Why ’90s rising star Mira Sorvino was blacklisted by Hollywood

Back in 1996, a little-known actress by the name of Mira Sorvino snagged the Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role.

Sorvino, then 28, had seemingly come from nowhere to win one of the most coveted acting awards around.

Oscar winners usually go on to achieve major success – and riches – but despite starring in the hit film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Sorvino found herself locked out of major roles.

It would be years before she revealed why.

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Sorvino was born in New York on September 28, 1967, to parents Lorraine, a former actress turned drama therapist, and Paul Sorvino, an actor and film director famous for his role in Goodfellas. She is Italian on her father’s side.

She grew up in New Jersey, where she was part of high school theatre productions, before she went off to Harvard University.

After graduating, she started working as an actress, eventually winning supporting roles in films Quiz Show and Barcelona, before she was cast in Woody Allen’s 1995 film Mighty Aphrodite.

Her portrayal as a happy-go-lucky sex worker won her the 1996 Golden Globe and Academy Award.

A few more movie roles followed, including the 1997 film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, in which she played Romy opposite Lisa Kudrow

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Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino star in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

But then Sorvino seemed to disappear; she noticed the roles were drying up and suspected why.

Two decades passed before Sorvino spoke up, adding her name to the list of actresses who said they were sexually harassed, or worse, by former Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein, now 70, was found guilty of rape and sexual assault in 2020 and was jailed for 23 years. The sentence has since been increased.

Sorvino detailed her experiences with Weinstein when she was a guest columnist for The Hollywood Reporter in 2017.

At the time, Weinstein was the head of Miramax, one of the biggest film production companies in Hollywood, which he co-founded with his brother.

“It was the Toronto Film Festival, Mighty Aphrodite was coming out, and when something like that happens with your new boss – he was running the company and deciding on the Oscar campaign – you think, ‘I don’t want to offend him. I don’t want to anger him, I just need to get out of this situation as gracefully as I can’,” she recalled.

“You’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, Harvey Weinstein is massaging my back, what do I do?’ You’re young and you don’t know how to deal with it. You just want to get out.”

Sorvino has since stated three separate incidents took place with Weinstein, and her refusal to cooperate with his advances coincided with a downturn in movie offers.

While she long suspected she had been blacklisted not just by Weinstein and Miramax but Hollywood, it was years before this was confirmed by others, including New Zealand film director and screenwriter Peter Jackson.

Sorvino, who dated film director and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino from 1996-1998, elaborated on her experience in The Hollywood Reporter column.

“I won an Oscar with Miramax. To not continue and star in their movies much past that doesn’t make sense,” she wrote

“I felt if I had accepted Harvey’s advances, I would have continued to make movies with them, and they were the people winning the Oscars for that decade.

“I was not offered any movie roles past 1996. I was still on the fringes of the Miramax family after that, but once Quentin and I broke up, that was it.”

Speaking about her experiences in a 2018 Los Angeles Times piece, Sorvino said it was hard to come to terms with the fact her career was deliberately derailed.

“The idea that there was this malevolent hand that actually had changed the course of my professional life was devastating to me,” she said.

“I was like, that’s why I’ve had a bad downturn in my career. Why I couldn’t be in any studio movies for a decade and a half.

“I won an Oscar. My work hasn’t changed. My performances are still comparable to my old performances. Just the access was denied.”

Sorvino said the lack of work during that period was devastating for her career.

“Because that’s when I had the biggest potential to solidify my career as a leading lady, and to make the kind of economic strides that would have secured my family forever,” she said.

“And we’ve had some lean years over the last 10 years. I have four kids. And to not always be able to provide for them in the way that we would like to is really awful.”

Last week, Sorvino was moved to tears when she addressed the matter again during a 90s Con appearance alongside Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis.

Sorvino, now 56, said after she “rejected [Weinstein] a third time” in 1998, her movie offers all but dried up.

“For a time, I had a lot of wonderful offers and then, my career was stifled by Harvey Weinstein. So, I stopped doing [major] studio movies after 1998,” she said.

“I stopped being a viable movie actress. I still did [independent films] and I still did television, but that was very hard.”

Sorvino married fellow actor Christopher Backus in 2004. They have four children, including two sons and two daughters. The family’s house in LA narrowly survived the 2018 bushfires that devastated the area.

In 2009, she became a UN Goodwill Ambassador in Human Trafficking.

In recent years her career has looked up, with appearances in the film Sound of Freedom, and on TV in Shining Vale. She even starred in a Hallmark movie, A Christmas to Remember.

But while she laments what could have been in relation to her career, Sorvino said the most important thing in her life is her family, which she described as “my everything.”

“I don’t see my worth as being a famous actress. I see my worth as being a good person.”