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SORVINO, MIRA: At First Sight

BE YOU, BE TRUE
Mira Sorvino is one of Hollywood's hot properties. Starring opposite Val Kilmer in the romantic drama At First Sight, Sorvino also stars in Spike Lee's drama, Summer of Sam. PAUL FISCHER spoke to her in Los Angeles' perennially lush Four Seasons Hotel.

There's an undeniably cool elegance about Mira Sorvino, that is poles apart from the wacky hooker that brought her instant fame in Mighty Aphrodite. Naturally beautiful and elegant, Sorvino clearly knows how to stealthily work the room. Quiet and contemplative, Sorvino's career has been somewhat diverse since her Oscar win. One might question some of her choices, and the actress admits that despite her standing, she finds it tough to find roles that really challenge her, and that Hollywood remains, after all, a man's world.

"there's a lot of competition for the great female parts"

"One can get an offer or two a week, but they may not be the films you want to do. It's very hard, and I think that unfortunately these days, perhaps because of the financial structure of the ways movies are made, large-budget movies are often made for one big, male star, and the budget won't even allow for a big female star to have a sizeable, equal role with him. So you end up with a female part that is like a tone in the movie or an interesting adjunct, but not essential to the movie. There are many exceptions, but still, I think the economics of big-budget filmmaking these days have dictated the reduction of the female role." For Sorvino, that move "is distressing because you read these fantastically interesting scripts, where all of the characters are multilayered and fascinating --- except for the girl. You tear your hair out thinking: Even the third male character is more interesting than the female lead."

Even when one has achieved a certain clout, as Sorvino has, it is difficult to even get scripts to be changed so that these token female characters are deepened. "Often it is what it is, and you take it or leave it. The trouble is, there's a lot of competition for the great female parts; everybody wants them, and there are very few."

One such character ended up being in the new romantic drama, At First Sight. Sorvino plays highly strung New York architect Amy Benic who meets blind masseur Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer) and falls in love. As she learns his lifelong blindness may be curable through experimental surgery, she convinces him to undergo the operation. Virgil then learns vision may not quite be what he expected.

"I wanted the chance to play someone who is a little bit closer to my own personality (having reveled in playing these extreme personae)", the actress explains. "I was very moved by the script, the end of which made me cry. I also thought it was a complex story about people in love, coupled by this extraordinary element of the blindness and the exploration of sight as new, uncharted territory. I don't think anyone's ever done a film about someone who couldn't see before and then could see." But it's more than just a film about blindness, Sorvino insists. "Through all of that, at the end you care more about the love between these people, and its survival, than about the issue of sight. It's very much about the human heart."

"I don't think nudity is necessary; to me, a little bit of mystery is a good thing."

There are a number of passionate love scenes between Sorvino and Kilmer throughout this film. The actress isn't a stranger to shooting such moments of intimacy, but describes that process "as one of the oddest in our profession. One minute you're shaking hands with your co-star, the next you're in bed with the guy. But in all seriousness, you have to have a very good relationship with your director and co-star, and feel comfortable with them. Sometimes, the crew takes off pieces of their clothing to accommodate the actors in sympathy", she adds laughingly. But she draws the line when it comes to doing total nude scenes. "There's always artfully placed pieces of cloth and tape in the appropriate places. I don't think nudity is necessary; to me, a little bit of mystery is a good thing."

Sorvino has worked steadily since winning her Oscar (Best Supporting Actress, in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite, 1995) and is known for her chameleon-like ability to change her appearance and for her facility with foreign accents. For Sorvino, her career has to do with her love of acting, not a career path, and it's that genuine passion for acting, that drives her, not the desire for stardom.

"I was not raised with this culture of so much the adulation of the movie star, as much as the appreciation of acting as an art form. Therefore for me, the goal was to get the most out of acting, and to try to meet the challenges of acting as I could, rather than to form a body of work that would indelibly make me a movie star. I think movie stardom tends to narrow people's film choices into bankable, successful vehicles that people can get familiar with."

"be yourself at the end of the day"

Though her actor father Paul Sorvino actively discouraged his daughter from following in his footsteps, when Sorvino won her Oscar, she accepted the award in his honour. She now admits having learnt a great deal from her dad, and taking from him, one piece of valuable advice: "He once told me to always be yourself at the end of the day, and to not be so afraid of failing, that you don't try. Go out there, take your best swing at it, take your best shot at it and stay true to yourself."

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