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The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 28 - Feb.3, in Park City, Utah

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Mark Ruffalo Dons Director's Cap


Actor Mark Ruffalo, a genial leading man who has been one of the most consistent (and unheralded) actors in significant films over the past decade, has made his directorial debut here at the Sundance Film Festival. His sturdy direction offers a quirky spin to SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS, a comedy drama bout a diabled disk jockey who wakes up one day with the power to heal. The DJ, who is paralyzed and confined to a wheel chair, is winning played by Christopher Thornton, who also wrote the script. Is he a messianic, modern-day Jesus or a fraud….the film lets the audience make up its own mind.


Ruffalo, who co-stars in the film, told audiences at a press conference that he and Thornton have been friends for the past 20 years. They had had studied together as actors in New York, and that Ruffalo was present  when his friend had a tragic accident seventeen years ago that left him unable to walk. This traumatic event and its aftermath were the basis of the film’s story, which has autobiographical overtones to it. A finished script was done over a decade ago, and it took the two actors all this time to finally get it made. One proviso is that Ruffalo be in the  film (he plays a cynical priest). When the actors cast around for a director to helm the project, they could not find anyone who registered with the material. So, Ruffalo determined that this would be his directorial debut.

After numerous rewrites and financial difficulties, the film finally got made by the end of 2009 and made its World Premiere in the US Dramatic Competition at Sundance.Also starring in the film are Laura Linney (who co-starred with Ruffalo in the American indie hit YOU CAN COUNT ON  ME), Orlando Bloom and Juliette Lewis. 

Ruffalo is also represented at Sundance as part of the ensemble cast in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, a comedy drama from indie veteran Lisa Cholodenko (HIGH ART, LAUREL CANYON). The film centers on two lesbians, played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, whose world is rocked when their children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) contact their biological father, a sperm donor turned restaurateur played by Mr. Ruffalo. The film is also making its world premiere at Sundance this week.


A native of Wisconsin, Mark Ruffalo grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Following high school, he moved with his family to San Diego, California and soon migrated north, eventually settling in Los Angeles. He took classes at the Stella Adler Conservatory and subsequently co-founded the Orpheus Theatre Company, where he honed his skills as an actor, director, writer and producer. Despite good stage reviews, he couldn't find work in the movies, perhaps because he did not fit in the mold of dashing leading man.


After tending bar in New York for nine long years, while he went on auditions that generally went nowhere, he had a chance with playwright/screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan, who cast him in the New York stage "This Is Our Youth". In 2000, when Lonergan turned to the big screen himself with his directorial debut YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, he cast Ruffalo in what turned out to be his cinema breakthrough. Ruffalo received great reviews for his powerful performance as Laura Linney's ne'er-do-well brother. For the role, he won the Best Actor prize at the Montreal World Film Festival and a Best Actor nod from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Since that impressive debut, Ruffalo has starred in a mix of comedies and dramas, most notably XX/YY, MY LIFE WITHOUT ME, WE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, ALL THE KING’S MEN, ZODIAC, RESERVATION ROAD and the 2009 Cannes Film Festival opener BLINDNESS. This year, he was featured as the father in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and is one of the leads in Martin Scorsese's new thriller SHUTTER ISLAND, which will make its debut at next month’s Berlin Film Festival.

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Dailies Editor


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