a struggling actor, Mark Ruffalo became the next big thing with his exceptional performance in the Oscar-nominated independent film You Can Count on Me (2000). Wisconsin-born Ruffalo wanted to be an actor as a child, but he ignored his early aspirations until the end of high school. Not sure what else to do, Ruffalo headed to Los Angeles at 18 "out of desperation" to study the craft at the prestigious Stella Adler Conservatory. After taking classes for several years and evading career decisions, Ruffalo began to venture into L.A. theater and independent film. Along with acting in over 30 plays, as well as writing and directing one of his own theater works, Ruffalo spent the 1990s amassing roles in indie movies, beginning with A Gift From Heaven (1994). Working mostly in comedies, Ruffalo appeared in The Last Big Thing (1996) and alongside comic character actor stalwarts Steve Zahn and Paul Giamatti in Safe Men (1998); he also starred as an artist with love problems in the romantic comedy Life/Drawing (1999).