AP Interview: Oscar winner mulls activist career

AP News
Posted: Feb 08, 2013 1:49 PM
AP Interview: Oscar winner mulls activist career

VIENNA (AP) — Mira Sorvino's list of awards includes an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a host of nominations reserved for the world's best actors and actresses. She's had meaningful roles in more than 50 films and TV productions in a career that began two decades ago and is still going strong.

So why is she contemplating ending her acting career a few years down the line?

"I love acting, and that is my job right now," Sorvino told The Associated Press on Friday. At the same time, she describes her advocacy against human trafficking and modern-day slavery as "my calling," and so important that "in a decade or so, I wouldn't mind just switching to a career in humanitarian causes."

Sorvino's Oscar-winning role as a prostitute with a golden heart in Woody Allen's "Mighty Aphrodite" might have cast the world's oldest profession in comic light. These days, though, her fight against the sex trade and modern-day slavery has become a serious crusade off screen and on. She has served as U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking since 2009, and in her 2012 film "Trade of Innocents" — described as a "powerful, important movie" by Movieguide — she plays a woman chosen to extricate a little Cambodian girl from the grip of a prostitution ring.

While firm figures are not available, the U.S. State Department estimated in 2010 that 12.3 million people are enslaved worldwide. Of those, millions are children forced into the sex trade, and Sorvino said she was drawn to the role both as a mother and as an activist anguished by the plight of girls driven into prostitution at childhood.

"It's unthinkable, it's unspeakable, and yet it's all over," she said, tearing up as she recalled one such victim she met in Mexico who had been held in a brothel from the age of 4 until her rescue three years later.

The 45-year old actress spoke to the AP in the offices of the Vienna-based U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime after being extended in her goodwill ambassador's role by the U.N. agency's head, Yury Fedotov.

"She gave voice to the speechless," Fedotov said of Sorvino's efforts on behalf of victims.

Sorvino's social commitments sit deep. The actress recalls a "long history of activism and idealism in our family" — of discussions with her father about the anti-apartheid crusades of South African churchman Desmond Tutu and her mother marching in Washington with Martin Luther King.

With an education that focused on human rights, including research in racial conflict in China and anti-Semitism in Russia, she says her early life "was all about social justice and trying to be on the side of the angels in bettering the world in some idealistic fashion."

"Then the acting career became my career and I have passion for that as an artist," she said. But, she adds, human rights advocacy "answers something else in me that I have had since I was a little girl reading Anne Frank."

Sorvino has been affiliated with Amnesty International since 2004 and received that organization's "Artist of Conscience Award" for philanthropic and humanist activities. In a more unusual honor, a compound excreted by the sunburst diving beetle as a defensive mechanism is now called "mirasorvone," in recognition of her role as entomologist Susan Tyler probing deadly insect mutations in the film "Mimic."

Along the way, she has turned from being aware of causes to someone working to drive change.

She cites pending legislation in Wyoming that will make it the last U.S. state to make human trafficking a crime as partially a result of her push, declaring: "I called them out very publicly."

She dismisses suggestions that Hollywood and human rights don't mix — and that as such she is out of step with the industry.

"Every person in the world is an individual — no one can be defined by the label "Hollywood," Sorvino said.

Depending on the day and time, the actress-activist says she morphs into a mother of four with "a crazy maelstrom of activity, runny noses and homework and bedtimes."

"So, I don't know where I fit in," she said. As for activism, "I love this part of my life."