Helen Hunt talked to OTRC.com about portraying a sex surrogate in her new film, "The Sessions."
"I had never heard of such a thing," Hunt told OTRC.com of sex surrogacy, at the film's Los Angeles premiere. "Then I read the script for this beautiful movie and I didn't realize what a great part it was at first, I just knew that the story was great."
"Then I met the woman that I play, who is still working as a sex surrogate and she has devoted her life to helping men and women realize their sexual potential in a positive, non-judgmental, non-shamey kind of way," the 49-year-old actress continued. "I just couldn't believe it existed in real life, or that I would get to embody it for a few months."
In the film, Hunt's character, Cheryl Cohen Greene, is helping 38-year-old writer Mark O'Brien (played by John Hawkes) lose his virginity. O'Brien has had polio since childhood and is paralyzed from the neck down, but he is still able to have an erection. The film is based on O'Brien's true story, which he chronicled an article titled "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate." O'Brien died in 1999 at the age of 49.
William H. Macy, who currently stars in the Showtime series "Shameless," portrays a Catholic priest who helps Hawkes' character spiritually.
"I didn't know what to think," Hunt said of the subject matter. "I just got to the end and went, 'That is a beautiful movie' and what I didn't know until I saw it was how funny and singular it is."
The real Cohen Greene is now a 67-year-old grandmother and is one of almost 50 registered sex surrogates in the United State. Back in January, she told CNN that she has seen more than 950 clients, most of them in her home in Berkeley, California.
"I'm not getting paid for sex," she said. "That is a piece of it but more of the session, we are doing communication skills, touching skills."
Originally titled "The Surrogate," the film debuted at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival where it won the dramatic audience award and special jury prize for ensemble acting. It was also picked up for distribution by Fox Searchlight.
Hunt acknowledged that a lot of mediocre scripts that have passed through her hands through the years, but said that she knew "The Sessions" was an exceptional one and nothing would stop her from taking on the challenging role."
"You pick through the not-good ones and you choose the good ones when they come, which is rare for any actor, I think," Hunt said of the script-reading process. "This one was just beautiful, that's all I knew. And any challenges that the role presented, I just put aside and said yes."
Hunt earned an Oscar for her role in the 1997 movie "As Good as It Gets," which also stars Jack Nicholson, and last appeared in the film "Soul Surfer," which was released in 2011.
Hawkes was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in the 2010 film, "Winter's Bone." He recently appeared in the thriller "Contagion" and the movie "Martha Marcy May Marlene." He is also known for his role as Dustin Powers on the HBO series "Eastbound & Down."
"The Sessions" opens in theaters on October 19. Watch a trailer and a clip from the film below.