I first met Mira Sorvino in 1994. We didn't have all that much in common, but we had both lived in China and I was more than likely the only person she knew that was taller than her and spoke Mandarin.
She wasn't a famous actress yet. She had made QUIZ SHOW and been on "The Guiding Light", but Woody Allen's MIGHTY APHRODITE hadn't been released yet. I saw an advanced screening and told her she was going to win the Oscar. Typically, she said there was no way, so I bet her that if she got nominated for the Oscar she had to take me to the ceremony as her date. She laughed it off and then agreed.
It wasn't so much her performance as call girl/porn star Linda Ash that convinced me she would win, as much as it was the fact that Oscar loves a whore. All the way back to Janet Gaynore in 1927 playing a hooker in STREET ANGEL, or Helen Hayes in THE SIN OF MADELON in 1931. Anne Baxter got the nod for Best Supporting Actress for turning to hooking in 1946's RAZOR'S EDGE (not the Bill Murray version).
Claire Trevor in KEY LARGO and Judy Holliday BORN YESTERDAY weren't pros, but they were sluts and that was close enough to give them wins in 1948 and 1950 respectively. And you don't think Donna Reed's character wasn't making a little money on the side in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY?
Jo Van Fleet, Best Supporting Actress for playing a madam in EAST OF EDEN. Dorothy Malone, an Oscar for being a little nympho in WRITTEN ON THE WIND. Joanne Woodward was a whore a third of the time in THE THREE FACES OF EVE, and Liz Taylor found her true calling in BUTTERFIELD 8, just beating out Melina Mercouris' six day a week whore in NEVER ON SUNDAY.
Shirley MacLaine and Shirley Jones both turned on the red light for Oscar in 1960. MacLaine got the Best Actress for THE APARTMENT and Jones lived "Come On Get Happy" long before she sang it on the Partridge Family, when she won Best Supporting Actress in ELMER GANTRY. Three years later Shirley MacLaine double dipped as a French whore in IRMA LA DOUCE.
Julie Christie, Jane Fonda, Jodie Fosterb>, Julia Roberts; DARLING (1965) whore, KLUTE (1971) whore, TAXI DRIVER (1976) whore, PRETTY WOMAN (1990) whore.
With that kind of history did Joan Allen in NIXON, Kathleen Quinlan in APOLLO 13, Mare Winningham in GEORGIA or Kate Winslet in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY think they stood a chance against my little Mira in 1995? It was also the year that Sharon Stone and Elisabeth Shue were nominated for Best Actress for playing whores in CASINO and LEAVING LAS VEGAS.
What do you want? The Oscars are voted on by old, cranky white men with a soft spot in their hearts for women who will have sex with them for money. Don't even get me started on how many men have won Oscars for playing the elderly or infirmed.
Mira is an odd duck for Hollywood. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, but she can also be dumb as a mud fence. While she was working her Hoopes Prizing-winning thesis on racial conflict in Mainland China, she was dating the guy that worked at the Photo-mat booth in Harvard Square. She had already been in a few TV shows and small movies; so this might have been her way of keeping it real.
Or she was rebelling against her father, Paul Sorvino. Who doesn't love Paul Sorvino? Paul Cicero from GOODFELLAS. Lips Manlis from DICK TRACY. Henry Kissinger in NIXON, but would you want the duck-faced bastard for a father? When I first met Paul I told him his wife must be one hell of a knockout to have canceled out his ugly when they made Mira. He wasn't amused.
Here's a tip. If you ever get Paul Sorvino mad at you ask him to sing. He's a failed Opera singer, and will belt an aria out at the drop of a Vikings helmet. He's also a painter and cook, but screw him. I was talking about Mira Sorvino and how she broke my heart.
It was that rat bastard Tarantino. Mira could have been a serious actress. She not only won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Linda Ash in MIGHTY APHRODITE, she picked up the National Board of Review Award, New York Film Critics Circle Award, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award and the Golden Globe that year.
What has she won since? Zip.
A lot can be said for Woody Allen's direction. While he reduces his male stars to cheap caricatures of himself, Allen has lead several women to Oscar glory. Diane Keaton won for ANNIE HALL in 1977 and he helped Dianne Wiest hit it twice with HANNAH AND HER SISTERS in 1986 and BULLETS OVER BROADWAY in 1994. But I think that says less about Allen's direction and more that he was smart enough to get out of their way and let them act.
As Mira's star was on the rise in 1995, so too was a squirrelly former video clerk named Quentin Tarantino. He had just unleashed PULP FICTION on the world and nobody yet knew about his habit of ripping off CITY ON FIRE, BAND OF OUTSIDERS and countless others. Oh, that's right. They are an homage not a rip off
Tarantino needed a starlet on his arm to complete his swinging Hollywood image and Mira fit the bill. Busty, blond and about to break. No fool, she knew Tarantino was Miramax's Golden Child. Riddle me this Batman: in the three years they were dating Mira made three movies for Miramax (BLUE IN THE FACE, BEAUTIFUL GIRLS and MIMIC) but in the nine years since they broke up she hasn't made another film with them. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it. Yeah, that's it.
It was around this same time I first me Tarantino, drinking beer in a hotel room Toronto with Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell and Robert Rodriguez. Big shock. Rodriguez was the only one that brought anything to the table. The others were too busy licking their wounds over the drubbing FOUR ROOMS was about to take at Toronto Film Festival.
I remember getting in an argument with QT (as his friend are told to call him) about whether or not he called Madonna fat. Her company was footing the bill for the junket and he was trying to get a record deal with them so he was back peddling on a lot of quotes that weekend.
Could this be why he swooped down and hustled Mira off into the night? I doubt it. I think they were just a couple of career-oriented drones looking to try to recapture some of that royal glitz Hollywood lost years ago. Plus, Mira and I never dated. She blew me off and never made good on her Oscar night promise. Her loss.
I could have been there for her. I could have told her it's a bad idea to try to play Marilyn Monroe. Even Marilyn couldn't pull it off. I could have said, 'take the part in JERRY MAQUIRE. Sure, Cameron Crowe is a geek, but that's who you want making a romantic comedy". I could have warned her, 'don't stand too close to Marisa Tomei. The Oscar curse is catchy.'
But no, Mira Sorvino welshed on the bet and now she has to pay the price. Since selling her soul to the devil (Tarantino) Mira has made a laundry list of forgettable films (AT FIRST SIGHT, SWEET NOTHING), only briefly showing brief glimpses of her former brilliance (ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, SUMMER OF SAM).
Sorvino has also gotten in a cat fight with Mariah Carey on the set of WISE GIRLS, dated wrinkly old Kevin Costner and a couple of years ago her career hit such a skid she had to take part in a publicity stunt where Sylvester Stallone had to pretend to save her and Jennifer Flavin from a stuck elevator at the Kodak Theatre to help promote SEMANA SANTA, a horrid film she made with her latest flavor of the month, Oliver Martinez.
Maybe there is hope for Mira yet. She married a waiter from Sur Grill back in 2004 and they had a kid. Maybe by giving up the glitz she's broken the curse my heart put on her and she can start making good movies again.
Wait a second; she making INSTANT KARMA the directorial debut of one of the writers on SKY HIGH with Pierce Brosnan and Dom DeLuise and it's a special effects comedy about a safecracker who gets reincarnated as a series of animals. Never mind. Maybe in a couple of years Tarantino can resurrect her career like he did with John Travolta, David Carradine and Sonny Chiba.
Good-bye Mira. You will be missed.
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