Ben Lewin: 40-Year Overnight Success

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Ben Lewin is aware that parallels will be drawn between himself and Mark O’Brien, the subject of his film “The Sessions.” Both are polio survivors who were left damaged by the effects of the disease at the age of 6; Lewin, now 65, walks with the aid of crutches. Neither allowed his condition to stand in the way of the life and career he wanted. Lewin broke through as a writer-director with the 1988 Australian film “Georgia,” a thriller starring Judy Davis that earned eight Australian Film Institute nominations. But his film career fizzled after his 1994 comedy “Paperback Romance,” and Lewin stopped writing. Instead, he took directing jobs on shows such as “Ally McBeal” and “Touched by an Angel” and pursued other hobbies—such as selling watches.

A few years ago, Lewin returned to writing. He was working on a television pilot based on his experiences, called “The Gimp,” and his research led him to O’Brien’s article, “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate.” Lewin knew he had found the subject for his first feature film in 18 years, which he financed with the help of friends and family. Now, with his passion project earning raves, he finds himself, in his own words, “a 40-year overnight success.” And after all this time, he’s actually enjoying himself. “I think people think filmmaking is fun, but I’ve never thought that,” Lewin says. “For me it’s always been a lot of work and pain and stress. But every day on this set was a joy. I’m actually sad that it’s over.”