A certified movie star recognized by kids everywhere as Dr. Bruce Banner, the Hulk of the Avengers series, Mark Ruffalo has also established his credentials as a good upstate neighbor. After learning in 2008 that the town where he has a country home in Sullivan County, near the Pennsylvania border, was being prospected for hydrofracking development, he immersed himself for the next several years in anti-fracking advocacy work, nationwide as well as locally. Now it appears that Ruffalo is doing his bit to help the local economy as well: executive producing and starring in a new HBO miniseries that will soon be shooting scenes in the Hudson Valley, according to residents of Poughkeepsie’s Mount Carmel neighborhood.
The series for which HBO has been scouting sites is I Know This Much Is True, based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Wally Lamb. It’s a potboiler tale of a dysfunctional Italian-American clan in which twins and mental illness both run in the family. Ruffalo will play protagonist Dominick Birdsey and his identical twin brother Thomas, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is institutionalized after cutting off his own hand. Dominick, who has his own problems with PTSD, a failed marriage and a deceitful girlfriend, takes a deep dive into dark family secrets while attempting to help his brother get out of a hospital where there are some dodgy goings-on.
Sounds like matter for a soap opera, but HBO doesn’t stint on quality, and Ruffalo has had a good working relationship with the company, including starring in and co-executive producing the cable company’s much-awarded 2014 adaptation of The Normal Heart. HBO is pitching this new limited series as “a story of betrayal, sacrifice and forgiveness.” Six episodes are planned. Tapped as screenwriter and director for I Know This Much Is True is Derek Cianfrance, whose 2012 feature The Place Beyond the Pines was shot in and around Schenectady.
Probably not coincidentally, Hudson Valley Film Commission director Laurent Rejto recently said that the biggest project on which the commission has ever worked, referring locations, vendors and local crew members, will soon be filming in Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls and other locations in Dutchess, Ulster and Orange Counties, and that it’s for HBO. Rejto was not yet willing to identify I Know This Much Is True as the project in question. Last week, however, the Poughkeepsie Journal quoted Chris Petsas, a City Council member for the First Ward, which includes Mount Carmel – Poughkeepsie’s Little Italy – saying that he and his neighbors were being actively scouted by HBO, and that one of the scouts had come to look at his house and confirmed I Know This Much Is True to be the project.
No premiere date has been announced for the miniseries as yet. Beside Ruffalo and Cianfrance, executive producers include Ben Browning, Glen Basner, Wally Lamb, Gregg Fienberg and Anya Epstein. Co-executive producers include Lynette Howell Taylor and Jamie Patricof. The series will be made in partnership with FilmNation Entertainment (The Big Sick, Arrival).