Since her first leading role, as a convict's loyal girlfriend, in her friend Rob Weiss' debut film Amongst Friends (1993), Mira Sorvino has been on the fast track to stardom, playing a wide variety of multifaceted characters. Her breakthrough role displayed her willingness and ability to take on unusual parts; Sorvino shocked and delighted audiences as a crass New York streetwalker in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite (1995). The stretch paid off, not only did her performance steal the show, it also earned Mira an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Born in Tenafly, NJ, on September 28, 1967, she is the daughter of character actor Paul Sorvino, best known for roles in films like Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990). Initially, her father attempted to steer Mira and her two siblings away from the acting profession. He was particularly adamant that his offspring not do any professional acting during childhood, so mira contented herself with appearing in various school productions. Following her high school graduation, she earned a degree in East Asian Studies from Harvard University; she spent one year of her education as an exchange student in Beijing, China, where she became fluent in Mandarin.
Upon graduation, Mira still wanted to act and she moved to New York to pursue her career. Between small acting gigs, she waited tables and worked as a production assistant until 1992, when Weiss hired her as a third assistant director on the low-budget, independent Amongst Friends. She proved so adept at her job that he promoted her to associate producer and eventually cast her as his leading lady. She appeared in two short films, Susan Seidelman's The Dutch and the satirical The Second Greatest Story Ever Told (both 1993), in which she played a contemporary Virgin Mary. In 1994, Whit Stillman hired her to play a two-faced party girl in Barcelona, while Robert Redford cast her as Rob Morrow's wife in Quiz Show.
After winning her Oscar for her performance in the following year's Mighty Aphrodite, Mira started finding steady work in Hollywood. After a turn as Matt Dillon's anorexic girlfriend in Beautiful Girls (1996) and an Emmy nomination for her performance in the made-for-TV Norma Jean and Marilyn (1996), she went on her first big-budget outing as a scientist trying to save New York from giant cockroaches in Mimic. Unfortunately, the film was rejected by critics and audiences alike. Her other major project that year, the comedy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, attained a level of cult status thanks to its 1980s soundtrack and over-the-top costumes. The following year, Sorvino made two small, offbeat features -- Paul Auster's Lulu on the Bridge and Wonsuk Chin's Too Tired to Die, which cast her as Death -- and another big-budgeted action thriller, The Replacement Killers. Starring opposite Hong Kong action star Chow Yun-Fat, Sorvino was able to put her past experiences in China and her fluency in Mandarin to use; unfortunately, critics and audiences alike had little use for the film. In 1999, Sorvino decided to try her hand at romantic drama, starring opposite Val Kilmer in At First Sight. The multi-handkerchief weepie was something of a critical and commercial disappointment, although Sorvino did win some positive attention for her performance as the architect who helps restore her blind lover's sight. Later that year, she won more acclaim for her starring role as John Leguizamo's estranged wife in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, a story revolving around the long, hot summer of 1977, when New York was terrorized by serial killer David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, most noted for her orgy scene.
Since then Mira's films haven't been too promising, but her fan base remains loyal.