Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Mira (Sorvino)!


With Woody in Mighty Aphrodite

Best Supporting Actress

As Marilyn

Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion

Surrounding Janeane Garofalo



Sunburst Diving Beetle


The Replacement Killers with Chow Yun-fat

With Jennifer Connelly at Reservation Road

With Dad

It is with great pleasure this morning that I'm able to give a happy birthday shout out to one of my very favorite actresses, Ms. Mira Sorvino.
Mira was born at a very early age in Tenafly, New Jersey, just a stones throw across the Hudson River from New York, and where Yogi Berra and Ed Harris live. It's all very affluent.
Tenafly is also famous for the 1973 dramatic television series of the same name... "Tenafly."
She is the daughter of Lorraine Davis, a former actress herself, and therapist for Alzheimer's patients, an affliction my dear grandmother suffered from. Her dad is Paul Sorvino, who everybody knows as the famous character actor and sculptor. He's been in almost everything, but I'm told he's especially known for playing the mafia chieftain, Paul Cicero, in Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, "Goodfellas," and as Henry Kissinger in Oliver Stone's "Nixon," and as Lt. Worf's human adoptive brother Nikolai Rozhenko, in "Star Trek, the Next Generation." Hell, I saw him just last night as Colonel Malcolm Grommett Spears in the 1985 Larry Cohen classic, "The Stuff."
We have to thank Larry for introducing us to Mira, as this was actually the first film she ever appeared in. The eighteen year old came to the set to visit her dad, and made an uncredited appearance as an extra.
I don't recall seeing her in it because I forgot that she was in it somewhere and I didn't look for her, but I sincerely hope the Stuff didn't get her. It did get Danny Aiello, the poor son of a bitch.
"Can't get enough of that Stuff."
Anyway... she has a brother, Michael, and a playwright sister, Amanda. They all seem to be at least half Italian due to Paul.
And Paul didn't really want his kids to get involved in the acting profession, despite "The Stuff," because he knew how hard the business can be, especially for aspiring young actors and actresses (take heed Erin), but being basically a willful child, Mira went ahead and prepared herself for her upcoming career by writing and acting in backyard plays with her buddy the future professional actress Hope Davis ("About Schmidt" "Flatliners" "The Secret Lives of Dentists"). At age 12, Mira worked as a production assistant for the play "That Championship Season" starring her dad. She also acted in plays at the college prep Dwight-Englewood School, and this place called Harvard University, where she graduated magna cum laude (with high honors) in 1989, with a BA in Chinese (East Asian Languages and Civilizations). Her honors thesis: "Anti-Africanism in the People's Republic of China" about the Nanjing Anti-African protests of course, written and researched during the year she spent in Beijing, which helped her fluency in Mandarin Chinese, and which won the Harvard Hoopes Prize for writing.
One would gather from this that Mira is pretty smart, intimidatingly so. But you have to remember that Mandarin is by far the most widely spoken language on the planet, with approximately 1.12 billion native and secondary speakers, more than English, Spanish, and Russian combined. So basically she's just speaking what most people in the world speak. How hard can that be?
She's also fluent in French, which I find extremely scary.
And I took French!
However, "There's a side of my personality that goes completely against the East Coast educated person and wants to be a pin-up girl in garages across America...there's a side that wants to wear the pink angora bikini!"
I'm all for that!
Mira took off to New York City after college to try and make it as an actress. She waitressed, tended bar, and auditioned. She worked briefly for Robert De Niro at his Tribeca production company. Bobby obviously didn't know a good thing when he saw it.
She made her acting debut on an episode of "Law & Order" in 1990, which at the time coincidently stared her father. Although her scene was cut, she still earned a Screen Actors Guild Card for her trouble.
She was a temporary replacement on the soap "Guiding Light," and got a recurring role on the short lived television teen drama, "Swans Crossing" (as opposed to "Deer Crossing"), along with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Brittany Daniel. In 1993 she got a leading role in a Japanese production, "New York Cop," but her breakout role came that same year when she was first hired as the third assistant director, then was promoted to casting director, then to assistant producer, and was finally offered the female lead role in the independent film, "Amongst Friends" (her brother Michael also appeared in the film as "kid in fight"). Positive reviews opened doors for her, and she got two small parts in other films. She played Rob Morrow's ("Northern Exposure" "Numb3rs") wife in Robert Redford's "Quiz Show," and a role in the comedy "Barcelona," in 1994.
She got lead roles in a couple of other movies, and the television mini series, "The Buccaneers," before Woody Allen took a chance on the 28 year old, relative new comer, and cast Mira in a pivotal role in his "Mighty Aphrodite."
Mira played the biological mother of Woody's adopted son, Max. Woody's character, Lenny wanted to know more about his son's real mom and set out in search for her. I don't know why. He eventually found her going under the name Linda Ash, a porn actress and prostitute. But a nice one. Her character is both street smart and naive, a hooker with a heart of gold one might say, funny, affectionate, sexy, foul mouthed and at times crude, her voice distinctive, full throated horsey, but not low pitched. She's been described as "happy go lucky," but came from an extremely dysfunctional background, which all in all, despite her chosen profession, seems to have left her rather unscathed.
This role was my introduction to Mira, and I secretly fell in love with Linda Ash first, and then Mira. Please don't tell anybody.
I think I fell in love with her after this exchange between Linda and Lenny in a restaurant, when she tells him how she first wanted to enter the acting profession (please don't read this Cousin Kathy):
Linda: Now and then I would turn a few tricks to make some dough, and one day my friend Suzie calls me and asks me if I want to be in a film, I said sure, and I remember I was very nervous because I'd never done it in front of people with a camera before. So there I am on the first day, on the set, and there's this guy fucking me from behind, right? And there's these two huge guys dressed like cops in my mouth at the same time, and I remember thinking to myself...
I like acting. I want to study.
Lenny: Yes, well, it's... it's one way of getting into the profession.
Here's some scenes:
At the grand old age of 29 Mira Sorvino won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in "Mighty Aphrodite." She was now a bona fide star, and her dad didn't mind her being an actresses any more.
In 1996 she along with the lovely Ashley Judd both played Marilyn Monroe in "Norma Jean & Marilyn," Ashley playing the young aspiring actress Norma Jean, and Mira playing Marilyn all grown up. Both received an Emmy nomination for this HBO production.
The very next year she starred along with Lisa Kudrow ("Friends") and a personal hero of mine, Janeane Garofalo, in one of my very favorite movies of all time (as I mentioned in the upcoming book, "Skid Row Diary"), "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, " the poignant story of two successful businesswomen who, as the title suggests, attend their high school reunion... after fake inventing Post-it notes. Mira, Lisa, and Alan Cumming shared the MTV Award nomination for Best Dance Sequence in 1998. I remember that dance now, and it always brings a tear to my beautiful brown eyes.
Here's some clips:
And a clip from the Dave Letterman show from a time between Romy and Mimic (for male readers please prepare yourselves for those legs).
It was around this time that Mira began dating the writer and director Quentin Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction" "Jackie Brown"). She would eventually give him up for the swarthier French actor, Olivier Martinez ("Unfaithful" "Blood and Chocolate"). She would give him up and then marry actor Christopher Backus after meeting him at a charades party in 2003. They got married in Santa Monica... and Capri Italy, because Mira's Italian (which doesn't explain Santa Monica). They have three children (small adults) together; Mattea Angel, Johnny Christopher King, and Holden Paul Terry Backus.
Unfortunately I could not find any clips from Mira's next film, the heretofore mentioned Sci Fi thriller "Mimic" (based on a true stroy I'm told), directed by Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth" "Hellboy" "The Hobbit" drop out). Another favorite film of mine in which Mira appeared.
In honor of her role as Dr. Susan Tyler in "Mimic," an entomologist who was investigating deadly insect mutations, a compound excreted by the sunburst diving beetle (picture above) as a defensive mechanism was named mirasorvone.
Another favorite film of mine in which she appears, and which happens to get a fair amount of play on cable, is "The Replacement Killers," her turn in the action genre, with Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-fat. I do have a clip from that movie:
In 2005 she was nominated for another Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film, for "Human Trafficking," a subject I happen to be intensely interested in. I haven't see this movie yet, but I will tonight, and I'm sure it will be good. Why not? It's got Mira Sorvino in it.
And I know this... it's going to make me mad.
In 2007 she appeared in "Reservation Road," with another favorite actress of mine, the lovely and talented, Jennifer Connelly (picture above), who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress herself, in "A Beautiful Mind ."
Here's a promotional interview with Mira for "Reservation Road."
Mira's made a whole bunch of other fine films and television appearances. You can find them all at the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). I did.
Mira and I have this in common (besides speaking Mandarin), we both are involved with the human rights organization, Amnesty International, she concerning matters of violence against women, which includes human trafficking. In 2009 Mira was named Goodwill Ambassador to combat human trafficking for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Here's an interview in which she discusses this very important subject:
Mira continues to work and live, and all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her and her family continued success and good health, and a very happy birthday!
Happy Birthday Mira!

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