Helen Hunt Opens Up About Sex, Full Nudity, and Her New Film, 'The Sessions'

Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in 'The Sessions.'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.

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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.

"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.

While not knowing each other, of course getting naked in front of each other was awkward-as it was supposed to be in the film. To make that come out on screen, Lewin filmed the scenes chronologically so that the first time they saw each other naked, was the actual first time-awkward and uncomfortable. Hawkes considered this "a gift" from the director.

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"Helen and I tried not to really get to know each other and to give each other room, so that when we shot that first session scene, a lot of things happened for the very first time on camera," Hawkes explained of the first time seeing each other naked. "It wasn't rehearsed much at all. So for Helen and I to shoot those scenes in order was very beneficial and as the characters over time shot the next scenes, they knew each other better, as did she and I."

So, are you wondering what the difference is between being a sex surrogate and a prostitute, yet? Helen Hunt as well as the real Cheryl Greene thought that it was important to understand.

"It was important to me that that line be in there about the difference," Hunt said. "It's not only the difference, she says, it's not the same; I have nothing against prostitutes, but it's different. I didn't want it to sound like 'that's obviously a horrible sin and this is an angelic calling.' It's all really nobody's business but the person who's doing it. It's all explained well by the real woman. A prostitute wants your returned business. I won't even take your returned business. This is different; this is to set you up for having a sexual life."

She also thinks the R-rated movie that she is shown completely naked in, should be seen by teens.

"You know, I have a step-son who's 15 and a daughter who's eight so we're circling either side of that moment when they begin to realize that there's such thing as sex," Hunt shared. "So it makes me really all the more, want for them to have a positive introduction to that. I think young people should see the movie. I think 16, 17-year-olds should see the movie with their parents. That would be a big deal, a gift to give their kid to not go through the ridiculous thing we all go through thinking everybody else knows how to do it, everybody else has got it down; all that is not happening in this movie. I think it would be great. It's taken with me a real desire, especially for younger people, to see it."

So, have we got you wanting to see the film yet? Trust us, you want to see this. The Sessions is in theaters now!

Written by Emily Longeretta for YourTango.com.


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