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
"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
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
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."