Mira Sorvino Biography

Film Actress, Women's Rights Activist, Film Actor/Film Actress, Producer, Television Actress, Actress, Activist (1967–)
Mira Sorvino is an Academy Award-winning actress who rose to fame with her starring role in Woody Allen's 'Mighty Aphrodite.'

Who is Mira Sorvino?

Actress Mira Sorvino was born in New York City on September 28, 1967. The oldest daughter of actor Paul Sorvino, Mira broke through with a starring role in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite (1995), which earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Sorvino has gone on to tackle projects spanning many genres in both TV and film, and has supported numerous human rights causes.

Early Life

Actress, producer and activist Mira Sorvino was born on September 28, 1967, in New York City. Over the course of her career she has played an impressive mix of roles, including a bubbly prostitute, a scientist, a master forger and Marilyn Monroe. She may have inherited some of her acting ability from her father, Paul Sorvino, a veteran performer known for his role in the mob film Goodfellas and his many seasons on the popular television crime drama Law & Order.

Sorvino was also strongly influenced by her mother to pursue social causes. "My mom marched on Washington with Martin Luther King," she explained to People magazine. "That my mom, a white middle-class lady, was moved enough to get involved in the civil rights movement made an enormous impression."

A bright student, she excelled at school. While a student at Harvard University, Sorvino wrote her thesis on racial conflict in China. She had spent a year in China as part of a study abroad program and became fluent in Mandarin.

After earning a degree in East Asian studies, Sorvino directed a documentary on anti-Semitism in Russia. She also worked a number of jobs, including serving as a production assistant and a script reader for Robert De Niro. Before long, she decided to pursue acting as a career. Sorvino had done some acting in school, but her father had discouraged her from taking up his profession. "I think he just didn't want rejection as the mainstay of his children's diet," she told Redbook magazine.

Aspiring Actress

For several years, Sorvino struggled to make it as a performer. She had a role in the short-lived syndicated teen serial Swans Crossing in 1992. When that ended, Sorvino landed a role on the soap opera Guiding Light, but she turned down a three-year contract in hopes of finding better opportunities. 

Sorvino's strategy appeared to be paying off when she made her big screen debut in the 1993 independent drama Amongst Friends. The following year, she played Rob Morrow's intellectual wife in Quiz Show, directed by Robert Redford and starring Ralph Fiennes.

Sorvino's breakthrough came with the role of Linda Ash, the squeaky-voiced, bleached-blonde prostitute with a heart of gold in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite (1995). She auditioned for the part twice. The first time she was rejected because she was not "sexual" enough. Undeterred, Sorvino met again with Allen while the two were in London, and this time she dressed provocatively and used a distinctive voice. Her efforts paid off, as Allen tapped her for the coveted role. 

Sorvino was anxious during the filming. "I was absolutely neurotic doing Mighty Aphrodite," she told Los Angeles magazine. "Every night brought a new nervous breakdown. I'd cry and talk to God, I was so nervous. Then the next day, I'd show up and do my scenes." 

Sorvino received numerous accolades for her work in Mighty Aphrodite, including the 1996 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. At the ceremony, her father shed tears of joy when she was announced as the winner. Her then-boyfriend, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, was also on hand to cheer her on. 

The actress followed with a portrayal of blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe in HBO's Norma Jean and Marilyn (1996), co-starring Ashley Judd as the legendary sex symbol's more timid side. Sorvino drew more praise for her performance in the project, garnering an Emmy Award nomination.

Mainstream Success

Sorvino went on to tackle roles in a variety of genres. In 1997, she co-starred with Lisa Kudrow in the comedy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, and then played an entomologist in the thriller Mimic, directed by Guillermo del Toro. Working with legendary martial artist Chow Yun Fat, Sorvino tried her hand as an action film heroine in 1998's The Replacement Killers, playing a forger who gets mixed up with a hitman.

Turning to more serious fare, Sorvino appeared as John Leguizamo's wife in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam (1999). She also explored life behind the camera, serving as a producer on the dramatic comedy Lisa Picard Is Famous (2000), a mockumentary that follows a young actress on the verge of stardom. 

In early 2001, Sorvino starred as Daisy Buchanan in A&E's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age classic, The Great Gatsby, co-starring Paul Rudd. The following year, she had a supporting role in the critically acclaimed Holocaust drama The Grey Zone, directed by Tim Blake Nelson, and also appeared opposite Sofia Loren in the drama Between Strangers

Before long, Sorvino found a project that appealed to her interest in social justice. She starred with Donald Sutherland in the 2005 miniseries Human Trafficking, which explored the lives of women and children who have been abducted and forced into various forms of slavery. Sorvino felt that taking on the role would allow her to "marry my personal interests and my social-activist concerns with an acting job, and that almost never happens," she told Interview magazine.

Recent Work

Alternating between commercial projects and independent films, Sorvino appeared in the television miniseries The Last Templar (2009) with Scott Foley and Victor Garber, as an archaeologist who tries to locate a missing artifact. In the 2009 independent film Like Dandelion Dust, she and co-star Barry Pepper struggle to keep their adopted child after the biological father seeks to gain custody.

In 2012, Sorvino starred with Dermot Mulroney in Trade of Innocents, the two playing a couple that joins the fight to end the trafficking of children after the loss of their own child. The film's subject matter hit close to home for Sorvino, who has served as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. 

Sorvino has continued to enjoy steady work in both television and film. In 2014, she had recurring roles on the science fiction thriller Falling Skies and the comedic crime show Psych, and she also co-starred in the lone season of the drama Intruders.

Following a series of straight-to-video releases, Sorvino landed a prominent role in the big screen drama Waterlily Jaguar and the TV series Condor, both slated to premiere in 2018.

Personal

Sorvino married actor Christopher Backus in June 2004. The couple has four children, daughters Mattea and Lucia, and sons Johnny and Holden.

In January 2018, Sorvino penned an open letter to Dylan Farrow in the Huffington Post, in which she apologized for her earlier work with Woody Allen. Dylan, the adopted daughter of Allen's former partner Mia Farrow, has accused the famed director of abusing her as a child.

“I confess that at the time I worked for Woody Allen I was a naïve young actress,” Sorvino wrote. “I swallowed the media’s portrayal of your abuse allegations against your father as an outgrowth of a twisted custody battle between Mia Farrow and him, and did not look further into the situation, for which I am terribly sorry.”

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