By: Shannon Whittaker
Unlike many actors of his generation, Mark Ruffalo is known for moving easily between big-budget crowd-pleasers (The Avengers) and smaller, more thoughtful films (Sympathy for Delicious). We talked to the versatile actor about faith and film.
QOne of your most recent films is your directorial debut, Sympathy for Delicious. It has the theme of a faith struggle, but it’s pretty gritty and dark. Why doesn’t Hollywood have as many films that maintain that type of balance?
A I think they’re afraid. To have a really honest conversation about faith today is taboo in a way. You want to clear a room quickly? Start talking about God. For better or for worse, it’s a taboo conversation. There’s a lot of hangups, and people, I think, have a lot of negative connotations that are attached to it … We’re in a market- driven culture. I think they’re afraid that there is no market in these kind of stories.
Q Do you think Hollywood is more afraid of making those kinds of movies, or are Christians too afraid to see them?
A Hollywood is afraid to make a movie that no one is going to see. That is based, on some regard, on assumptions but also on a certain kind of reality. There are certain coarse realities about faith, real street-level faith. We don’t want to look at it because it’s ugly to us, but it’s where there is a lot of grace. If we are who we say we are, then we have to engage in those
QYou’ve played everything from a priest to the Hulk. How do you, as an actor, live in the tension between being entertaining and being meaningful?
A I love acting, and I love the art of story- telling, and I try to find meaning in it in all of the forms that I do it in. I care about what I do. There’s not a lot of tension between the two. I know the moment when I’m like, “I need to go do a little gritty independent. ” Or, “I just want to do something that’s pure entertainment now. I’ve been in the dark for a long time. I want to come into something lighter.”
“I don’t believe much in miraculous healings,” Mark Ruffalo told a Sundance audience Saturday night at a party given by Cornerstore Entertainment. It’s an odd statement, considering he spent ten years making a movie about a paralyzed DJ who has the ability to perform them. Sympathy for Delicious premiered this weekend, the result of a long collaboration with screenwriter Christopher Thornton. (It’s Ruffalo’s directorial debut, and both men star in the film, alongside Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, and Orlando Bloom.)
Thornton, who has been wheelchair-bound since a 1992 rock-climbing accident, knows the whole faith-healing scene first-hand. “When you’re in the hospital and getting out of it, all these religious friends show up,” he said during Saturday’s post-screening Q+A. Thornton let the believers convince him it might work; but he feels because his own faith lagged–it didn’t. “Later, when I was kind of past all that…I thought there was a story in that,” he recounted.
Ruffalo agreed. “Benny Hinn, I think, is a charlatan. A lot of these people, I think, feed on people who are in a lot of need, and desperate,” he said. He and Thornton struggled to secure funding for their movie about a down-and-out scratcher (played by Thornton) who can cure everything from a cigarette burn to emphysema with the touch of his hands, until salvation came along in the form of an arts patron who gave them a million dollars. “We said, ‘Do you want to read the script?’ And she said, ‘No, darling, I don’t need to read the script. I’ve seen you guys on stage; I know you can do it,'” Ruffalo said. Talk about faith!