Cari Lynn is an AwardsLine contributor.
Writer/director Ben Lewin’s boldly endearing film The Sessions is the true story of quadriplegic journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, who, at 38 years old, set about losing his virginity by hiring a sex surrogate, played by Helen Hunt. Veteran actor John Hawkes plays O’Brien in the film, embracing a physically and emotionally challenging role. In a recent interview with AwardsLine, Hawkes discussed the challenges of embodying a character who can’t move his body.
AwardsLine: How did this script come to you and how daunting—or not—was playing a man whose only movement was limited to the neck up?
John Hawkes: I’d had some luck with the film Winter’s Bone and after that I got sent some scripts to consider. I hadn’t seen a character like this before—and that was the daunting part. Mark O’Brien lived in an iron lung from 6 years old on and only had 90 degrees of movement with his head. I wasn’t interested in him being more of an able-bodied Mark O’Brien and was glad the script wasn’t written that way. Disabled sex isn’t something we talk about a great deal, and I’m always interested in subjects I don’t know about.