THE SURROGATE: John Hawkes as a paraplegic poet

THE SURROGATE is, so far, one of the most anticipated films for Sundance 2012. To the list of best-known actors in this year’s festival, including John Krasinski, Bruce Willis, Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried, Danny Glover and Common, THE SURROGATE adds Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, and Oscar nominee John Hawkes. Hawkes, whose recent turns at Sundance have included a cult leader and a Meth addict, now plays a paralyzed journalist and poet.  The film is based on the true story of how polio survivor Mark O’Brien, who spent much of his life on an iron lung, eventually lost his virginity with help from his priest and a sex surrogate. O’Brien’s relationship with the surrogate, played by Helen Hunt, changes both of their lives. Ben Lewin, himself a polio survivor, writes and directs.

There’s no trailer yet (we’ll bring you that when it comes), but it’s drawing a lot of attention. Kevin Jagernauth of indiewire writes, “this sounds like exactly the complex, rich fare the festival was created for,” and it’s on top of The Film Stage’s watchlist.

O’Brien fought to live most of his life with little help from others, and most notably, he founded his own publishing company. He was also the subject of a 1997 Academy Award-winning Sundance documentary BREATHING LESSONS: THE LIFE AND WORK OF MARK O’BRIEN.