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Sonia Braga: 1950—: Actress

Switched Roles And Languages With "spider Woman"

Her star rose higher with the release in 1985 of Kiss of the Spider Woman, her first English-language project and based on a novel from Manuel Puig. Again, the movie became one of the most critically acclaimed international releases of that year, and even won Braga's co-star, William Hurt, the Academy Award for best actor. Hurt played Molina, a gay man jailed in a Latin American country for child molestation; his cell-mate, Valentin (Raul Julia), is a political prisoner. Molina entertains Valentin with tales of Leni Lamaison, a bygone movie star of unparalleled beauty. Braga plays Leni in the fantasy sequences, but also portrays another character who exists in Molina's imagination, the Spider Woman, as well as a third—Valentin's former lover, Marta.

Kiss of the Spider Woman was a film described as "tense, charged with intellectual energy and witty with the dark humor of despair" as well as "mesmerizing" by People critic Ralph Novak. As Braga told Advocate writer Lawrence Ferber several years later, at the time, "Some people would say, 'Why do a movie with a gay man and political prisoner in a cell?'" she recalled. "And I say, 'Because it's important.' I have both [Molina and Valentin] in my life: gay people and political people, if not both in one body. Many of them, especially in Brazil, have disappeared. Some are dead."

Braga did admit that the success of Kiss of the Spider Woman surprised even her. She had been uneasy about her first film in English, as she told Mann in the Los Angeles Times interview. "Sometimes I would say a line and wonder, 'What does it mean?'," she recalled. "Now I feel much more secure." The critical plaudits led to offers to appear in two mainstream Hollywood projects, both released in 1988: The Milagro Bean-field War, directed by Robert Redford, and a Paul Mazursky comedy called Moon over Parador.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalSonia Braga: 1950—: Actress Biography - Went From Secretary To Television Starlet, Switched Roles And Languages With "spider Woman", Returned To Television Acclaim