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Mark Ruffalo.

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Talking Sex and Addiction With Mark Ruffalo at Toronto

Mark Ruffalo is up here at the Toronto Film Festival with his new movie Thanks for Sharing, and here are the three things you need to know about it right off the bat: It's about sex addiction, it's scripted and directed by The Kids Are All Right co-writer Stuart Blumberg, and Gwyneth Paltrow spends a good chunk of her scenes as Ruffalo's love interest dressed in some serious lingerie. (The bod, it is bangin'.) What more reason did we need to meet up with Ruffalo at a Toronto hotel to talk about sex? None whatsoever! We even managed to slip in a few questions about The Avengers 2 and The Normal Heart along the way.

I have to confess: I'm gay, but in those scenes with Gwyneth in that lingerie, I was having trouble focusing on your performance.
Yeah, no doubt. You and everybody else! Talk about being upstaged.

But you're no stranger to undressing for a role, either, since you've made so many sexually forthright films, from The Kids Are All Right to In the Cut to Thanks for Sharing. You've never had any hang-ups about that?
No, not really. I was raised in a household that was very kind of accepting of sex. I mean, it wasn't outrageous or gratuitous, but we were taught to be comfortable with our bodies, and there was no innate kind of Christian-Judeo projection of shame onto sexuality. I never really had an agenda about it, honestly, but it's true that I've been in a lot of movies that deal with it in one way or another. But look, this is the base of mankind, this is what keeps us going and sells products and makes us decide we're going to try spend our life with somebody and populate the world. I mean, it's such a base part of who we are.

Why do you think people are so skeptical that sex addiction is a real thing?
I think it seems like so many celebrities and athletes and politicians might use it as a "get out of jail free" card, but I know a lot of addicts, and so I know how there's a lot of bad behavior that can be chalked up to any kind of addiction. For a long time, I don’t think people believed in alcoholism, you know, and I think we're probably at the threshold of a decade of serious sex addiction.

Do you think that's just hastened by the Internet?
I think Internet pornography is a good way in, and unlimited amounts of pornography could kick things off. [Masturbation] releases some of the strongest natural drugs in our body and the brain, and so I can see how people get lost in that: They're sitting in front of a computer screen all day. But people say, "Sex addiction, oh really? Come on, who could get enough of that?" And then you go into these sex-addict meetings, and you hear these stories of people who are masturbating a hundred times a day and have to go to the hospital because there's nothing left and they whittled it down and they're bleeding. Or they forget to pick up their kids because they're, you know, doing a line of blow off a tranny's ass in Newark.

I could watch a whole other movie of you and Gwyneth Paltrow flirting. You guys have great chemistry in this film.
Thanks, we're good pals. We felt really comfortable with each other, and that makes it easy.

It feels a little taboo because you're going out with Iron Man's girl in this movie.
Look out!

And there's sort of a Hulk parallel here, because we know your character is battling a monstrous urge, and we're waiting to see if he's going to get let it out.
And when he does, it's a beast. He's very mild mannered until that moment. Yeah, it's the sexual Hulk!

Speaking of which: Joss is up here in Toronto with his movie Much Ado About Nothing, and ...
He is? I didn't know that. Oh my God! I want to find him. I'll text him in a minute.

Have you guys spoken about the sequel to The Avengers?
We met a couple of months ago in New York, just before [Marvel] sealed his deal, and we were talking a little bit about it.

And you had an inkling that he would definitely return to direct the sequel?
What a mistake it would have been for Marvel and Disney not to engage him again!

Does it feel crazy to you to realize that you're in one of the biggest movies of all time?
That blows my mind. It doesn’t compute to me at all. This is, whew, the stratosphere. But it's also about a bunch of superheroes. It's not my movie, you know.

What happened to Ryan Murphy's adaptation of the Larry Kramer play The Normal Heart, which was supposed to shoot this past summer?
I'm expecting that to go in the spring; we couldn't do it in the summer. Larry Kramer and Ryan have been working on this new draft, which is really good, and they're able to do a lot more than even the play was able to do as far as sexuality and the real trials and tribulations of living with people in that time with AIDS and caring for them. I think it could be really powerful.

I can only imagine what the conversations between Larry Kramer and Ryan Murphy must be like.
They're pretty hilarious, actually. The two of them? Oh my God!

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images