Originally called The Surrogate, The Sessions was based on an article titled "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate" written by the real life Mark O'Brien, in whose memory the film is dedicated. The film's director, Ben Lewin, worked very closely with both Cheryl Cohen Greene, Mark's surrogate, and Susan Fernbach, Mark's partner in the years leading up to his death. Cohen Greene is still working as a "sex surrogate" but the title has since been changed to "surrogate partner."
When asked why he chose Mark's story to create a film, Lewin responded, "I felt that if I could do on film what he had done to me with his writing, then I could potentially deliver something powerful." A successful writer despite his set backs, Mark died at age 49. For another look at Mark's life, check out Jessica Yu's 1996 Oscar-winning documentary short, Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien.