Sometimes, you write a piece for an outlet and, for one reason or another, that outlet ends up deciding not to use it. In this case, the piece in question was an interview I did with Mira Sorvino during the TCA press tour in conjunction with PBS’s American Masters: Woody Allen, which begins tonight and concludes tomorrow. (It’s very good, by the way.)
Long story short, the someone else also did an interview with Ms. Sorvino, albeit in conjunction with a different project, and…well, in short, it was just an accidental slip-up caused mostly by the fact that I did my interview so far in advance of the premiere of the American Masters episode that they’d forgotten I’d done it. At first there was talk of trying to combine our interviews into one big interview, but there was sufficient crossover between the two pieces that it proved relatively difficult to do, and in the end, it was decided that the other interview was a bit stronger. As such, I’m debuting a new feature here on NewsReviewsInterviews.com: “That Thing You Did,” where I speak to an actor or actress, throw the title of a past project at them, and see what memories they have to offer from the experience of making it.
No, it does not sound like a familiar concept used by another site. It’s completely original. So shut up.
Mighty Aphrodite (1995)—“Linda Ash”
News Reviews Interviews: How did you first find yourself on Woody Allen’s radar?
Mira Sorvino: The year before, I had auditioned for the remake of Don’t Drink the Water to play his…daughter, I guess. It came down to Mayim Bialik, and she got it. Maybe there was one other girl involved, but it was definitely down to, like, two or three people. And then the next year they had me come in and read, but they wouldn’t give us any sides at all beforehand. So you had to walk into the casting office, and then they would hand you…well, they call them sides, but it’s, like, the pages of the scene…and then you’d have five minutes to look at them before you’d walk in. And that was when I asked if she was a call girl. Because, you know, she could’ve been a massage therapist. All I knew is that she was someone who works on an hourly basis. With clients. From home. Behind closed doors. [Laughs.] And (casting director) Juliet Taylor reluctantly replied, “Yes.” But afterwards they said that it was going to go no further. Woody was not there. Bob (Weide) thinks for some reason that Woody was hiding behind some screen somewhere, but it didn’t look like there was any place for him to be. I think he just saw the video tape. But they said it was because the role was too far from my own natural personality. I think they wanted the girl to walk in incarnate. I think they wanted a Linda Ash type to just walk in and be there. But then the movie Barcelona came out, and Woody requested a print of it. Also, it was because my agents went to town on them and said, “No, wait, she’s a chameleon! She didn’t know anything about the role! How can you judge her based on that? Give her another chance!” And then the movie Barcelona came out, and Woody requested a print of it, watched it, and said, “This girl has nothing to do with the girl I saw last year. Let’s give her another shot.”
I had just finished shooting The Buccaneers, which was an Edith Wharton miniseries, and he was passing through London, so I came down and met him, and…I had a few days to work on the audition. I remembered the old scene – I’d pretty much memorized it – and I was walking around every day working on it. Plus, I bought this crazy outfit, this Gaultier Junior black-and-neon-striped spandex dress, and…I looked sort of like a punk butterfly. And I made my hair really big, put on lots of garish make-up and tacky sandals with, like, flowers on the toe. And I walked into the hotel and I was like… [Adopts a cocky tone] “Mr. Allen’s room, please!” And, kind of understandably, they looked at me like I was some kind of street walker. [Laughs.] But then I went up there…and they handed me a completely different scene. And my heart completely sank, because I said, “Okay, I’m not gonna get it.” But then I said, “No! You can not let your fear defeat you!” [Laughs.] So they said, “You can take as much time as you want with it,” and they had this little antechamber that I went into with the pages. I said, “Really? As much time as I want?” “Yes, as much time as you want.” “Okay.” So I stayed in there for about 15 minutes, and from time to time they would knock and say, “Is everything all right?” “Yes, do you need me to come out now?” “No, no, it’s all right.” “Thank you!” [Laughs.] And I made sure I’d read through it at least three times, so that I could kind of know the lines that were coming up. ‘Cause it’s really hard to play something when you don’t even have a clue where the scene is going.
It was the scene in the Italian restaurant with the spaghetti, where I talk about my entrance into porn, how I love acting and want to study. So I had a protein bar in my purse, and I took it out and, during the scene, I started chomping on it, chewing and talking with my mouth open. And at the end of it, he said [Folds hands] “Well, that was, um, good. Your instincts were all right.” And I wasn’t sure if he meant “all right,” like, “just okay,” or if he meant “all correct.” And he said, “If we do this, I might have you work in a bit of a voice, because not only is she cute, but she’s stupid.” And they said they’d sort of let us know, but then when I got downstairs to the lobby, I called him, and…I thought the casting director would answer or something, but he answered the phone. “Hello?” I said, “Oh! Hi!!” [Laughs.] “Uh, this is Mira.” “Yes? What do you want?” “Well, I thought that maybe…I had an idea that maybe the character should be blonde….” At that point, I had very dark hair. “…and I have some photographs here of myself in a recent Showtime movie that I did where I’m wearing a blonde wig.” “Oh. Okay. Well, leave them with the desk.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “It sort of depends on if my wife in the film is blonde or brunette. I want to contrast them.” The very next day, I was offered…Hackers. The day after that, though, I was offered the Woody Allen movie…and the rest is history. [Laughs.]
NRI: Did it take you long to get over any nervousness you may have had playing against Woody Allen? Even setting aside the fact that he’s Woody Allen, you’ve said that you’d been reading his stuff for years, so you certainly had more than a passing appreciation of his work.
MS: Oh, no, I was nervous. [Laughs.] Because, you know, the standard of excellence was there, and I had to rise to meet it, so I was very nervous about not doing it well enough, and I actually… [Hesitates] I think this is going to be in the documentary, but we didn’t talk about it (in the TCA panel] today. But Brian Hamill, the photographer, came up to me one day and said, “Mira, I’m gonna tell you this ‘cause I know your father, I like your father, and I like you. Woody…thinks you’re a bit standoffish.” I said, “What?” “Yeah, he thinks you’re a bit aloof, a bit cold.” And I was, like, “Oh, my God!” ‘Cause I was just dying of nervousness and fear, and…I just wanted to be obedient! [Laughs.] I just wanted to be a nice little foot soldier and wait for the commander to say, “Action,” and then go. But he was, “Yeah, y’know, he thinks you’re kind of unfriendly.” I was, like, “Oh! Oh, no, I just think he doesn’t want to be bothered! I see him there, and he seems like he’s busy, so I’m just waiting! I’m just waiting to do the scenes!” And he says, “Yeah, and another thing: Woody doesn’t like method actors.” “What do you mean?” “Ah, y’know, all this, like, talking-in-character shit in between takes, when you’re still talking in the voice. He’s not into that.” “Really? Uh, well, I…I’m just so nervous I’m going to fall out of the voice!” He says, “Yeah, well, y’know, he likes it when you kind of pal around sort of like regular joes.” “Oh. Uh, okay. Well, I don’t know that I can change the fact that I’m going to stay in character, because I’m just so afraid that I’m going to fall out of it and become myself in the middle, then have to go back to being Linda, who’s so different.” So from that point on, I just started coming up to him and being like [Loudly and in character] “Hello, Mr. Allen!” [Laughs] I’d go up and talk to him like that. “How are you today? Yeah…? Okay!” So we’d have big conversations, but I’d still be in character. He was definitely somebody you could talk to…even in a voice like that!
So, yeah, I don’t think Bob was correct in saying that nobody talks to him and he doesn’t want to hang out with the actors. He did want to hang out with me. And, I mean, he didn’t like it that he thought I was not wanting to hang out. And everything went really well from that point on. But I was still nervous that I would get fired one day. [Laughs.] Because I thought, “Once I reach the third or fourth week point, I’m in,” right? But then we had a discussion about something, and…this wasn’t the topic of conversation, but it came up where he said, “You know, I have it built into my budgets so that I can reshoot the entire movie if I have to.” [Laughs.] So we could get to the end of the movie, and I could still get recast! As it was, he actually recast one character three times in our movie. And one of the actresses who was playing the role was one of my personal favorite actresses, so I was, like, shocked – and worried – from that point on. [Laughs.] But I find him to be very personal and very nice. But you kind of…you had to be the one to go to him, because he was shy. And here I was shy, thinking that he didn’t want to be bothered. But, actually, he wanted me to be the more outgoing one. So I became the outgoing one…if in a bizarre style.
The Stuff (1985)—“Factory Worker” (uncredited)
NRI: I wanted to ask you about your very first onscreen role. IMDb has you listed as having appeared as a factory worker in The Stuff, but in addition to indicating that you’re uncredited in the film, it also says, “Unconfirmed.” So for all I know, it may not even be true.
MS: It is true. [Laughs.] Have you seen The Stuff?
NRI: I have seen The Stuff.
MS: Yeah, I’m wearing one of those Stuffie suits and climbing up, like, a tower of some sort. ‘Cause my dad (Paul Sorvino) was in it, we were visiting, and…I think I was 16. So they put me in a Stuffie suit and I did what I did.
NRI: Was it fun?
MS: Yeah. It was a little hot. I wouldn’t say it was one of my best performances… [Laughs.]
Barcelona (1994)—“Marta Ferrer”
MS: Oh, well, that was a fascinating, great experience. I loved living in Barcelona. We got to live there and to make all these friendships with people living there, and…I worked very hard on the accent. Worked on it all the time. I do a lot of accent work, and I work with a tape recorder [Gestures at recorder] much like this, and I’ll tape-record the person…like, I’ll get some person who really has the same accent as the character, somebody who’d live in the same neighborhood, the same age, the same kind of qualities as them, and I’ll have them read the lines with no inflection whatsoever. No performance, just reading them once at normal speed and once really slowly, and I’ll leave big gaps. And then in the middle, I’ll record myself doing the lines, and then erase it. Basically, I’ll listen to the other one, listen to mine afterwards, and hear where I’m off. And then I’ll do it over and over again until the two accents are indistinguishable, that I’m delivering it the same way, and then I’ll write it phonetically how that should be said. So, uh, I spent a lot of time working on that. [Laughs.] But I loved doing it, and I thought it was a pretty great movie.
NRI: During the TCA panel, you were talking about working with Whit Stillman and how, when it came to dialogue, he’d stop you after a paragraph and say, “You missed the period.”
MS: Yeah, I think I was exaggerating about the period. But at one point he did make me redo a scene because I didn’t say an “and.” [Laughs.] He’s a very exacting director in terms of his text, which I found a little hard at the time, but ultimately I think he made a great movie.
The Buccaneers (1995)—“Conchita Closson”
MS: A Brazilian adventuress marries into British wealth and then gets very sad because her husband is a drunk and…I don’t remember if he was, like, possibly gay or not. But I think he was gay. And he was definitely drunk. And she was very unhappy. The money did not make her happy. [Laughs.]
NRI: Did you enjoy filming a saga like that?
MS: Yes. It was cold. [Hesitates.] It wasn’t one of my favorite shoots, honestly. It was…I felt kind of lonely there. I don’t know why. It was a long time doing this movie, it was one of the first movies I had done…it was the end to my having to moonlight. I had already made five films, but I still had to work as a bartender at night and teaching Chinese by day. [Laughs.] And that put an end to my moonlighting, because I made enough money on that that I didn’t have to go back to bartending or whatever. I’d already made Barcelona and Quiz Show, but they only paid, like, double scale for the time you were on it, so you couldn’t make a living on that. It’s the same thing today. I mean, in independent films… [Affects sad voice] There’s all these independent films shooting now that are only paying people, like, a hundred dollars a day! No one can live on a hundred dollars a day. After taxes, that’s, like, fifty dollars a day. It’s, like, “What?” And you’re supposed to live ‘til your next job on that. So actors are feeling the economic crunch like everybody else.
Yeah, I don’t know why I didn’t love that that much. But, uh, maybe it started with the… yeah, y’know, I think it started with the director at the audition, who said to me [In a British accent] “Hmmm. How interesting: you could either be extremely pretty or extremely plain.” I was, like, “Uh…thank you?” [Laughs.] “I don’t know how I’m supposed to take that. I’ll take the ‘extremely pretty’!” But, you know, it played on my natural insecurity, ‘cause I did not feel very pretty, and to learn that I could be extremely plain…? Not a good feeling. So, no, that shoot was not my favorite.
Quiz Show (1994)—“Sandra Goodwin”
MS: That was a great early break that I got. Robert Redford basically saw a short film that I had done called The Obit Writer. Norman Mailer was in it, actually. And Tim Guinee. And he liked it, so he brought me in, and I got the part. And I really learned so much from him, but…that was one of those ones, too, where I thought I was going to be fired. ‘Cause I saw the casting director there, and Redford likes to do a lot of takes, and I was from the indie world where you do, like, three takes – if that many – and you’re out of there. Because you’re using short ends. Now people just use video, but when people used film in cans, they would buy the cheap leftovers and shoot on that to save money. And, you know, the casting director, Bonnie Timmermann was there, and I saw her watching the scene, and I was, like, “Oh, my God, they’re going to fire me. She’s here to say they were wrong in picking me, and tomorrow they’re gonna call the other girl.” [Laughs.]
But then I talked to my dad on the phone that night, and he said, “Mira, Mira, Mira! What’s the worst that could happen? So you get fired. Everybody gets fired at some point! You’ve got to just go in there swinging. You take your best shot at it, you go in there with the courage of your convictions, you do the character as you’ve prepared her, and you have to just say blank it.” And I don’t mean the kind you put on your bed. [Laughs.] And it was really empowering, ‘cause…I was in tears on the phone with him. I was, like, “Dad, I don’t think they think I’m good enough! I’m gonna get fired! It’s not what he wants!” He didn’t say this. I just thought, he’s doing 12 takes per angle, something is wrong. And there’s Bonnie Timmermann watching me, and I’m, like, “What is happening?”
And so the next day I went in, and the only thing he changed from what I was doing was…he said, “You’re using your hands an awful lot. And I don’t think this character…you know, this character’s not Italian. She’s Jewish. And you’re going like this…” [Waves hands around frantically] So there’s this scene where I’m cutting tomatoes and having a fight with Rob Morrow, and…he had me catch my hand. [Laughs.] If you watch the film, you will see that I’m actually catching my hand in mid-air. But I learned a great deal from that, and I really loved the film. I thought it was a great film, and it was a great opportunity for me to be on it.
Beautiful Girls (1996)—“Sharon Cassidy”
MS: That was interesting, because in that movie, the character was supposed to have an eating disorder, but then they kind of cut that part out. So it’s, like, if you listen closely to Matt Dillon’s description of her, the way he talks about her, you can kind of get a hint that there’s something…that there’s some problems with her. But they never really talk about it. So that one…I was there for the whole shoot, and the other girls kind of came and went, but my dates were such that I kind of had to sort of stay there. So I was in Minnesota in the freezing winter, but not actually on the set every day, so I was kind of wandering around Minneapolis, trying not to eat anything. [Laughs.] And drinking water laced with ma huang. At that point, they hadn’t come out with the information that ma huang was dangerous, so I was just guzzling water flavored with ma huang drops from the health food store or the Chinese medicine store – I don’t know where I got it – and just kind of feeling a little bit miserable. Because, you know, the character I was playing…I do take home the characters, and the character is being cheated on by her boyfriend, and she’s just kind of a sad person. But it was an interesting ensemble, and I’m very sad about Ted Demme’s early demise. I mean, he was a great guy and a great director.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)—“Romy White”
MS: [Wistfully] Awwwwww! I loved doing that. I kind of based the voice in that on my sister, because although we grew up in New Jersey – although I was born in Manhattan and lived there ‘til I was three – my sister has kind of a Valley Girl inflection for some reason. [Laughs.] But she doesn’t have a low voice, so I made it lower, and… [Does her Romy voice] “Okay!” I just loved playing this sort of female comedic…dummy comedy. One’s dumber than the other, but we both think that we’re really smart. But we have heart, too. And I loved that it was about high school alienation and the cool kids versus the nerds, because I was a total geek in high school.
NRI: I feel ya.
MS: [Laughs.] And it’s a miserable place to be, isn’t it? It sucks! And so many kids in America are in that same position, and I think it really speaks to those people. It speaks to everybody who ever felt alienated at some point and makes them find their self-worth in themselves rather than trying to live up to some standard set by the cool kids, the fashionable kids, the jocks…whatever it is. And that is probably the movie that has had the longest legs in terms of fan appreciation. I get so many people coming up to me all the time. People have walked up to me in the Louvre. [Laughs.] A girl came up to me and said, “I’m the Mary!” I was, like, “Excuse me?” “I’m the Mary!” And then all of a sudden, I was like [Opens eyes wide] “Oh, my God, you’re doing the lines from Romy and Michele!” [Laughs.] When I was a kid, older kids would walk around doing lines from Animal House. And all of a sudden, somebody was doing the lines from Romy and Michele. I was, like, “Wow, we’ve really arrived in the American consciousness if, in France, an American tourist is coming up to me and telling me that she’s the Mary!” And it’s also become this big gay icon. People are us for Halloween in the Hollywood gay parade. There’s also drag shows where people do us. I heard about that, but I have to see it now. I’m dying to see it.
Speaking of drag, my husband actually just played Marlene Dietrich in a movie. [Laughs.] He’s the lead of this movie called My Fair Lidy, about an ordinary-joe construction worker who ends up, through a bizarre series of circumstances, in a drag club playing Marlene Dietrich. And, uh, I was supposed to play Marlene Dietrich 20 years ago. [Laughs.] Stanley Donan was trying to set up a movie about her life and was, y’know, talking about casting me. And I was really looking forward to it, but then it never happened.
NRI: So you’re living vicariously through your husband?
MS: Why, yes, actually. [Laughs.] But it’s a little odd, ‘cause he makes an eerily beautiful woman. But he’s safe and sound back to his old self and now doing a horror movie. Or a thriller. He literally got off the phone from doing that movie, and he’s starting another movie today. But that whole drag world, the people that he was talking to, were, like, “Oh, you know, there’s a Romy show on this night.” And I was like, “Are you serious? You have to take me to see it! I’ve got to see it!” I want to see what’s done with it. That’s pretty neat, ‘cause we created those characters. The comedy was on the page, the lines, but the personas, we really invented those. And…I didn’t want her to be anything like Linda Ash, and I think I pretty much succeeded in doing a completely different dumb blonde. Because, you know, she thinks she’s the brains of the operation. [Laughs.] And she kind of walks like a football player. She’s like a football player in drag. Like, that’s how I tried to do her gait and her stance. But…we always talk about doing a sequel, and maybe it’ll happen someday. I know I’m doing a photo shoot with Lisa (Kudrow) this week for Entertainment Weekly for a reunions issue. So maybe we’ll get it rolling again.
Mimic (1997)—“Dr. Susan Tyler”
MS: Um…you know, it was kind of counter-intuitive, because I can’t stand cockroaches. [Laughs.] But I met with Guillermo (del Toro), and he showed me his books and his drawings and his amazing sketches and poems and this and that. And I was, like, “If ever I’m going to venture into this dark, disgusting world, he’s the person to do it with.” He’s, like, this gothic master. So I did it. And…it’s funny, I’ve worked with a lot of directors on the film before the film that makes them who they are. So I think I have a knack for recognizing talent, but I think sometimes I’m a little soft on discerning, like, what movie I really should do in a tactical way. So now Guillermo del Toro is, like, this giant artistic director…and I did his cockroach movie. [Laughs.] But it was definitely interesting, and I made a great friendship with this wonderful professor at Cornell University named Dr. Thomas Eisner…who’s recently passed away, I found out by reading in the newspaper, and I was very saddened. He was the most amazing guy. He took me through his lab and showed me all his insects, and…he loved insects. I mean, he seriously loved bugs. He showed me his Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and, actually, he ended up naming a pheromone that a bug emits Mirasorvone. [Laughs.] Because of Mighty Aphrodite, because it’s one of their mating pheromones. So I will always treasure that experience because of that friendship. And also the friendship with Guillermo.
Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996)—“Marilyn Monroe”
MS: I loved playing Marilyn. It was a great challenge for me. She had always been one of my cultural icons. I always loved how she had that sort of childlike wonder even though she was this very sexual creature. I grew up in a very…strict household, with a lot of emphasis on sin and guilt. [Laughs.] So I loved that she was kind of…you couldn’t judge her, because she seemed good, but she was so sexual, and she had this amazing quality, just this beautiful soul. So I was really honored to play her, and I loved doing that, although it was a very sad story, so I took that home with me. I remember the last scene we played as we were finishing the shoot…well, we ended up coming back two weeks later to do a couple of additional scenes, but the last scene of principal photography was me dying in the ambulance and having, like, a grand mal seizure. And we kind of fudged it, because, you know, in the official report, she died in her bed, there are unofficial ones where she dies in the hospital, and in this one, she dies en route to the hospital. [Laughs.] I think she was killed by the Kennedys. But that’s my own feeling.
Afterwards, I went home for Christmas Eve…I flew back on the redeye, got back to the east coast, and was in this funk for two weeks. I felt like life was bleak. I read Elie Wiesel’s Night, and I was, like, “What am I doing? I’m making it worse!” [Laughs.] I was just in this terrible state, just because of the sort of sad desperation of her last days and just how her life, I felt, could’ve gone differently. I felt like her life could’ve gone differently if she had only loved someone in a caretaking way rather than always just looking for love in terms of being the recipient of love. She always was hoping that someone would love her, but I think if she’d had someone to take care of – a child, a relative – or if she was in the kind of thing where you have to develop the sort of sense of responsibility, and you feel better because you’re doing for someone else, that would have saved her. But anyway… [Trails off.] No, I loved doing that. But that was a lot of pressure, too. I had to do a lot of work on that one.
NRI: I can only imagine that it’d be intimidating to play an icon.
MS: Oh, of course. I almost lost it one day because I was…I was wearing her dress from The Misfits. It was her actual dress that she had worn. I had found it in a costume shop in New York, and they rented it to the production. It was the white dress with the cherries all over it. And with a few nips and tucks, it fit. It was a little big, but they made it fit. And I was, like, “How dare I wear her dress? How dare I step foot in her shoes?” Metaphorically, of course, but…I realized, y’know, nobody can be Marilyn Monroe. She was unique, she was the one and only. This is my homage to her. Like, what I think I know about her. And I thought, “This is my paying tribute to her, playing what I think I understand about her soul that maybe somebody else hasn’t done yet.” Or maybe they had. But it was still my homage. And that took the curse off of it. Because I had to find some way to give myself license to do it. I mean, I had to play the role. But, of course, I could never be Marilyn Monroe. Nobody could be the great Marilyn Monroe but Marilyn Monroe. So that was how I dealt with it.
Summer of Sam (1999)—“Dionna”
MS: Amazing movie. Really loved making it. Loved the improvisational nature of the way that we worked. John (Leguizamo) and I improv’ed during the rehearsals, and then Spike (Lee) would kind of rewrite the scene that was on the page based on things that would come out during rehearsals. But then on the day of shooting…like Woody, it was, like, “It’s whatever happens on the day Whatever’s the most live and strong, that’s what we’re gonna go with. Not, like, a perfect rendition of the scene as written. So if you guys find something stronger while we’re shooting, that’s what we’re gonna do.” And he had two cameras, and one of them was a steady-cam that was moving from side to side at all times. So we got to go places that I had not gone on a film before, in terms of trust with the other actor. We had this thing where he spit in my face, and I slapped him in the face. [Laughs.] But because I love John, it was, like, all great, because we knew we could go there. Because it was for the greatness of the scene. So we’d be yelling in the graveyard and…all of that was not scripted. That was not there. That all came up because of the way it was done. But it was a hard movie to do in terms of the sex scene. I really kind of hated that. That was a low day in my career. I was, like, [Mock sobbing] “I didn’t become an actress to stand in a room with 12 naked people pretending to have sex with each other!” [Laughs.] I was not naked, but I was close. And most of the extras were completely naked, simulating really grunty sex. I was, like, crying at the end of it. But I loved the dance sequences. I loved learning the Hustle with John. We did it every night for month at Paul Pellicoro’s DanceSport. So overall it was a great experience. I’d love to work with Spike again.
The Replacement Killers (1998)—“Meg Coburn”
MS: Very interesting to do an action movie. I realized…I loved the adrenaline of doing the running and everything. I liked doing a really tough character. I kind of blew my voice out when I was doing reshoots for Mimic, and I realized it made my voice really gravely and low. Like, rough. Almost like Demi Moore’s voice. So I showed it to the director, Antoine Fuqua, and I said, “Do you want me to do this?” And he really liked it. So every day I had to go and yell for 10 minutes to, like, wreck my vocal chords so that I could sound like that! And Chow Yun-Fat thought I was being some kind of crazy American method-actor diva who had to yell to get into character. And I was, like, “No, literally, I can’t do that voice without screaming my lungs out!” [Laughs] But I know that film is a big favorite of action aficionados.
The Great Gatsby (2000)—“Daisy Buchanan”
MS: That had always been one of my favorite books since I was a kid, a teenager, so I really welcomed the chance to do it. I mean, I don’t…they constantly remake that story, and I don’t know if the definitive one has been made yet, or if it’ll ever be.
NRI: Surely the definitive version will be in 3D and be directed by Baz Luhrmann.
MS: [Utterly deadpan] Uh-huh. Yeah. [Laughs.] But you never know! You don’t. You never know. I think some things are better left on the page, because all of us interpret it in our minds. I loved playing it, but it’s almost like…it’s like attaining that book as a cinematic endeavor may never happen, really, because it’s such a great book. And some books are just so perfect as books that they should be left as books. Maybe. But I loved the chance to play it, anyway.
Guiding Light (1991)—“ Julie Camalletti”
MS: I actually auditioned to play that as a contract role, and then we were getting closer and closer to the screen test, and…they do a negotiation for the screen test, and once you’ve signed it, if you book the part from the screen test, you’re locked in for three or four years. You can’t get out. You can’t then decide if you’re going to do it or not. And I started feeling like I was being given a jail sentence, like I was going to go to prison. And I was trying to rationalize. “Well, I could take theater classes at night or whatever…but, no, I shouldn’t be feeling this way about something that somebody else would be really excited to do.” So I opted out of the screen test, somebody else got the role…and then she got sick! So they called me up, and…I didn’t know this happened in the soap world, but they asked if I would play the part for a couple of days. And I was, like, “What…what do you mean?” “Well, we just make an announcement at the beginning of the scene, saying, ‘The role of Julie Camalletti today will be played by Mira Sorvino.’” [Laughs.] So that’s what they did. And I got to play her for a few days.
Swans Crossing (1992)—“ Sophia Eva McCormick Decastro”
MS: [Rolls eyes and smiles] A little teenage soap opera that was very short-lived.
NRI: Okay, so from that look you just cut, I’m getting that it wasn’t the most exciting experience to do a teen soap.
MS: Oh, it was fine. It was just silly. Everybody on it was younger than me. I was playing younger, and…you know, I think I had a kissing scene with a boy who was, like, 15 or something. And I was 23.
NRI: And that boy is still talking about it to this day.
MS: [Laughs.] It was fun, though. I played…I was a half-Chinese, half-Italian character. So I got to speak a few words of Mandarin and dress like a 1950s Sophia Loren character.
House (2008)—“Dr. Cate Milton”
MS: Ah! See, I’m a huge House fan, so that was so much fun for me. And (Hugh Laurie) is so great. All the cast was so wonderful. They were all fantastically nice and generous, and…they work extremely hard there. They shoot two shows concurrently all the time, moving from one studio to the next, back and forth, getting two episodes down. But he’s a brilliant actor, and I loved working with him. And I keep saying to them, “Let me back on the show! Let’s do that character comes back from the South Pole, and now that Cuddy’s out of the way…” [Laughs.]
NRI: I’d read somewhere that there was talk of you being a recurring character at some point.
MS: There was! There was talk, and there still is talk. We keep hearing talk now and then, but it still hasn’t happened yet, so…maybe in Season 12? [Laughs.]
Union Square (2011)—“Lucy”
MS: I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done in years. I play a bi-polar girl from the Bronx whose sister has kind of cut herself off from the family and tried to pass as a nice Yuppie white girl. [Laughs] And they’re this crazy Italian-American family from the Bronx who are really dysfunctional, and I come in and sort of ruin her life but then end up kind of helping right it, because we all kind of get truthful with each other. It’s really funny, but also kind of tragic. I’ve got a bunch of movies in the can that are coming out, but that’s one to really look forward to.