Alexandria-born actor John Hawkes won Best Male Lead for his poignant portrayal as a polio victim in "The Sessions" at the Film Independent Spirit Awards Saturday in Santa Monica, Calif., The Hollywood Reporter reports.
Hawkes had pretty stiff competition in the category. Among the nominees were Bradley Cooper, who is also an Oscar nominee for "Silver Linings Playbook," as well as Jack Black for "Bernie" and Matthew McConaughey for "Killer Joe."
Hawkes' co-star, Helen Hunt, also won a Spirit Award, for Best Supporting Female.
The Spirit Awards were handed out on the beach in Santa Monica Saturday afternoon.
Hawkes, who was born John Perkins in Alexandria in 1959, earned critical acclaim and several Best Actor award nominations for his role in "The Sessions." He stars in the film as Mark O'Brien, a real-life journalist who sought to lose his virginity despite his severe disability.
"Mark had the movement of his head and nothing else. But after graduating from college at UC Berkley, he made his living using a mouth stick and an early computer to painstakingly write his articles -- but he was happy to be alive," Hawkes told me in a post-production interview. "He did an article about disabled sex and wondered about his own possibilities. So it's really about Mark's journey to becoming a man in his late 30s."
Hawkes previously won a Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for the 2010 crime thriller "Winter's Bone," which also earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
While Hawkes missed out on an Oscar nomination for "The Sessions" (Hunt is nominated for Best Supporting Actress), he has a key supporting role in the Best Picture nominee "Lincoln" as one of the trio of political operatives who try to secure votes to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.
Hawkes told me he had only one day of filming with Best Actor frontrunner Daniel Day-Lewis, but it was a memorable one.
"It wasn't a scene that required him to be emotional or chew scenery -- but it was a phenomenal thing to see," Hawkes said. "He embodied the character unlike I’ve seen any actor embody a character. It was a moving thing to be around that day."
See the trailer from Hawkes' "The Sessions" below.