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Buggin' out in ''Mimic''

The giant roach film starring Mira Sorvino has Miramax betting for success at the box office

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What’s a nice girl like Mira Sorvino doing in a movie like Mimic?

”To be honest, when I first heard the premise of the movie I thought, I don’t think so,” says Sorvino. ”My first instinct was definitely to shy away from it.”

It’s easy enough to understand why, considering that the Oscar-winning actress spends a good chunk of the new $28 million ticked-off-mutant-bugs-run-amok horror film caked in grimy sludge in the bowels of Manhattan’s subways trying her damnedest not to get jacked by a 10-foot-long flying cockroach. Then again, if she had passed on playing Mimic‘s intrepid entomologist, Sorvino would’ve missed her chance to be a part of one of Hollywood’s newest — and most unlikely — success stories: Dimension Films. Run by Bob Weinstein, cochairman of Miramax Films, Dimension is single-handedly spearheading a campaign to save the presumed-dead horror genre from the trash bin of the movie industry. After goosing the tired teen-slasher-flick premise and giving it a clever and ironic ’90s face-lift with the $100 million hit Scream, the company is gearing up to release Scream 2 — starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and Jada Pinkett — Dec. 12. And no less than Trainspotting‘s Ewan McGregor will make his Dimension debut as a harried hipster morgue attendant in the upcoming dark thriller Nightwatch.

The real shocker in Dimension’s lineup, in fact, is the presence of Oscar winners, British thesps, and name-brand talent in a genre heretofore known for starring anonymous scream queens and faceless victims. Before Sorvino could say no, Weinstein begged her to sit down and watch Mimic director Guillermo Del Toro’s artsy 1992 Mexican vampire creep-fest, Cronos. After that, and nearly round-the-clock pestering, she caved. ”I knew I was in trouble then because I loved Cronos,” she says. ”I knew I had to work with anyone who was able to dream that up.” Of course, the actress also admits that dating Quentin Tarantino, the walking, talking encyclopedia of trash-and-crud cinema, may have helped tip the scales in Weinstein and Del Toro’s favor too.

”Quentin showed me Alien when I was thinking about doing this,” she says. (C’mon, did you really expect these two to spend cozy evenings curled up in front of Out of Africa?) ”I never saw it as a kid because I remember being totally grossed out in school when a couple of kids were talking about it. It just proved to me that there are great genre films that aren’t schlock.”

The thing is, Mimic is schlock, albeit clever postmodern schlock. The film employs the same kind of knowing formula that made Scream a hit — simultaneously letting audiences in on the joke and scaring the bejesus out of them. But Dimension wasn’t always cranking out high-end, star-studded films like Scream and Mimic. Dimension was born in 1992 as a last refuge for cheapies like Children of the Corn II and Hellraiser III. But thanks to the success of The Crow, From Dusk Till Dawn, and imported Jackie Chan chopsocky flicks like Supercop, Weinstein has pulled off the seemingly impossible task of gaining respectability for films that on paper look like lowbrow drive-in movies. It’s an odd commodity, coming from the same folks who brought us Il Postino, The English Patient, and Shall We Dance?