Sex addiction is one of the most dividing illnesses, because many dispute if it even is a disease at all. Writer Stuart Blumberg seeks to dispel some of the myths while putting a more human face on the addiction in his directorial debut "Thanks for Sharing" starring Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow. Stuart recently sat down to discuss the genesis behind the project as well as the joy of working with veteran actors and the experience of working with Alecia Moore (aka Pink).
Billy Tatum: How was it reuniting with Mark?
Stuart Blumberg: It was great. Mark's one of the most solid people and one of the best actors you'll ever meet. I was fortunate to work with him. I just got really lucky that he said yes again, so it was great.
Billy Tatum: How long were you a writer for MadTV?
Stuart Blumberg: I was a writer there for one season. I think it was the second season of the show. It was really fun. then, I wrote a script called 'Keeping the Faith' and that got bought. I quit, basically, because I always wanted to do films.
Billy Tatum: How was it going from writing for a TV show with unknown actors to writing for an A-list cast?
Stuart Blumberg: There's a lot of stuff that gets put on top of it when people have big names and everything, but they're all just people. If you're lucky, the people who are really famous are also really great actors. I've had the good fortune of working with people who are both famous and awesome at what they do. The benefit of working with these people is that you're working with people who know how to act, and they're professional and they're inspired. I'm not saying other people weren't. I'm just saying when you start working with these people, they make you look good, because they're so good at what they do.
Billy Tatum: What inspired "Thanks for Sharing"?
Stuart Blumberg: Two things, basically. I think in 2009 or 2010 when I started working on the idea, all of these high-profile cases came out of people opening up about dealing with sex addiction. We know who the people were who came out in the media. I had been hearing about it for years and sort of thinking 'I wonder what's behind that?' and I'd also gone to 12-step groups years ago called Al-Anon, which is for people who have someone in other programs like for alcoholism or whatever. So, I had been very familiar with 12-step groups and had been to a lot of meetings, so I was interested in the combination those two worlds. Like how are these people going through this thing of sex addiction heal? The more research I did, the more I found it fascinating, because unlike alcohol, where you go "Ok, I don't drink. I don't have booze in my house," sex is so huge and so amorphous. It's everything. How do you deal with it? It's not just pornography. It's not just cheating on a spouse. It can take so many forms. So, for these people, there's a real slippery challenge to staying sober, which I found fascinating.
Billy Tatum: As a writer, is there ever a conflict between telling a good story and staying true to the subject matter?
Stuart Blumberg: You always want to make sure those two kind of blend. You never want to give one short shrift for the other. Yo don't to just cheat and make one more exciting than it really is, but you do want to find the things that are inherently dramatic and interesting in the subject. As a writer, I think your first job is to find a subject that you think you and others will find inherently interesting. This one, I found so inherently interesting that I didn't have to stretch so much, because the stuff that really happens is so intense and often times disturbing and oftentimes hilarious that if you tell it straight, it's enough.
Billy Tatum: What was the big lesson you took away from researching the topic of sex addiction?
Stuart Blumberg: What I learned was there are hormones, and most people are sexual. They may go through stages where they might do things where they go above and beyond, but this is something else. This is people doing behaviors that are really hurting their lives and can't stop even when they want to. So, it's not people messing up and going "Whoops, I'll never do that again." It's people going "Whoops, I'll never do that again," and then doing it again and again. So, I got to get a sense of the real compulsivity behind it and that was pretty powerful.
Billy Tatum: Was there something that blew you away about the experience of talking to them?
Stuart Blumberg: How we have this image of people like this as weird, ugly outcast in trenchcoats and these are people who are very high functioning, often very successful people who are really struggling with this problem. What's interesting was a lot of these people had never met something they couldn't deal with by their willpower alone. They were always like "If I put my intelligence, my drive, I can fix this." And this was the one thing that didn't fit under that easy kind of fix. A lot of these people who were successful were really humbled for the very first time in their life and that was kind of fascinating.
Billy Tatum: The cast is impressive. Did you have a big hand in casting?
Stuart Blumberg: You know, in the movie, they say "One day at a time." The casting was sort of one piece at a time and it just sort of built. It started with Mark Ruffalo and we just started putting the pieces together. Tim Robbins as Mike and Gwyneth Paltrow as Phoebe. My co-writer Matt Winston and I wrote the role of Dede with Pink in mind and as a lark, we didn't even know if she could act. We wrote it with her voice and said "Let's try it." We got it to her and she said yes. We just got really...I'm not going to say lucky, because that's false. I think people liked the script. I think we wrote a good script with good characters and people want to do good scripts. We gave it to people who could do the role. They saw they could do the role. They said yes and signed up.
Billy Tatum: How was it working with Pink?
Stuart Blumberg: It was great. What's so weird about working with Alecia is that you forget that she's Pink quickly and you have to keep reminding yourself. Whereas other people you work with, you don't forget. She just becomes this really great, fun person who is incredibly professionally, incredibly driven. She was just a natural. Really great to work with.
Billy Tatum: Any advice for upcoming writers?
Stuart Blumberg: Just write what you love and what a movie you'd like to see. I just wrote a movie that I'm going to try and direct next year about Zen Buddhism and pizza. That always gives people that look like "really?"
"Thanks for Sharing" is currently in theaters in limited release.