Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in The Sessions.
Nate von Zumwalt, Editorial Coordinator
Leading up to the 85th edition of the Academy Awards on Sunday, February 24, we’re profiling all 13 of this year’s Sundance-supported Oscar nominees. Click here for the full list of nominees.
Ben Lewin’s 2012 Sundance Film Festival selection The Sessions (fka The Surrogate) yielded a pair of glowing performances from John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, but—to the dismay of some—only one Oscar nomination. That bestowal went to Hunt for her role as Cheryl Cohen-Greene, a sex surrogate tasked with assisting poet and journalist Mark O’Brien (Hawkes) on a pursuit to lose his virginity despite his age (38) and though he is fettered to an iron lung.
For her part, Hunt faced the dueling challenge of accurately portraying her character (Cohen-Greene and Obrien are both real people) while acquiescing to the demands of the adapted narrative. That was more than enough pressure for a role already suffused with new tests, from traversing the awkward subject matter to a number of emotionally and physically vulnerable scenes. Lewin’s film offers a forthright portrayal—one bereft of glamor—of sexual chemistry that most viewers will find familiar, and that Cohen-Greene appreciated. “Thank you for understanding my intentions with Mark,” she wrote to Hunt after seeing the film.
- Helen Hunt is nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
- The Sessions marks Hunt’s second appearence in a Sundance Film Festival selection (The Waterdance, 1992)
- Hunt participated in the 1986 Sundance Institute Directors Lab as part of the acting ensemble