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Helen Hunt, Throwing Herself into Her Latest Role

Helen Hunt has been acting for nearly 40 years. TV's Mad About You made her a household name, and then she took home an Oscar for 1997's As Good as It Gets.

Now she's taking a stab at directing, producing and writing. And she's doing all that — as well as acting — in one film: Then She Found Me.

Hunt read Elinor Lipman's novel as far back as nine years ago, she says.

"It was just a new idea — a grown woman whose birth mother finds her, and they forge a relationship," Hunt says. "And it's rare, when you're thinking about being in a movie, to hear a new idea."

She came across a "very faithful, well done" screenplay adaptation and shopped it around. No luck.

She tried working on a rewrite, with a writing partner. Still no luck.

So Hunt put the story away for a while, and she began to think about whether there was something missing in the screenplay — something "that was perfect in the novel, but not there in the screenplay."

For inspiration, Hunt confesses, she turned to her own life.

"I was wanting a baby myself, very much," she says. "And this was a mother-daughter story where what the protagonist wanted, in the novel, was a sort of subtle, internal thing."

Something difficult to put across onscreen, in other words.

"And it occurred to me, this woman should want a baby."

An essay on betrayal, by the writer James Hillman, provided another spark.

"And once I latched on to this idea that the movie would be about betrayal — a comedy about this horrendous subject called betrayal, betrayal by God, in the case of this character that I play — I started to feel a sense of authorship of the movie, and then all of the elements fell into place."

Hunt tells NPR about the movie's long gestation process, about the difficulty of finding a studio to green light it and about why "underneath, to be honest, it's all me."

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