The Stunning Transformation Of Mira Sorvino

Some Hollywood stars may claim that they've seen it all, but unless they are Mira Sorvino, that is almost unlikely. Sorvino started in the industry quite early, having made an uncredited appearance in Larry Cohen's horror comedy "The Stuff" where she played one of the drones that turned evil as a young teen. While the actress didn't pursue any roles for several years after that, she eventually made her way back to the big screen, rising to fame in just a short time, and winning accolades very early on in her career.

Just like a good Hollywood film, however, Sorvino's story comes with a plot twist, one that the actress probably never saw coming until it was too late. That said, Sorvino has reemerged since then, staging a long-overdue comeback in both film and television. At the same time, the actress has also become a force for social change, serving as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to help fight human trafficking. Over the years, the Hollywood star has also become an inspiration to many, proving to everyone that a second act can be more interesting (and meaningful) than the first.

Mira Sorvino grew up with a famous father — Paul Sorvino

One might say that Mira Sorvino was born to be a Hollywood star, being the daughter of former actress Lorraine Davis Sorvino and the late Paul Sorvino, who is known for his performances in "Goodfellas," "Nixon," "Romeo + Juliet," and "Repo! The Genetic Opera." Instead, Mira's parents kept her outside of Hollywood when she was a young girl, with the family choosing to stay in New Jersey, except for when Paul was working on the sitcom "We'll Get By."

The late "Goodfellas" star didn't exactly want Mira (or her siblings) to pursue acting, and for a time the actress even thought about becoming an anthropologist or an astronaut. In the end, Mira gravitated towards acting, even co-writing a play called "The Dutch Doll" and performing it for neighbors. At school, she also joined stage productions, with Papa Sorvino even giving his daughter pointers on how to kiss a boy onstage. 

Mira shared a close relationship with her father, even after her parents divorced. Paul would end up marrying three times and was married to Dee Dee Sorvino upon his death. After the Paul Sorvino passed away in 2022, Mira took to X, formerly known as Twitter to confirm the news. She wrote, "He was the most wonderful father. I love him so much."

Mira Sorvino attended Harvard

While Mira Sorvino explored acting as a young girl, she also pursued other interests as she got older. In particular, she took up East Asian literature and culture while attending Harvard. At this point in her life, she still wasn't sure if she would become a full-time actor. One summer, Sorvino went to California to visit her father, Paul Sorvino. That's when she learned that she just lost out on roles in "Mystic Pizza" (one of the female roles went to Julia Roberts, who was still relatively unknown at that time) and "Dead Poets Society". 

As she thought about whether she should continue with college or focus on acting more, Paul Sorvino also asked his good friend, Hollywood star Warren Beatty, to give his daughter advice. And while Beatty recommended staying in school, he also had another suggestion. "Warren Beatty told me I should transfer to Columbia, where I could at least go out on more auditions," Mira recalled during an interview with the Associated Press (via "But I knew that if I did get a part, I'd never finish Harvard, and what a waste that would be." 

After weighing her options, she decided to finish her course at Harvard. "I figured acting would still be waiting when I got out," Mira added. The actress went on to graduate from Harvard with magna cum laude honors.

In 1993, Mira Sorvino made her (official) big-screen debut

Just as she had planned, Mira Sorvino turned her focus to acting the moment she graduated from Harvard. That said, she didn't pursue roles at first. Instead, Sorvino took a job at Robert De Niro's company, Tribeca Productions, reading scripts. Eventually, she started going out for roles, and one of the first projects Sorvino took was the series "Guiding Light". But because she reportedly didn't want to do television work, she initially passed up a screen test for the show. That said, the actress ended up working on the show for a few days, serving as a temporary replacement for the actress who got the role (Jocelyn Seagrave). 

After that incredibly short stint, Sorvino pursued film roles only. Not long after, the actress made her big-screen debut in the Sundance film "Amongst Friends," which tells the story of three Long Island men who start committing crimes out of boredom. Meanwhile, Sorvino plays the high-school sweetheart of one of these men.

More film projects followed soon after. These include Whit Stillman's "Barcelona," the late Gary Winick's "Sweet Nothing," and Robert Redford's Oscar-nominated film "Quiz Show," which also stars Ralph Fiennes and John Turturro. In the years that followed, Sorvino would also make a return to Sundance, portraying Death in the comedy fantasy "Too Tired to Die," and playing a waitress in the crime drama "WiseGirls" alongside singer Mariah Carey.

At 29, Mira Sorvino won her first Oscar

Mira Sorvino caught the attention of director Woody Allen, who cast her in his 1995 comedy fantasy, "Mighty Aphrodite." Also starring Allen himself and Pamela Blair, the film tells the story of a sportswriter (Allen) who looks for his adopted son's birth mother after discovering that he is a genius. The birth mother is a woman named Linda Ash (Sorvino) who works as a sex worker. 

Much to Sorvino's surprise, she won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the film. "I was actually sitting there preparing myself to smile for someone else when they called my name. I still don't know how I got up on stage," the actor told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Allen became embroiled in controversy after his daughter, Dylan Farrow, accused him of sexual abuse. In 2018, Sorvino penned an open letter to Farrow, published by HuffPost. The actress apologized to Farrow for initially assuming that such allegations were brought on by a custody battle between Allen and her mother, actor Mia Farrow. 

Sorvino later added, "But this does not excuse my turning a blind eye to your story simply because I wanted desperately for it not to be so." The Oscar winner also clarified that nothing inappropriate occurred between her and Allen on the set of the film. Sorvino said later on that if she had known about the allegations against Allen, she would not have taken her "Mighty Aphrodite" role (via The Guardian).

In 1997, Mira Sorvino starred in the ultra-popular comedy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

Interestingly, the first iteration of the R-rated comedy "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" was a play called "Ladies Night," which Lisa Kudrow performed on and off Broadway. Later on, however, the play made its way to Hollywood after becoming a hit onstage. As studio executives thought about turning it into a movie, they also looked to Mira Sorvino — who had just received her Oscar nomination at that time — to play Romy.

That said, it was the last thing that Sorvino's representation wanted for the actor. "They wanted me to pursue tonier projects that would keep me in Oscar conversations, and this wasn't exactly a Shakespearean comedy in their eyes," Sorvino told Vogue. Despite this, Sorvino found herself cracking up after she read the script. She also became very interested in taking on the project knowing that "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow was involved. Not long after, she signed on to do the film. Sorvino's contract for the 1997 film included a clause that stated she would get paid more if she won at the Oscars.

Harvey Weinstein attempted to sexually assault Mira Sorvino and then shut her out of Hollywood

Compared to other stars, Hollywood success came early for Mira Sorvino. However, she would later realize that her breakout success came with a price. In 1995, Sorvino ended up in a hotel room with now-disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein while promoting "Mighty Aphrodite." During an interview with Ronan Farrow — the son of equally disgraced filmmaker Woody Allen and brother of Dylan Farrow — for the New Yorker, Sorvino recalled, "[Weinstein] started massaging my shoulders, which made me very uncomfortable, and then tried to get more physical, sort of chasing me around." 

Weeks later, Weinstein also tried to set up a private meeting with Sorvino in New York City, showing up outside her apartment after midnight. Despite these interactions, Sorvino admitted that she was hesitant about coming forward at first, because Weinstein and his company, Miramax, helped launch her into Hollywood stardom. Sorvino eventually told an unnamed Miramax employee what happened, and soon after, the big roles gradually stopped coming. 

Director Peter Jackson later revealed that Miramax discouraged him from casting Sorvino in his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. "The idea that there was this malevolent hand that actually had changed the course of my professional life was devastating to me," Sorvino told the Los Angeles Times. The actor added, "I just felt iced out." That said, she still booked a starring role alongside legendary actor Robin Williams in "The Final Cut."

In 2004, Mira Sorvino quietly tied the knot with fellow actor Christopher Backus

As Mira Sorvino dealt with the fallout from her Harvey Weinstein confession, the actor also found love. It reportedly happened by chance while Sorvino was dining at the West Hollywood hotspot Sur. While there, she was waited on by Christopher Backus, an aspiring actor 14 years younger than her. Backus had managed to book a handful of roles, including as a guest star on the NBC sitcom "Will & Grace." Backus also once had a shot at becoming a baseball star with the Toronto Blue Jays, but a shoulder injury cost him big time. "He has a 96 mph fastball," Sorvino's father, Paul Sorvino, once told the Daily News (via Entertainment Weekly).

Not long after their first meeting, Sorvino and Backus got married in 2004 at a private courthouse ceremony in Santa Barbara, California. Later on, the couple had a second wedding ceremony in Capri, Italy. Since then, Sorvino and Backus remained together, eventually having four children. In 2021, Sorvino shared with People that the secret to their long and happy marriage is that they continue to keep the romance alive. "We'll go on date nights where we'll leave the kids with our trusted, wonderful, amazing nanny," she explained.

Mira Sorvino lent her voice to the #MeToo movement

One might say that the #MeToo Movement started in 2006 when activist Tarana Burke started using the phrase "Me Too" on MySpace. But it would take several years before the movement gained significant momentum with comedian Bill Cosby's 2014 sexual assault allegations, and Roger Ailes' 2016 ousting from Fox after several women in the network accused him of sexual harassment.

In 2017, more sexual allegations came to light with Ronan Farrow's piece in The New Yorker detailing 13 women's disturbing experiences with Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein. This included Mira Sorvino, who provided a shocking account of her encounters with the now-disgraced movie mogul early on in her career. Since then, more women in the film industry have come forward with their horrific accounts of Weinstein, including Paz de la Huerta, Salma Hayek, Rosanna Arquette, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie. As the #MeToo Movement grew, Sorvino told CBS News, "I could not have imagined that I would be joined by a chorus of like-minded people from around the world who would raise their voice and say, 'Me Too,' and 'Time's Up,' and 'we want change.'"

In 2018, Mira Sorvino started to stage her Hollywood comeback

Soon after Mira Sorvino went public with her story about Harvey Weinstein and helped promote the #MeToo movement, her second act in Hollywood gradually began. Although Sorvino had been quietly booking roles on a steady basis, 2018 saw the Oscar winner make a memorable guest appearance in the hit ABC sitcom "Modern Family." In the family comedy, she was introduced as Nicole Rosemary Page, a successful business mogul behind the lifestyle brand NERP, which some may assume to be a parody of Gwyneth Paltrow and her lifestyle business, Goop.

But during an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, Sorvino explained why that's not exactly the case. "The similarities are there in terms of the lifestyle brand and the actress-celebrity turned lifestyle guru, but I think the similarities kind of end after a point," she said. "It's not a portrayal of Gwyneth. It's just a similar situation." 

In the end, Sorvino's Nicole Rosemary Page appeared in four episodes throughout Season 9 and 10 of "Modern Family." Meanwhile, Sorvino also booked recurring guest roles in the Crackle series "StartUp" and the AT&T action drama "Condor." Sorvino has also ventured into Netflix, with voice work for the animated children's series "Spy Kids: Mission Critical."

Mira Sorvino caught the attention of Ryan Murphy

As Mira Sorvino kept booking roles, the actress caught the attention of Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, who were casting for their Netflix miniseries, "Hollywood." Set in post-war America, the show explores what might have happened in the late 1940s if a top Hollywood studio had been run by a woman. And when it came to casting for the role of Jeanne Crandall — a B-film actress who'd like nothing more than to land a career-defining movie role — they couldn't think of anyone better than Sorvino. "She is the platonic ideal for that character, so getting her was such a coup," Brennan told Vogue. "Ryan and I have both admired Mira for a long time, so casting her was an excuse to fill out that character's story."

Not long after, Sorvino worked with Murphy again, this time on the FX anthology series "American Crime Story: Impeachment," which delved into the events that transpired after former U.S. President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky became public. On the show, Sorvino played Marcia Lewis, the protective mother of Beanie Feldstein's Monica Lewinsky. In preparing for her role, Sorvino spoke extensively with Lewinsky, who served as a producer on the show. "She tried to shield her daughter and do everything she could to change the situation for her, but she couldn't," Sorvino said of Lewis in an interview with Vanity Fair.

More major roles soon followed for Mira Sorvino

After working with Ryan Murphy twice, Mira Sorvino went on to star in the Starz fantasy horror series "Shining Vale." Courteney Cox plays Pat, a writer who believes that either the house she moved into is haunted, or she has lost her mind. During Season 1, one of the ghosts that Pat encounters is Sorvino's Rosemary, who has been dead for the past 70 years. Rosemary is immediately drawn to Pat, and the two end up writing Pat's book together. "She may have some malintent at some point, but I don't think that's her driving thing," Sorvino said of her character during an interview with Indie Wire. Sorvino returned for Season 2, playing two more characters this time. Aside from returning as Rosemary, Sorvino also appeared as Ruth Levin, Pat's unhinged neighbor, and Nellie Burke, a pregnant woman that Pat encounters.

Meanwhile, as Sorvino moves on with her life, she admits that she sometimes can't help but think about what could have been. "I mourn the loss of the two decades of career that I would have had, had that not been done to me," she told Vanity Fair. However, those understandable feelings of loss and regret don't last long for Sorvino, who seems grateful for all she has accomplished. "Maybe I wouldn't have had four kids if I was that busy working from movie to movie. ... I have to be philosophical about it," Sorvino added.