Based on the true life experiences of Irish American author Mark O'Brien, The Sessions tells the story of a 38-year-old man who is determined to overcome his lifelong curvature of the spine and lose his virginity.
Already the independent film has found a major distributor in Fox Searchlight and is being tipped as a movie to beat in the 2013 Academy Awards, with John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy certain to number among the honored nominees.
Based on O'Brien's true story, The Sessions shows how O'Brien was confined to an iron lung after a bout with polio at an early age. But finally the grown up O'Brien decides he wants to experience simple human intimacy and with the help of sex surrogate (Hunt) and the blessing of his friendly neighborhood priest (Macy) he sets out to accomplish it.
'I've never had a film festival experience like that afternoon at the Eccles Auditorium,' Hawkes told HuffPost Entertainment about the film's Sundance premiere. 'It was a charmed experience, unlike anything I've ever been a part of.'
The rapturous reception for The Sessions has been a source of pride for Hawkes he says, but the film's production was a physical ordeal. To stay true to O'Brien's plight - whose spine was so curved due to his illness that sexual intercourse was initially assumed impossible for him - the actor used something he called a 'torture ball.'
'It turned out to not be very good for me and my chiropractor told me that my organs were migrating. 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.'
The Sessions will arrive in theaters on October 25 and critics are already suggesting that Hawkes may be a major player at the 85th annual Academy Awards on February 24, 2013.
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore