Fairborn grad who took on ‘giant’ is portrayed by Mark Ruffalo in new Oscar contender 

Long before he took on one of the nation’s largest corporate giants, the locally raised man at the center of a critically acclaimed film starring Mark Ruffalo earned his diploma at a Dayton-area high school. 

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Robert Bilott, a partner at the law firm Taft Stettinius and Hollister in Cincinnati, is the subject of the recently released Todd Haynes film “Dark Waters.”

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Ruffalo plays Bilott, a 1983 Fairborn High School graduate, in the movie shot in Cincinnati and Hamilton.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 12: Robert Bilott attends the "Dark Waters" New York Premiere at Walter Reade Theater on November 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

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Bilott risks his career and family to “uncover a dark secret hidden by one of the world’s largest corporations and to bring justice to a community dangerously exposed for decades to deadly chemicals,” the film’s description says. 

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Numerous people with connections to Dayton and Wright State University played a role in the film based on the 2016  New York Times Magazine article "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare" by Nathaniel Rich.

The film also starring Anne HathawayTim Robbins and William Jackson Harper

is receiving Oscar buzz. 

Bilott is the author of the 2019 book Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer's Twenty-Year Battle against DuPont (Simon and Schuster, $28).

He has received several honors in his career and was inducted into the Fairborn City School’s Hall of Honor in 2018.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 12: Mark Ruffalo attends the "Dark Waters" New York Premiere at Walter Reade Theater on November 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

“He was inducted before the movie and the book. That was just based on his work and what he had done, which is extraordinary,” said Pamela Gayheart, Fairborn schools director of public relations.

Crews were working in Hamilton Tuesday, Jan. 15 to film scenes for an upcoming Mark Ruffalo (pictured) and Anne Hathaway movie "Dry Run," which is filming this week in both Hamilton and Cincinnati. The filming in Hamilton’s Highland Park neighborhood is happening along Park Avenue, mainly between Haven and Edgewood avenues. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Photo: Nick Graham

While in high school, Bilott, the son of Raymond and Emily Bilott of Dayton, received the Award of Distinction and was a member of the National Honor Society, Quill & Scroll, art club, French club, soccer team, track team, yearbook staff, brass choir and symphonic, pep and marching band, according to the school district.

MORE: Hollywood’s ‘Dark Waters’ calls attention to water contamination

He received a bachelor’s degree from New College and his juris doctorate from The Ohio State College of Law in 1990. 

Bilott’s father was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but the family often visited his mother’s relatives in Parkersburg, W. Va. 

Anne Hathaway stars in “Dark Waters.” Mary Cybulski/Focus Features/TNS
Photo: Los Angeles Times

Robert Bilott’s crusade against Dupont started after West Virginia cattle farmer Wilbur Tennant lost 150 animals to gruesome deaths and asked Bilott to represent him.

Bilott and his wife, Sarah, now reside in Crescent Springs, Ky.

His sister and brother-in-law, Beth and Terry Lieberman, live in Xenia.

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The father of three sons is now key to his law firm’s environmental, litigation and product liability and personal injury teams, according to its website. 

Bilott’s bio says he handles matters involving “hazardous, solid, medical and infectious wastes, emerging and unregulated chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), such as PFOA and PFOS, air and water pollution and permitting, medical monitoring, brownfield redevelopment, landfill regulation and permitting, wastewater treatment, and chemical risk assessment, regulation and testing.”

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky lawyer Robert Bilott, who graduated from Fairborn High School, is the focus of the film, Dark Waters. PROVIDED