Actor John Hawkes: A familiar face to reluctant fame

Thu Oct 18, 2012 5:02pm EDT
 
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Unlike some actors, John Hawkes dislikes being recognized and does not crave attention. It distracts people from believing his transformations, he says quietly, of which there have been many.

In role after role, he has remained anonymous, so much so that eyebrows were raised when he was nominated for best supporting actor last year for "Winter's Bone."

Now he is being propelled farther into the limelight in a starring role that awards voters traditionally love -- a writer crippled by polio -- opposite Helen Hunt in "The Sessions," a feel-good inspiring indie movie aiming for wider appeal when it is released in the United States on Friday.

"There is trepidation alongside the gratitude," Hawkes said in an interview about his rising status, adding that while he "doesn't want to seem ungrateful," he knows with acclaim comes "things that are actually detrimental to being an effective actor."

"The Sessions" is based on the story of Mark O'Brien, an American poet and journalist who died in 1999, aged 49, who spends his days being wheeled around on a gurney and nights trapped in an iron lung. The film shows O'Brien hiring a sex therapist, played by Hunt, to lose his virginity.

It premiered to a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival. Then called "The Surrogate," it was a breakout hit there. It has received rave reviews, including for the performances of Hunt, and Hawkes, who for the entire film is limited to movement mostly above the neck.

"Just the notion that you would be playing the lead role in a film and you would only be able to move your head 90 degrees and every other part of you would have to remain twisted and still, gives you pause as an actor," Hawkes said.

He was offered the role by writer and director Ben Lewin on the back of his "Winter's Bone" success, in which he played a menacing meth addict and before that an evil cult leader in the film "Martha Marcy May Marlene." He is best known for his recurring role of Sol Star in the TV series "Deadwood."   Continued...

 
Actor John Hawkes talks to the media before the screening of the film "The Surrogate" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 23, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart