Helen Hunt in ‘The Sessions’

Eye on the Oscars: The Actress - Supporting Actress Contenders

As an Oscar and four-time Emmy winner, Helen Hunt is adept at finding the right key to unlock a character.

“It can be a pair of shoes, an accent, one phrase,” says the actress, who’s grown more selective of projects since taking home the gold for “As Good as It Gets” and becoming a mom to 8-year-old daughter Makena.

Popular on Variety

For her emotionally (and often physically) naked comeback role as a licensed sex surrogate in “The Sessions,” the key proved to be meeting the real-life therapist, Cheryl Cohen Greene, who helped polio-stricken writer Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) lose his virginity.

“It was invaluable not only hearing what she said but how,” says the former “Mad About You” star. “Her enthusiasm, sense of adventure and unabashed frankness about sex seemed like something I hadn’t seen onscreen before.”

While Hunt met several times with Greene — even inviting her over to the house, where the actress had her read the entire “Sessions” script into a tape recorder — she spent “almost no time” with co-star John Hawkes prior to filming their intimate scenes together, which is exactly how she wanted it.

“It worked out perfectly for the movie,” she says, “because the camera got to capture those very real ‘I don’t know you but we’re going be naked together now’ moments.”

Hunt’s bare bod certainly hasn’t hurt in generating buzz for the tiny indie, though according to the actress, putting clothes back on at the end of the day was way more exciting.

“I’d put on the thickest sweatpants I had, zip up my collar, and go to In-n-Out Burger,” she says.

| HOME | Frances McDormand >>

More Scene

  • Sean Penn CORE Gala

    Sean Penn Offers to Take Selfies in Exchange for $5,000 Donations to Disaster Relief

    A decade after the catastrophic 7.0 Haiti earthquake left between 50,000 and 100,000 dead and nearly a million people displaced, Sean Penn hosted the 10th anniversary CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) gala, raising funds for international disaster relief at the Wiltern Theatre on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. “We’re not here tonight because we want [...]

  • Allison Janney Viola Davis

    Viola Davis & Allison Janney React to Lack of Diversity in 2020 Oscar Nominations

    Monday morning’s Oscar nominations rebooted the #OscarsSoWhite conversation, reigniting discussion about representation after women were shut out of the directing category and only one person of color — Cynthia Erivo — was nominated in the acting categories. At the premiere of Amazon Original’s “Troop Zero” at The Grove in Los Angeles on Monday evening, the [...]

  • Star Trek Picard Premiere

    'Picard' Stars Reveal Which 'Star Trek' Character They Would Get Drunk With

    The cast and creators of “Star Trek: Picard” turned out for the show’s premiere at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome on Monday night. In the spirit of the festive atmosphere of the night, Variety asked them which “Star Trek” character, past or present, they’d most like to pound a few Romulan ales with at the local [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Laura Dern

    Inside the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards: What You Didn't See on TV

    ‘Twas the night before Oscar nominations and all through the ballroom, the Barker Hanger was buzzing as critics mixed and mingled with A-listers inside the 25th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards on Sunday night. Life Achievement winner Eddie Murphy, #SeeHer honoree Kristen Bell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Bong Joon Ho were among the big names who played [...]

  • Taye Diggs Critics Choice

    Critics' Choice Awards: The Complete Winners List

    The 25th annual Critics’ Choice Awards gala, hosted by Taye Diggs, was broadcast live on The CW on Sunday night. It was a good night for both Netflix and HBO, with the studios taking home trophies for movies and shows like “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” “When They See Us,” “Watchmen” and “Succession.” “Once Upon a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content