“I thought it was a story that needed to be told, and it needed to be told over and over and over again until people, children, who knows how many thousands of them that were raped by priests, and had the Catholic Church cover it up,” said Mark Ruffalo on the red carpet at the premiere of “Spotlight” last week at the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan. “There has to be justice.”
The investigative team of reporters from the Boston Globe, known as Spotlight, revealed that nearly 100 clergy were involved in the sexual abuse of children, and that the church had covered it up while law enforcement often looked the other way. Their reporting earned the Spotlight reporters a Pulitzer Prize, and their investigative reports are the subject of Tom McCarthy’s newsroom procedural. The nearly all-male ensemble of actors – Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Michael Keaton, Billy Crudup and Brian D’Arcy James – all showed up to support the film. (Rachel McAdams, who plays the only female on the Spotlight team, did not attend.)
Ruffalo’s beard is flecked with grey and his hair long and curly. He looked very different from the short-haired, tightly wound reporter, Mike Rezendes, he played in the film. On the red carpet, Ruffalo praised investigative journalists, who have not looked this good on film since “All the President’s Men.”
“The great thing about journalists is they don’t just go on a hunch. They have to be discerning,” said the actor. “They have to find out the truth, and it doesn’t matter how you feel about it, the truth is the prize, and so there’s a methodology to that and a discipline to that that was very clear to me early on in these people. They don’t have an axe to grind. They’re here to tell the truth and by telling the truth you can have justice.”
He added, “When journalism works, it saves lives. It pushes back tyranny. It saves democracy. That’s why this movie is so important at this particular time in this debate.”
The real-life reporters from the Spotlight team portrayed in the film were also on the red carpet, although they admitted they were out of their element and a little stunned to be part of the story instead of covering it.
Mark Rezendes told me Ruffalo worked hard to channel his mannerisms and work habits. “He came to my home. He shadowed me at the Globe, and he’s already the best actor in the world and all of the work he did was so impressive. I think that’s why he nailed me just perfectly.”
“This is not our world,” Sacha Pfeiffer, the only woman on the Spotlight team, told me as she made her way on the red carpet. She’s portrayed in the film by Rachel McAdams, who also researched her subject.
“She spent days, days, I mean, texts, walks, dinner. She wanted to know what did I wear? What is my husband like? What we make for dinner? What’s my family like? Where did I grow up? Do I take notes in a notebook or by computer? Everything! Everything about me physically and what was in my head,” she said.
“I was a very plain dresser, I still am,” Pfeiffer told me. “But back then I pretty much wore khakis to work every day and black shirt, and it’s very funny because she really dresses like I would have a decade ago.”
Pfeiffer added, “It was really amazing to see how hard they prepare because most people just see this,” she said, pointing to the red carpet.
What Pfeiffer hopes people take away from the film is how essential the work of investigative reporters is. “What I think this movie does so well is show the reality of our jobs. It can be tedious. It can be monotonous. But if you give reporters time to research, they can do something powerful, and that’s what I hope people realize.”