John Hawkes, The Notoriously Private Actor in The Sessions', on Oscar Buzz

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No one would ever call John Hawkes a movie star, and he likes that just fine. Unfortunately for him, the buzz about him is growing by the day. The ever-private actor is finding himself in the spotlight more and more.

The Oscar-betting machine is putting its money of Hawkes for yet another Oscar nod for his newest film, The Sessions. The big hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival, The Sessions (costarring Helen Hunt and William H. Macy) is an independent dramedy about real-life poet and polio survivor Mark O'Brien, who spent most of his days in an iron lung, and his decision to lose his virginity with the aid of a sexual surrogate - and the blessing of his priest.

After wading through a pile of scripts offered to him on the heels of the success of Winter's Bone, Hawkes carefully accepted the physically and mentally challenging role of O'Brien because it was a script and a story that he felt really matters.

"It always begins with the script and the story," he said about his role selections. "I'm looking for a great story, well written, with a role that matters to that story that I feel that I can do well ... I'm just trying to find something that stirs me." And how does the publicity-shy actor feel about all of the Oscar buzz he's getting for the role?

"It's honestly a mixed bag on many, many levels," said Hawkes, sitting on a balcony at The Worthington Renaissance. "On the plus side, it's incredibly validating to be thought of alongside people that you admire ... And then when something comes your way, there's a reality that goes along the side that is bracing."

But Hawkes is aware of the role of Hollywood and celebrity in this world. "I'm aware that 50 yards away from the Kodak Theatre, as I'm stepping out of a limousine that they sent for me to ride in, there's people who can't eat, who don't have enough food. So the lavishness of it all is a little unpalatable on some level, but then again, you sit in a room with people you admire, some of the greatest people at what they do in the world, and it's fun to be a part of."

Born and raised in Minnesota, Hawkes bee-lined to Austin after high school, and he became a part of the theatre, film and music scene there for the next 10 years before heading west. With over 100 television and film titles and almost 30 years of experience under his belt, it's a little unsettling that he's only now being tagged the next big thing, a rising star and someone to watch.

"There's a danger when you're visibility rises that people might not believe you in the roles you play," said Hawkes, reflecting on the effects of celebrity in the industry. "I've done a bunch of little films that have done well out of nowhere, and so that's raised my visibility ... and I feel like, as an actor, if I can't be invisible in a crowd of people and observe human behavior, I can't do my job very well."

In addition to all of his stage and screen time, the reluctant Oscar hopeful is also ready to release a CD, maybe. "I think every year it says a new CD will come out in 2011 and then 2012, 2013 - I got to get on it. 2013 for sure," he said with a laugh. "It's the first and probably last solo CD I'll ever make. I found myself between bands with a lot of songs that I wanted to record. I'd much rather be in a collaborative group of people, insert your own metaphor here - I've always liked being a part of something."

Not surprising from a guy who best identified with George (the quiet Beatle) and still doesn't have an email account.

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