Mia Kirshner: Mamma Mia!
You might know Canadian actress Mia Kirshner from her work on the small screen. Kirshner has had recurring roles on TV shows like 24, The L Word and The Vampire Diaries. She got her start with some racy movie roles, but when she came to Hollywood her film career hit a speed bump. In this profile piece from the November 1997 issue of Movieline magazine, Kirshner discussed her next mainstream movie, Mad City, which starred Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta.
Mia Kirshner stepped into the limelight with odd roles in small Canadian films-first as a schoolgirl strip act in Exotica, then as a dominatrix looking for love in Love and Human Remains. Hollywood noticed and she landed the lead in her first American film, The Crow: City of Angels. Though that film was hardly the auspicious launch Kirshner must have wanted, it was unlikely that the actress Roger Ebert said was able to combine “sexual allure with a kindness that makes her all the more appealing” (the critic named Exotica one of the top 10 films of 1995), would fail to find another opportunity. And now here she is in the hostage drama Mad City, playing a cub journalist who hangs on Dustin Hoffman’s every word as he reports the moves of cracked security guard John Travolta.
DENNIS HENSLEY: When people meet you do they expect you to be as intense as the roles you’ve chosen?
MIA KIRSHNER: Yeah, people see me as this dark Lolita.
Q: Are they right?
A: I think I’m the biggest goof.
Q: Well, you can’t blame them after your turn in Exotica. Was that a challenge?
A: That was a difficult shoot because of the subject matter, and I think the director wanted more nudity. I wasn’t ready for it–I was only 17. I have nothing against nudity, but I think it doesn’t look authentic if you’re not comfortable with it.
Q: What did your dad think of that role?
A: He always says of my films, “Well, this is another movie I can’t show my mother.”
Q: He’ll be able to show his mom Mad City, though. What was working with costar Dustin Hoffman like?
A: One day when I was in his trailer he began to do imitations of his characters from Tootsie and Rain Man and I was like, “I can’t believe I’m sitting here.” Very, very cool.
Q: And John Travolta?
A: He was a childhood idol of mine. I was an idiot around him the whole time, like a bad blind date. It’s almost better that I didn’t have many scenes with him because I wouldn’t have been able to function.
Q: Were you disappointed with The Crow: City of Angels?
A: I never watch my movies. When I’m done with them I like to move on.
Q: You’re also a big prankster, right?
A: I’m the queen of all pranks. When I did The Crow: City of Angels,I decided to get the director a singing telegram before we started as a good luck thing, so I ordered a Judy Garland impersonator. When I went to meet him, I discovered he was drunk out of his mind.
Q: Maybe he was just getting into character.
A: Maybe, but his mascara was running and I’m like, “Listen, just say kind things, sing to him and then leave,” and he was like, “All right, honey.” The director was terribly shy, and when he saw this guy as Judy Garland, he ran into his office and locked the door. “Judy” got really, really mad and started screaming, “Who the fuck do you think you are, fucking Steven Spielberg? Get out here, you pussy!”
Q: Where’s the weirdest place you’ve made out?
A: At camp. I was a counselor at the Christian Churchworkers’ Association Camp and slept in the same room as the campers–with only a sheet partition between me and everyone else in the cabin. I had my first orgasm there and I was so loud the guy had to put a pillow over my face.
Q: How did you feel the next day?
A: Wonderful. I think being naughty is so much better than being good.
Q: What would you do if you could be a guy for a day?
A: I’d want to fuck. That would be my first order of business. I’d pick two or three or four or five people, men and women, that I’d want to do.
Q: Do you remember the first time you saw a guy naked?
A: It might have been when I bought a Playgirl with a friend when I was 10. We waited around a magazine stand until we could find a stranger to buy us a copy. I read the issue, tossed it, then went back to school. Then I went to the washroom at lunch with my friends and told them stories from memory. I was like, “Ahhh, she shoves his hard, steaming, up her you know…” What I didn’t know was that the vent in the girls’ washroom was connected to the principal’s office and he heard me. My mouth gets me into trouble a lot of the time.
Q: What did you think of L.A. when you moved here from Toronto?
A: I’d just read You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, and had seen The Player. And River Phoenix had just died. But L.A.’s what you make of it.
Q: What’s next after Mad City?
A: Nothing has inspired me yet. I don’t believe in working just for work. I may return to McGill University in Montreal in the spring to study literature. Also, I need to edit Victor, a short film I directed earlier this year. It’s about a drag queen and his search for love in a very hard, cold, sexualized world.
Q: So much for sticking to the mainstream.
A: [Laughs] Exactly.
Dennis Hensley interviewed Vince Vaughn for the September issue of Movieline.