Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo
"There was a time when I thought I may not be able to act anymore," Ruffalo says about being diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 2000. "I really missed it."
Chris Wahl/iPhoto.ca

04/20/2004 AT 03:17 PM EDT

At 13, Mark Ruffalo was too busy skateboarding to even think about the big screen. Now what would've seemed like a pipe dream is the 36-year-old's life: He's a movie star, acting alongside Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30 and even sharing the screen with Robert Redford (The Last Castle) and Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). But while Garner gets to skip the long trip to success in their new movie, Ruffalo, whose big break came in 2000's You Can Count On Me, had to endure all the growing pains, including overcoming a brain tumor.

The actor recently chatted with PEOPLE about his recovery, making it through the '80s and that painful rite of passage: the first hangover.

What kind of kid were you at 13?
I was a really kind of insecure, chubby kid with buckteeth. I wasn't as cool as even this kid in this movie.

How did you come to terms with that?
I have embraced it and moved on. I got my teeth fixed.

So if someone told you at 13, 'When you grow up you are going to be a movie star ...'
I would have just been like ... "Shut up!" I never would have bought it.

You grew up during the time when this film takes place. Do you embrace that era?
I hated the '80s. I was like, what is this? What about the '70s? What about the '60s? The funny thing is we only embrace it every 20 years. We are really embracing the '80s now. How sad is that?

It means we are getting old.
I guess so. I was more into the punk scene. I was more of a skate punk.

What's the worst thing you got busted doing as a kid?
Robitussin. (Laughs)

Did you ever get grounded?
Oh, yeah, man. I got grounded for ... (getting) drunk one night at 14. I was just a wreck. I was sick for, like, four days. I never drank before and I drank like a whole bottle of peppermint schnapps. It was a disaster. And I ran myself over with a bike.

While you were drunk?
Yeah. I went over the handlebars and the bike rolled over me. That's really drunk. I was pretty miserable. And my mom was like, "You're grounded." But I never wanted to drink again.

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