See, Hear Robert Bilott, The Cincinnati Attorney Behind The 'Dark Waters' Film

Nov 15, 2019

Cincinnati attorney Robert Bilott got a standing ovation on CBS' Late Show With Stephen Colbert Thursday night, hours after he was interviewed on WVXU-FM's Cincinnati Edition.

The two aren't directly related, of course, except for the fact that it's all part of promotion for Dark Waters, the movie starring Mark Ruffalo as Bilott opening Friday, Nov. 22.

Bilott was in Colbert's audience when Ruffalo talked about the movie shot here last winter. Ruffalo portrays the Taft, Stettinius and Hollister partner who worked 18 years to win a class-action lawsuit again DuPont for pollution near Parkersburg, W. Va. Dark Waters is based on a 2016 New York Times profile of Bilott.

"Rob Bilott is a corporate defense attorney who defends corporations. He's probably not the type of guy you'd immediately think of as a hero," Ruffalo told Colbert.

"But he has a farmer come to him that knew his grandmother, and he says to him, 'Can you help me out? My cows are dying. I think it's this chemical company who has a landfill next to me'… And as it turns out, he takes almost 20 years to uncover the biggest corporate crime and cover-up in American history.

"And he (Bilott) is the most unassuming, the most selfless, …  beautiful, committed person to the people and he tells a story that we need to hear right now, and he's here tonight and I want to introduce him. His name is Rob Bilott," Ruffalo says.

On WVXU Thursday, Bilott told Cincinnati Edition host Michael Monks how a farmer near Parkersburg, who knew his grandmother, sought his help after 56 cows and 107 calves died drinking from Dry Run creek on his property. Bilott read an excerpt from his new book, Exposure, explaining how the farmer documented the deaths of his cattle in 1998.

Bilott, who also appeared on Cincinnati Edition shortly after the 2016 New York Times article, says the movie was first suggested to him when Ruffalo called his Cincinnati office that year.

"It was a little surprising, to say the least, but after a few minutes I could tell that he was incredibly passionate about this topic. He was really interested in water issues," Bilott told Cincinnati Public Radio.

"He (Ruffalo) thought this was a great story that could really highlight some of the issues we're all dealing with, not just with (the deadly chemical) PFOA, but with our entire chemical regulatory system. He was really dedicated to doing this story and doing it the right way, in bringing it out in a way that captured what really happened, and what kind of impact it had on the people who were not only involved with the story, but with the community that was dealing with this as well."

Here's the trailer for the film:

On The Late Show, Ruffalo said the chemical PFOA "is in all of us. It bio-accumulates. We can't get rid of it. It's passed from the mother to the child. It's connected to six major diseases. And they have been poisoning us for almost 50 years, knowing it and covering it up the whole time," Ruffalo said.

After Cincinnati Edition broadcast Bilott's interview Thursday, DuPont issued a statement to Cincinnati Public Radio saying that "safety, health and protecting the planet are core values" at the company. It is posted on the WVXU website with Bilott's interview.

Dark Waters also stars Oscar-winners Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins; and Bill Camp, Mare Winningham, Victor Garber, Bill Pullman and William Jackson Harper. It was directed by Todd Haynes, who shot Carol here in 2014 with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

One more thing for Marvel fans, here's what Ruffalo said when Colbert asked if he could reprise his role as Hulk after Avengers: Endgame:

"I do not know. I do know that I did give (producer) Kevin Feige my Blockbuster Award at the Hollywood film awards the other day to a smattering of applause and he did say, 'Hey, do you think there's any more story left here?' And I said, 'I could probably come up with a few story lines.' 

"And he said, 'Maybe you should come in and we'll have a talk.' You heard it here!"