In “Union Square,” Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino (“Mighty Aphrodite”) plays Lucy, a boisterous Bronxite who decides to make a surprise visit to her estranged sister Jenny (Tammy Blanchard) who is about to get married. During an interview with me, Sorvino, 45, talked about her character and how her real-life relationship with her own sister was different than her on-screen one. She also updated us on a possible “Romy and Michele” sequel.
“Union Square” is currently available On Demand.
This film has been described as two stories: a marriage and a nervous breakdown. Don’t the two go hand in hand?
(Laughs) Yes, but they’re being experienced by two different people. (Laughs) Yes, they can, but they don’t have to. My marriage wasn’t a nervous breakdown. I had a wonderful wedding.
What resonated with you about your character Lucy?
She’s a brilliantly written character. She’s kind of manic. [Director] Nancy [Savoca] feels she is a bit bipolar. She’s from the Bronx and rarely leaves the confines of the Bronx, so she is defined by the colloquialism. She is trying to break out of the history she has with her family. She’s losing it because she can’t handle everything people are throwing at her. She has these wonderfully funny lines and then some big dramatic moments. She is ballsy and sort of a loud mouth. It was her humanity combined with her wild personality that really drew me to her.
I’m glad to see Nancy Savoca back in the director’s chair. I thought her 1991 film “Dogfight” was great. What did she bring to this story as the director?
I think this is a very personal film for her. Although it’s not autobiographical, it really draws from the world where she grew up. There’s a lot of her in both of the characters, actually. She is two sides of the same whole.
I know you have a sister. Did you bring any of that relationship into your role in the film?
I’m the older sister, but I sort of feel like the younger sister. My sister is the more adventurous, so in a weird way this was kind of like a role reversal for me. There are some similarities. I think most people will relate to their relationship in some way because they’ll recognize the estrangement of the characters. I think people will see their own family history in it. It seems to cross gender lines very easily, too.
What do you hope audiences take from a movie like “Union Square?”
I hope people are very moved by it. I hope they can go home and call up family members they haven’t talked to in a while and try to patch things up. I think this film reminds you that life is short and whatever issues that come between family members are not necessarily worth it. You have to find a way to bridge them. I think people will laugh a lot and shed a couple of tears. I think people will really be happy after they watch it.
I know you have a soft spot for New York City. What was it like to go back there and shoot a film?
I love shooting in New York. It’s always so familiar to me and always so vibrant and alive. Anytime during the day or night you’re going to find people motivated and doing things. There is a heartbeat and liveliness to this city that never stops.
In your career, we’ve seen you shift to more independent films . Has that been a conscious decision on your part or has that just been the way things have worked out in the last few years?
I’ve always loved the freedom independent films give to filmmakers. Normally, I try to gravitate towards that material, which, financially, isn’t always the best choice. (Laughs) But it certain gives me the chance to play a lot of different kinds of roles. It’s been a happy situation for me.
Do you feel independent films are more original and have more heartfelt content that your average big-studio movie?
I think because there isn’t someone riding on the back of independent films, the films themselves don’t have to be formulaic in any way. It can try something new and be honest and not worry about certain things. For a film like “Union Square,” the money is minimal in comparison to the artistic freedom it affords everyone involved. That’s the kind of freshness you just don’t get with a big crew of people and big cameras and big lights.
It’s been 16 years since you won your Oscar. How does that fit into your career now? Do you let that linger? Have you forgotten about it?
I think it was a little fleeting. I thought this enormous, wonderful gift the Hollywood community gave to me was affirmation for my work that a lot of actors spend their entire careers hoping for and never get. I am extremely lucky and feel special to have gotten that so early in my career. Perhaps that has made me less cautious of choosing things because I already have an Oscar and am very grateful for it. I don’t really think about it that much anymore except to remember what a wonderful day it was.
It was great to see you back with Lisa Kudrow in the Entertainment Weekly spread earlier this year. Looking back on a film like “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” how has that affect your career?
That was a very unique film. They don’t make too many female buddy comedies. We were very lucky to get that wonderful screenplay. It was especially good for me because I was a girl who had an unhappy high school experience. We got to stand up and be the underdog heroes for all those girls who felt like me. We just wanted to be role models for those boys and girls who are never going to be the Homecoming king and queen and say that your great just the way you are. People really responded to that message and also to the fun in the movie and the silliness of the characters. I still have people that come up to me every day quoting lines from the movie. It’s lovely to have been a part of something that is remembered by so many people out there.
There have been ideas floating around for a “Romy and Michele” sequel for years. Any chance we’re going to see something like, “Romey and Michele Join the Army” or, another one I read that I loved, “Michele Goes Through the Change and Romy is There?”
We’re trying to make it happen! The more people blog about it, the bigger chance someone will give us the green light. We’ve always wanted to do it, so hopefully people will keep talking. There is still a lively fan base out there. Even in the gay community, people still dress up as Romy and Michelle. It’s neat to be a part of something that meant so much too so many people.