I spoke to Helen Hunt on October 5, 2012, and the obvious question was about whether or not being unclothed before a camera ever feels normal. She was good-natured about answering, and went on to talk about the trepidations she did and didn’t have about accepting the role of Cheryl Cohen-Greene, the sex-surrogate who helped Mark O’Brien, a polio survivor living for the most part in an iron lung, discover his sexual identity. We went on to discuss the unexpectedly spiritual side of film that is bold, frank, and direct about sex, as well as Hunt’s prolific life on the other side of the camera.
THE SESSIONS is a story about sex, intimacy, and the gift of having a sense of humor. Based on the extraordinary life of writer Mark O’Brien, who didn’t let being immobile from the neck down and being forced to spend most of his time in an iron lung, prevent him from pursuing a degree at Berkeley or a career as a journalist and poet. When he’s assigned to write an article about sex and the disabled, he decides age 38, that it’s time to lose his virginity and hires a sex surrogate to do so. The film stars John Hawkes as Mark, Hunt as his surrogate, Cheryl, Adam Arkin as Cheryl’s husband, Moon Bloodgood as Mark’s caretaker, and William H. Macy as his priest, confessor, and best friend when it comes to deciding what is and isn’t sin. It was directed by Ben Lewin from his own script. THE SESSIONS won both the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Hunt’s previous work includes her Emmy-winning stint on television’s Mad About You, as well as an Oscar for AS GOOD AS IT GETS. She was the co-writer, director, and star of the film THEN SHE FOUND ME, in which she cast Salman Rushdie as an obstetrician.