There's a thin line between desperation and inspiration, at least according to Ben Lewin, director of "The Sessions." The film tells the mostly true story of Mark O'Brien (played by John Hawkes), a 38-year-old journalist and poet confined to an iron lung who enlists a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity.
At a recent installment of the Envelope Screening Series hosted by Times film reporter John Horn, Lewin shared the film's origin story. "I think like a lot of worthy enterprises, it starts with an act of desperation," he said.
Lewin, a polio survivor (as O'Brien was), said his agent had encouraged him to write a sitcom about himself. "I was in the middle of developing something called 'The Gimp,' about a guy who trades the use of his handicapped placard for sex," Lewin said. While trawling Google for research, he added, "Out of the corner of my eye I noticed on the screen an article called 'On Seeing a Sex Surrogate.' "
The article, written by O'Brien, struck a chord with Lewin and ultimately inspired "The Sessions."
"I'd rarely been so strongly impacted emotionally by anything I'd read in such an immediate way," Lewin said. "It was pure serendipity."