When "The Sessions" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January it was called "The Surrogate." There was a time when it was also called "Six Sessions." Whatever name the indie comedy-drama arrives in theaters with, however, is inconsequential. What matters is that the film might be a huge player at the 2013 Academy Awards, where stars John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy could find themselves among the honored nominees.
Based on the true story of Mark O'Brien, "The Sessions" follows a 38-year-old man (Hawkes), confined to an iron lung after a bout with polio at the age of six. His goal? To lose his virginity -- something he accomplishes with the help of sex surrogate (Hunt) and the blessing of his friendly neighborhood priest (Macy).
"I've never had a film festival experience like that afternoon at the Eccles Auditorium," Hawkes told HuffPost Entertainment earlier this year about the Sundance premiere. "[Director] Ben Lewin -- a guy who is 65 years old and hasn't made a movie in a long time -- it was really wonderful to be part of the experience with him. It was a charmed experience, unlike anything I've ever been a part of."
While the reception for "The Sessions" has been a source of pride for Hawkes, its production was a physical ordeal. Hawkes told Vulture that to stay true to O'Brien's plight -- whose spine is so horribly curved, sexual intercourse was initially assumed impossible -- the actor used something called a "torture ball."
"It turned out to not be very good for me and my chiropractor told me that my organs were migrating," he said. "I probably will carry some of that the rest of my life, but it's obviously a minute amount of pain compared to what many disabled people face minute-to-minute."
Look for "The Sessions" in theaters on Oct. 25. Look for Hawkes at the 85th annual Academy Awards on Feb. 24, 2013.
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