‘Union Square’ star Mira Sorvino talks about Manhattan moviemaking, Marlon Brando, and motherhood
Credit: Dada Films
Fresh-faced Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino ("Mighty Aphrodite") doesn't give off a sleepless mother-of-four vibe as she perches at a wooden table at Manhattan's Regency Hotel to discuss her latest project. In Nancy Savoca's "Union Square," Sorvino plays Lucy, a married Italian American woman who subways down from the Bronx to Manhattan for a romantic rendezvous -- and ends up sleeping on the couch of her estranged sister, Jenny (Tammy Blanchard). The unexpected visit redefines their fractured relationship as they unpack baggage and share smokes. Both comic and tragic, the movie breaks your heart and pastes it back together again -- a story of aspiration and reconnection told over a few days around Thanksgiving. For Sorvino,"Union Square" was an opportunity to grab a juicy leading role, work with Savoca, and stay close to home and kids.
Thelma Adams: This movie was a guerrilla production -- shot in less than a month mostly in the producer's Manhattan apartment. What drew you to "Union Square"?
Mira Sorvino: Off the bat it was Nancy.
TA: She directed one of my favorite underseen independents, "Household Saints," with Lili Taylor.
MS: The first one I saw was "Dog Fight." It was a movie with beauty and heart. And I loved "True Love." Nancy has evolved from making parochial stories to universal ones. "Union Square" deals with essential family relationships and the hard part of being an adult who loves the person they grew up with and hates the person they grew up with...
TA: Female characters like these rarely get written with such compassion and honesty. Tell me about Lucy.
MS: She has so much life force! Nancy was inspired by Italian movies: the Anna Magnani phone-call movie in "L'amore."
TA: Did Nancy have you watch that Roberto Rossellini movie to prepare?
MS: Yes, and I said, "Oh, Nancy, I don't like to watch other people's work as an imitation." And she said, "Watch it and pretend that's your mother."
TA: Did that help?
MS: I know I can never be as perfect and still and iconic as Anna. My character, Lucy, is all over the place. She's falling apart and pulling herself together. Nancy also had us watch the documentary "Children of Fate," about three generations in a Sicilian family. In our movie, the part where the mother, who is dying of lung cancer, is putting her lighter close to the kids' faces and scaring them is like a person in that documentary.
TA: Growing up, my Uncle Al used to play that game with us. He had a lighter, and he'd entertain my cousins and me by daring us to blow out his lighter. Later, he died from emphysema.
MS: Live by the sword, die by the sword. I've always been a fan of all those Italian movies like Giulietta Masina in "Juliet of the Spirits." I see them reflected in "Union Square," in the dinner table scenes, and in that seance at the end. The sisters are wishing their mother alive again. It's very beautiful and funny. Nancy has this perfect mixture of comedy and drama. It's so rare. Some of the comedic directors like Woody [Allen] give you that depth; this is one of the fullest meldings of comedy and drama I've ever participated in.