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Mark Ruffalo and Christopher Thornton pull a Matt & Ben

January 23, 2010 |  8:00 am

Mark Ruffalo

Back in 1997, when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were going from unknowns to Oscar winners, two struggling actors watched the success of the "Good Will Hunting" writers and felt motivated.

One of those actors, Mark Ruffalo, wound up breaking out in the 2000 indie darling "You Can Count on Me" and went on to star in such films as "Collateral," "Zodiac" and the upcoming "Shutter Island." The other was Christopher Thornton, Ruffalo’s close friend from their days as students at the Stella Adler Conservatory in Los Angeles. Thornton's career had been significantly derailed by a climbing accident in 1992, which left him in a paraplegic.

The two have now collaborated on a new movie, "Sympathy for Delicious," which debuts at Sundance tonight. (See more on the film here.)

Directed by Ruffalo and written by Thornton, it centers on an angry and homeless paraplegic disc jockey named Delicious D (Thornton) who discovers he has the ability to cure illnesses with his hands. He can’t cure himself, however, and instead allows his skills to become the centerpiece of a punk rock act. “The band’s leader is, like, it would be cool to bring it onstage, man. Just as a little sideshow. And what happens is it’s a sensation, and he becomes huge from it, “ says Ruffalo, who also acts in it, playing a priest working with the homeless.

As for the tone of the film, "there is definitely satire," says Ruffalo, noting that the frenzy of rock 'n' roll often mirrors the frenzy that surrounds faith healers. It's a practice that Ruffalo, who recovered several years ago from a brain tumor, doesn’t believe in. "The whole movie, there’s people battling against reality," he says.

-- Rachel Abramowitz

Photo: Mark Ruffalo on the set of "Sympathy for Delicious." Credit: Gary Friedman

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