Celebrity Love

'The Sessions' Star Helen Hunt Opens Up About Sex & Full Nudity

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Helen Hunt & John Hawkes
Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in 'The Sessions.'
We sat down with the cast and crew of the new movie making quite the buzz about sex surrogacy.

After the screening of The Sessions, the Independent film that was highly admired at the Sundance Film Festival, sitting down with stars Helen Hunt and John Hawkes, as well as the director and producer (who happen to be married) allowed us to find out all the dirty details behind the outstanding film.

The film is about a poet who spends much of his life in an iron lung, as he is paralyzed from the neck down from polio. John Hawkes plays Mark O'Brien, a journalist who decided to hire Cheryl Cohen Greene, a sex surrogate played by Helen Hunt, to help him lose his virginity at age 38. Based on the true piece written by O'Brien himself "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate," director Ben Lewin accidentally came across the article and knew he needed to write a script and make it into a film. To do this, he discovered that although Mark O'Brien had passed away, Cheryl Greene was still around and he reached out.

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"It was an emotional journey," Lewin told me. "The moment when I met her, I was curious what the difference between a sex surrogate and a hooker was! She said she had to go get her notes to tell me the story, and I realized it then—hookers don't take notes!" Lewin's sense of humor came through in Mark's character. As he also had had polio for most of his life, research was simply his past. Also, making the movie easier to make was working side by side his wife, producer Judi Levine.

"It was reassuring knowing we were on the same agenda," Lewin said. "And knowing that we were either going to sink or swim, together. We're like the ying and yang! She puts the brakes on me if I go too far!"

When it came to casting the movie, both Levine and Lewin were anxious to see who would take on the main roles of Mark and Cheryl, and Helen Hunt was a dream come true for the couple. She had reached out to them after being moved by the script.

"I loved the story and that’s very rare," Hunt said of the original script that Lewin had written. "It’s new and sound and beautiful. I knew I needed to meet with the director and make sure there wasn’t a creepy vibe there, and there wasn't at all. After that, to be honest, you have to trust the material and yourself. John seems lovely but I don’t know him that well. But there was no big bonding session, so really, you've got to believe in the choices you make and the material. If the material’s there and the other guy is extremely talented, then it’s up to you."

As for John Hawkes, after reading a pile of scripts, The Sessions pulled him in, although it was the lowest budget in the pile. That didn't matter. For Hawkes, the thought of playing such a brave man who was almost fully paralyzed was an intriguing idea.

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