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November 19, 2010

Trading Faith Healing for Sex, Drugs, and Fame

That's a big part of the plot in 'Sympathy for Delicious,' coming to theaters next spring

Actor Mark Ruffalo (Collateral, Zodiac, Shutter Island) and good friend Christopher Thornton have walked -- metaphorically speaking -- a difficult journey together for some 20 years. Thornton had been a paraplegic since 1992, when he fractured two vertebrae after a fall while rock climbing; Thornton still can't walk. Ten years later, Ruffalo was diagnosed with a brain tumor; it turned out to be benign and was surgically removed, resulting in temporary partial facial paralysis.

With that history, the two men teamed up to write (Thornton) and direct (Ruffalo) an edgy indie film about faith healing titled Sympathy for Delicious, which was just picked up by Maya Entertainment and is slated for a theatrical release next spring. Thornton plays the role of a recently paralyzed DJ who attends a faith healing service. But instead of being healed, he awakes the next day to find that he has the power to heal others simply by laying hands on them -- a power he quickly abuses.

"He basically takes his God-given gift and prostitutes it for sex, drugs, rock & roll, and fame," Ruffalo said at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film screened. In the same interview, Thornton said that the main character was so down about his circumstances that he "had to at least entertain the possibility of faith."

Earlier this year, Thornton told the LA Times that about 18 months after his accident, he had done the same thing -- going to faith healing services and seeing holistic healers, often dragged by friends. "You're ready to believe in miracles," he said. But when he wasn't healed, he later resented the experience and was angry at himself "for having been duped."

Ruffalo, who grew up Catholic and attended Catholic schools, says the film is "very personal. I was there, watching [Thornton] struggle with being paralyzed. A lot of that struggle comes with, 'Why? How do I make sense of this?'"

See more of their interview in the video below. (Caution: There's a clip from the film that includes a couple f-bombs):

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