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At Sundance: Ruffalo, Luna, Hoffman Turn To Directing

PARK CITY, Utah — It’s hard to think of Mark Ruffalo, Philip Seymour Hoffman or Diego Luna as first-time film … anythings.

But at Sundance this year, these actors are newcomers of sorts, all showing off their work as first-time filmmakers.

Luna, best known for acting in Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Terminal and Milk, directed and co-wrote the Spanish-language heartwarmer Abel, about a family who indulges a little boy’s fantasy to become head of the household, pushing aside his absentee father.

“It’s a very personal story,” Luna said. “It’s about a kid who has to become an adult before he’s ready. That happened to me. I started to work (as a child actor) when I was 6. My mother died when I was 2. I had to behave as a grown-up, though I wasn’t, and I wanted to reflect on that.”

Ruffalo’s Sympathy for Delicious is the fantastical story of a recently paralyzed club DJ who discovers he has the power to heal through touch.

But instead of using the gift for good, he is tempted to use it for selfish reasons, making himself a new-age star to restore his craving for sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — to the dismay of the world.

Jack Goes Boating is a story Hoffman lived with for a long time, playing the lead character in the stage version, and feeling a connection to the tale of a lumbering limo driver who tries to open up his life to new experiences: cooking, swimming, a girlfriend (played by Amy Ryan) and, of course, boating.

“I was trying to just direct it and not act in it, but it was very difficult to try to find somebody to play the part in the time we had before we had to shoot,” Hoffman said.

Actors don’t worry about those things.

“I thought I could put off the making of the film, but then we had to do it,” Hoffman said. “So I said, ‘All right, I’ll just do it.’ “