Cast: Alecia Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit
Director: Stuart Blumberg
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running Time: 110 minutes
Synopsis: From Academy Award® nominated screenwriter and first-time director Stuart Blumberg comes a sharply comic and deeply moving look at a very different kind of modern family – the haphazard family forged by three men trying to navigate life, love and the emotional landmines of New York City while recovering from addiction. Academy Award® nominee Mark Ruffalo, Academy Award® winner Tim Robbins and Broadway star Josh Gad ('The Book of Mormon") anchor a stellar ensemble cast in a story about the kind of friends who, no matter how wild their rises and falls, always put each other back together again.
The three men – including an over-achieving environmental consultant (Ruffalo), a married father with long term success but daily challenges (Robbins) and a wise-cracking, out of control ER doc (Gad) – highlight the various stages in the process of conquering addiction and the community one needs to survive. On their own, they are each are smart, charming and completely broken . . . but together, they come to realise, they might have a real shot at happiness.
Thanks For Sharing
Release Date: October 3rd, 2013
Addiction, and all of its intricacies, has become one of the big issues of the 21st Century – but in Stuart Blumberg's dramatic comedy Thanks For Sharing, addiction becomes something else: a catalyst behind real and transformative relationships. Stuart Blumberg and co-screenwriter Matt Winston set out to reveal the world of a 12-step program as it hasn't been seen before: as a community – a community of the anxious, the volatile and the troubled, but one that nevertheless lifts people up no matter how deep the hole they have dug for themselves.
Stuart Blumberg previously won acclaim for his Oscar® nominated screenplay for The Kids Are All Right, another unconventional dramatic comedy – which explored the consequences of the children of a same-sex couple seeking out their sperm donor. Behind its fun, endearing characters and sparkling wit, the film raised provocative questions about the definitions of family. With Thanks For Sharing, Stuart Blumberg and co-screenwriter Matt Winston continue redefining the term in our times as they bring that same wry, realistic sense of humour about family foibles to an even more unlikely clan: a trio of men trying to confront the temptations and travails of sex addiction.
'Thanks For Sharing is really a story of friendship and bonds between the most unlikely of sources," says Stuart Blumberg. 'These three guys each have their problems, but with each other, they are searching for that feeling of togetherness and connection that will give them a better chance of getting through."
Matt Winston continues: 'We really wanted to shine a light on the idea that perhaps the only solution to our brokenness in these times is to be broken with each other. That's something that resonates with a lot of people."
He goes on: 'In many ways, Mike, Adam and Neil form a multi-generational family tree and the spine of the story is that they become each other's lifelines. When the characters are not connecting to each other . . . that's when things in their lives begin to go wrong. It's -united we stand; divided we crash and burn.'"
Stuart Blumberg and Matt Winston wrote together via Skype over the course of nine months, and the screenplay – which was as biting as it was honest - soon won over the production team at Class 5, the company in which Stuart Blumberg is partnered with Edward Norton and William Migliore.
'Stuart Blumberg called me and said they had started working on a new script and that it was set in the world of recovering sex addicts," recalls William Migliore. 'And my one comment to him was, -Please find the humour' - which I think they've done incredibly well."
William Migliore continues: 'What struck me about the script, as well, is that it is very much about the universal need to connect. It's seen through the prism of people in a recovery program but, like The Kids Are All Right, it's about the relationships we all share and the modern challenges of maintaining them."
Stuart Blumberg was gratified by their support. 'William Migliore is the most driven producer I've ever seen and he brought along David Koplan, who had line produced Leaves Of Grass, and these guys helped me make this movie in every way. They've just been incredible champions of this story," he says.
Soon after, Olympus Pictures came on board with producers Leslie Urdang, Miranda de Pencier and Dean Vanech, bringing their experience with supporting strong, fresh voices in contemporary cinema. 'Olympus has got a great track record and they really care about their movies," says Stuart Blumberg. 'They were always striving to give us the best tools to make the movie and that was an amazing experience."
All of the filmmakers knew that the distinctively funny-tough tone of the screenplay would demand complex, humour-laced, yet emotionally transparent performances – so the next vital step would be casting the one-of-a-kind roles.
At the heart of Thanks For Sharing is the story of Adam, a perennial Type A Personality and a dedicated five-year veteran of a 12-Step Program – yet one who remains afraid to put himself to the test with a real-world relationship. It's a nuanced, shifting role and Stuart Blumberg had long envisioned diverse leading man Mark Ruffalo – who garnered acclaim in The Kids Are All Right – bringing it to life.
'Because Adam is a character who has been through a lot, we needed an actor who could really convey depth and Mark Ruffalo does that, but he is also really, really accessible," observes the writer-director. 'It's challenging subject matter and Mark Ruffalo had to go an intense place. But once he commits, he really jumps in and he was amazing to watch."
Mark Ruffalo says he had a similar reaction to Thanks For Sharing as he had to The Kids Are All Right. 'It made me laugh and then I was moved – I really like that kind of style where uncomfortable comedy is mixed with serious drama. I call it -one foot on a banana peel and the other foot over the grave,'" he quips.
As for Adam, he says: 'He's shut himself down to love because of his fears of sex and that whole minefield. He's just met this incredibly hot, smart, successful woman and they are hitting it off, but he doesn't know how to relate to her sexually. Things are very comedic and romantic between them, but it's not perfect at all, because he keeps being forced to face his own fallibility. But that's one of the beautiful things about the movie: each of these characters gets another chance - and none of them is able to do it alone."
Mark Ruffalo attended a number of 12-Step meetings, both for sex addiction and alcoholism during his preparation and was stirred by what he saw. 'One thing that's great to see as an actor is all the honesty in those rooms," he observes. 'Everyone is just being very bare and real in that world and a lot of beautiful things happen, from heart wrenching sadness to gut-busting humour."
To play Adam's sponsor, Mike, the filmmakers turned to Oscar® winner Tim Robbins, known for such indelible roles as Dave Boyle in Mystic River, Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption and Nuke in Bull Durham. As Mike, he portrays a kind of esteemed, elder statesmen of the community – yet also a vulnerable husband and father still grappling with unresolved family issues of his own.
'Tim Robbins is really smart and an intellectually and physically imposing person. He knows what he wants and he knows it well – and I think there is a lot of that in Mike," observes Stuart Blumberg. 'He doesn't suffer fools gladly, but he's also the big poppa bear who you want to have hug you. Tim Robbins really had access to a certain part of himself that made that real."
Tim Robbins, who is an accomplished filmmaker in his own right, says the script stood out. 'It's rare to find a comedy that deals with a serious subject matter for adults," he comments. 'And I liked the approach of the ending which is hopeful and offers some real solutions."
He also liked that Mike is both the linchpin of the support group – and as capable of collapsing as anyone else. 'He's managed to become a mentor to others, but at the same time he's still susceptible to the weaknesses that come with addiction," he notes.
Much of Mike's susceptibility revolves around his own family problems, particularly with his son Danny, who has not fallen far from the addiction tree. 'I think the most difficult thing a parent has to face is if and when their children do wrong, wondering how much they had to do with that," he says. 'That's the big unspoken thing for Mike. We all hope our mistakes are not visited upon our children."
While Tim Robbins could relate to Mike as a parent, learning about sex addiction was a bit of an education. 'I read recovery books and I went to a meeting," he says. 'At first I had a bit of cynicism about sex addiction, you know, thinking that it's just an excuse. But when I went to the meeting I realised it's a real thing and people really do screw their lives up with this addiction. I had nothing but admiration for the courage that was expressed in that room."
The third member of the trio – and one who least thinks he needs any help – is Neil, an E.R. resident who got hauled in for some rather shocking behaviour on the subway. Taking the role – which involves a sharp, 180-degree turn as Neil goes from smart-ass to serious about change – is Josh Gad, who recently made a splash playing Elder Arnold Cunningham in the Broadway hit 'The Book of Mormon."
'Neil is one of those characters who audiences at first find unlikeable and then you find yourself rooting for him," notes Stuart Blumberg. 'I didn't know Josh Gad that well until people educated me about him and then I realised . . . this guy is going to be a comic force. And Josh Gad is Neil in this movie. He was so enthusiastic and fun and committed – it was really, really enjoyable to work with him."
Josh Gad found the script funny but also more than funny. 'There's an unbelievable humanity to Stuart's characters," he remarks. 'Thanks For Sharing to me continues in that tradition of The Kids Are All Right of being an amazing window into people who are just like everybody else except that they share a very unique characteristic, and in this case, these guys are each addicted to sex in different ways."
Like some of the other actors, it was the first time he ever really seriously considered what it might be like to have a dark and harmful addiction to the driving desires we all have. 'For me, it was an exploration of something that I've always kind of scoffed at," he admits. 'I've always been like, -well if you're addicted to sex, isn't that just a human quality, aren't we all addicted to that thing?' But when you really hear what these people are going through it opens your eyes to a real disease that I think a lot of people don't quite understand."
Neil goes from not really taking his own addiction seriously to chasing redemption. 'Neil starts out in the throes of his addiction," Josh Gad explains. 'He goes to extreme lengths, even creating a shoe camera to look up women's skirts. But it all catches up with him and when he's faced with losing everything that he's worked so hard for, he has to look himself in the mirror and say, -Is this what I want to be?' That leads him on an incredible journey."
While Adam, Mike and Neil might be there for one another on this roller coaster journey, they also have to deal with family and friends who are not quite in tune with what they are up against. Adam's brand new girlfriend, Phoebe, starts dating him without any clue about his addiction – and doesn't make the discovery until she's already fallen for him. Taking the role is Academy Award® winner Gwyneth Paltrow, who fell for the screenplay.
'I'm always looking for interesting roles and this was so well-written and so funny – and the cast they were assembling was amazing, so I wanted to come on board," she explains. 'Stuart Blumberg got the drama so right. It didn't feel forced or melodramatic but it was very personal and I laughed out loud many times."
Says Migliore of what Gwyneth Paltrow brings to the role: 'She is the perfect combination of charm, beauty and strength that drives Phoebe's rapport with Adam. You really root for their relationship."
Creating that link was made easier by a natural chemistry with Mark Ruffalo. 'Mark is a very confident, easy-going, lovely actor," Gwyneth Paltrow says. 'He has this incredible likeability and depth, but there's also a real sweetness to him which I think is why women go gaga for him in the movies. His niceness is just very palpable, and it really comes through."
While Phoebe might not be immediately sympathetic to Adam's withheld admission of addiction, she has her own compulsions as a perfectionist and exercise obsessive. 'I think Phoebe projects onto Adam some of her own self-judgment, which is interesting, because it causes her to kind of realise she needs to make some changes herself," observes Gwyneth Paltrow.
Playing Mike's wife Katie, who has years of experience with an addicted partner, is British actress Joely Richardson, recently seen in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the Showtime series 'The Tudors." Though Stuart Blumberg had some initial doubts about casting an Englishwoman as a Brooklynite, Joely Richardson's unique combination of fragility and boldness seemed perfect for a character in a longtime marriage with an ex sex-addict.
Joely Richardson says of Katie: 'I see her as kind of the still water in a story where most of the characters are fighting against themselves. She has the ability to stay calm with all this turbulence around her – but I also think she is someone who has tried to overcompensate because she has been stuck in this triangle with Mike and their son Danny and she so desperately wants her family to be happy."
Playing Danny is Patrick Fugit, who came to the fore as the star of Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous. This turned out to be a bit of serendipitous casting in which Tim Robbins had a hand. After Tim Robbins ran into Patrick Fugit while bicycling in Venice Beach, the two decided they could conceivably play father and son. Days later, Patrick Fugit was sent the script.
'I actually read the script on a plane and I was laughing out loud and then crying," Patrick Fugit recalls. 'It's not exactly a drama or a comedy. It's three life stories that are very genuine."
Patrick Fugit especially loved having the chance to work so closely with Tim Robbins – both starred in HBO's 'Cinema Verite," but had no on-screen interaction - even if Danny carries a lot of festering anger towards a father who never could quite live up to his ideal. 'I've loved Tim Robbins since I was young, so I was stoked to work with him," he says. 'It was great exploring this relationship with him. There is constant tension between Danny and Mike until they have it out – and Tim really brings his heart to everything he does."
Playing Dede, the woman who becomes a life-altering encounter for Neil, is Alecia Moore. After learning that the part had essentially been inspired by her persona, pop singer Alecia Moore accepted the challenge of taking on her very first film role, despite no prior acting experience.
'When we were writing the story, Dede's voice was such a strong and funny one that for some reason the idea of Pink came into my head – as the image of that tough girl who you love and who you know really has a soft center," recalls Stuart Blumberg. 'We thought, -we'll write it for her, even if she probably will never do it.'"
Continues Migliore: 'Alecia Moore pushed herself in every way from day one and showed a remarkable commitment to the film. I think it's going to be very exciting for audiences to see her in this role."
Says Alecia Moore of Dede: 'She's a girl who has hit rock bottom and is finally ready to reach out. She wants to get better. She wants to connect. And when she meets Neil, there's a chance to have their first healthy, real relationship. '
For Alecia Moore, relationships, no matter how rocky, are the foundation of Thanks For Sharing. 'All of the characters in the movie are trying to rebuild the bridges they once burned," she summarises. 'I think they come to realise that all there really is in life is these lasting relationships, and I find that very endearing and hopeful."
Stuart Blumberg always believed that the humour in Thanks For Sharing would help pull the audience into a very intimate story surrounding a rather awkward and even taboo subject. A mixture of comedy and reality is interlaced throughout the script – and he envisioned that same effect in the style and design of the film.
'I wanted the film to feel heightened enough that these are not just characters, but real people that you really relate to," he explains.
To that end he gathered a crack technical crew who helped him realise his vision. They include cinematographer Yaron Orbach (Our Idiot Brother), production designer Beth Mickle (DRIVE), costume designer Peggy Schnitzer ('Californication") and editor Anne McCabe (HBO's 'The Newsroom" or You Can Count On Me).
'Yaron Orbach was amazing at helping me achieve the naturalistic look I wanted and to balance the drama and comedy," says Stuart Blumberg. 'Beth Mickle can work on a shoestring to make things beautiful; and overall, we had an amazing team."
It might have been Stuart Blumberg's first directorial outing, but the transition from tapping out the story from behind the keyboard to making it come alive in the director's chair felt seamless to those around him.
'Stuart Blumberg has a fantastic combination of knowing exactly what he wants while being incredibly open to the element of surprise, so we had a lot of those happy accidents while making this film," notes Migliore. 'Stuart Blumberg really excels in tonal shifts - finding the humor in any given situation then turning that on a dime into something quite heartfelt."
When asked about making a movie with a first time director, Yaron Urdang said, 'It's always a leap of faith. However, Stuart Blumberg is deeply intuitive, driven, and an incredibly fast learner. He understands that interdependence is fundamental to our lives. And that it is the combination of singular efforts that make for something bigger. The themes in his story informed our decision – Stuart values community and we bet on that part of him that would allow for collaboration and for bringing out the best in everyone on his team. It was a good bet."
Stuart Blumberg says he hopes that mix of yin and yang emotions also leads to something else in Thanks For Sharing – a sense of possibility even for those who seem lost. 'I think we revel in watching other people struggling and trying to be better human beings," he concludes. 'This is a story about how the best way to get through this struggle is with other people – and how sometimes, admitting your limitation to others is the only route to finding the hope to overcome them."
Thanks For Sharing
Release Date: October 3rd, 2013