The tragic death of Mark Ruffalo's brother

After more than 30 years in the business, actor Mark Ruffalo has amassed an impressive résumé. From his blockbuster turn as Bruce Banner in Marvel's Avengers saga to his charming role as Matt Flamhaff in 13 Going On 30, the versatile actor's career spans the genres. Beyond his success, however, Ruffalo has endured great tragedy throughout his lifetime. Not only did the actor discover he had a brain tumor, but in 2008, the Spotlight star lost his brother, Scott Ruffalo, after the 39-year-old hairstylist was "shot in head at his Beverly Hills condominium," per People.

Although Scott was still alive when paramedics arrived at the scene, the younger Ruffalo brother passed away one week later when he was taken off life support. "Mark Ruffalo and his family deeply appreciate the outpouring of prayers and support during this most difficult time of the passing of Scott Ruffalo, beloved son, brother and husband," Mark's rep said in a statement (via People). "The funeral service will be private." In 2010, Mark told the New York Daily News that he was struggling to come to terms with Scott's death.

"The loss of my brother was tragic and meaningless and violent," Mark explained. "You can lose faith in humanity and faith itself just trying to make meaning out of things that are so meaningless." According to Medium, Scott's "death remains unsolved to this day, and [has] since been closed by the Beverly Hills Police Department."

Mark Ruffalo's brother's murder remains unsolved

When paramedics found Scott Ruffalo unresponsive at his home on Dec. 1, 2008, it was unclear whether the gunshot wound was self-inflicted or if he'd been murdered. However, after Scott passed away one week later, the Los Angeles County coroner revealed that he was, in fact, murdered. Shaha Mishaal Adham, who witnessed the shooting, claimed Scott shot himself while playing Russian Roulette, per the New York Daily News. Deputy medical examiner Juan Carrillo, however, declared the incident a homicide.

"The injury appears inconsistent with the history provided by witnesses and further police investigation has failed to clear up these inconsistencies," Carillo said (via LA Weekly). "Therefore the manner of death is homicide until proven otherwise." Toxicology reports also revealed that Scott had only trace amounts of cocaine, alcohol, and morphine in his system, proving he wasn't under the influence at the time.

Adham and her boyfriend, Brian Scofield, were deemed persons of interest and turned themselves in a week after the shooting, per the Los Angeles Times. Both were subsequently released, but Adham died of a drug overdose a few years later, essentially halting the investigation in its tracks. In 2010, Mark Ruffalo told the New York Daily News that police had "barely budged on the investigation." He added, "I can't get any answer from them. It's been a very frustrating experience."

Mark Ruffalo's 'beautiful' brother inspired him to 'make it count'

While Mark Ruffalo might be an Oscar-nominated star now, there was a time when he felt like his brother, Scott Ruffalo, was the celebrity. "I was the actor who was pushing 30 and still doing 30-seat theaters, and he was the mayor of Beverly Hills," Mark told Men's Journal after his brother's death. "For years, people would meet me and go, 'You're Scotty Ruffalo's brother? I love your brother. He's f***ing amazing.'"

When Scott died, Mark already had the script for The Kids Are All Right in hand and, as Mark noted, the "character reminded him of his brother," which inspired him to transform it into an homage. "His charm, his spirit, his sense of humor, his daring. How great he was with women. How he sort of devoured life. I'm only capturing a tiny glimpse of him," he said. "But I think it ended up honoring him in a really nice way... He was a beautiful guy."

Like many who've experienced loss, Mark admitted he was consumed by guilt. "You always wonder, What could I have done differently? But there's also the healthier part that says, You integrate it, and you get on."

He continued, "You never get over it; you just get used to it. You get calloused... But take these tragic things and turn them into something meaningful and worthy of the loss. Make it count. From here on out, do the best you can to make it count."

Mark Ruffalo's latest role was influenced by his brother's death

Mark Ruffalo's late brother Scott remains the actor's greatest source of inspiration, so when it came time to prepare for his role in HBO's I Know This Much Is True, in which Mark plays twins, it's no surprise that Scott was at the core of his character development. As the actor told the Daily Telegraph in May 2020, "I'm the type of actor that likes to draw on my experiences, and my brother will always be a big part of that. Scott's in all this and in all of my work in some way or another."

In the limited series, Mark plays Dominick Birdsey and his schizophrenic twin Thomas. Although the premise seems heavy for a world battling the coronavirus pandemic, Mark believes the show's focus on family will resonate with viewers because it "exposes all our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses."

"A pandemic like this strips away all of the trappings and busyness of our lives and leaves us with what really is of value, and that's family..." Mark explained. "For me nothing's more meaningful, more painful, more conflicted, more challenging, and more rewarding than the relationships that I've had with my own family members. And that's particularly apropos for the moment we find ourselves in."