Kiss of the Spider Woman
“You can keep yourself alive. That's the magic of being an actor.” Sonia Braga
Brazilian import Sonia Braga first gained fame in her native country through her roles on “Gabriela” (1975), an adaptation of a Jorge Amando novel, and her portrayal of a woman torn between her living husband and the ghost of her dead one on the highly successful film “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands” (1976), another adaptation of Amando's novel that made her an international star. She also received a nomination at the 1981 BAFTA Awards. Following performances in other popular Brazilian movies such as “Lady on the Bus” (1978), “I Love You” (1981, earned a Gramado Film Festival Award) and “Gabriela, Cravo e Canela” (1983), which reunited her with “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands” director Bruno Bareto, she made an auspicious Hollywood debut playing three roles in Hector Babenco's “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1985), from which she took home her first Golden Globe nomination. Since then, Sonia has moved to and worked extensively in the U.S.
Braga won her next Golden Globe nomination for her work in the movie “Moon Over Parador” (1988) and the HBO fact based drama “The Burning Season” (1994), where she also received an Emmy nomination. She took home a 1996 Lone Star Film & Television Award and a NCLR Bravo nomination for the TV miniseries “Streets of Laredo” (CBS, 1995) and an Imagen Foundation nomination for the TV series “American Family” (PBS, 2002). Braga has also acted in such movies as “The Milagro Beanfield War” (1988), Clint Eastwood's “The Rookie” (1991), Luis Mandoki's “Angel Eyes” (2001), Franc Reyes' “Empire” (2002), Gregory Nava's “Bordertown” (2006) and Ethan Hawke's “The Hottest State” (2006) and guest starred in the TV series “The Cosby Show,” “Sex and the City,” “Law & Order,” “CSI: Miami,” “Ghost Whisperer” and “Alias,” among others. Braga also worked on the soap opera “Páginas da vida” (2006-2007), playing Tônia Werneck.
Braga will play roles in the upcoming films “An Invisible Sign of My Own” (2009) and “Lope” (2010), her first return to the Brazilian cinema after 2001's “Memórias Póstumas” (earned a Gramado Film Festival Award).
In 1986, Braga became a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. She is the sister of actress Ana Maria Braga, actor Júlio Braga and artist Hélio Braga. Her niece, Alice Braga, (born on April 15, 1983) starred in the acclaimed movies “City of God” (2002) and “I Am Legend” (2007) with Will Smith. She is also the aunt of director Daniel Braga (born on July 2, 1972).
As for her romantic life, Braga was involved with filmmaker Robert Redford in the late 1980s. By summer 1991, she had dated Michael Fuchs, a chairman and CEO of HBO. She was also once linked to soccer icon Pele.
The Brazilian Bombshell
Childhood and Family:
“I grew up in a very open minded family. My father died when I was very little, so my mother was really, really incredibly busy trying to provide for us.” Sonia Braga
Sônia Maria Campos Braga was born on June 8, 1950, in Maringá, Paraná, Brazil. Her father passed away when she was eight years old. Her mother's name is Maria José “Zeze” Braga. The third youngest of seven children, Sonia quit school at age 14 to help support her family.
Sonia is known by the nickname “The Brazilian Bombshell.”
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Sonia Braga hit the small screen for the first time at age 14 when she appeared on a Brazilian children's program called “The Enchanted Garden.” She made her stage debut approximately three years later in Moliere's “Jorge Dandin” (1967) and later appeared in other plays such as a Brazilian version of the popular musical “Hair,” “A Teoria na Prática é Outra” and “No País dos Prequetés.” Her feature film acting debut was in Rogério Sganzerla's “O bandido da luz vermelha Sailboat” (1968), in which she appeared as a victim.
Braga next had the title role in the musical “A Moreninha” (1970), adapted from a novel by Joaquim Manoel de Macedo. She was then seen in the films “Cleo e Daniel” (1970), “O Capitão Bandeira Contra o Dr. Moura Brasil” (1971), “Mestiça, a Escrava Indomável” (1973) and Daniel Filho's “O Casal” (1975, played Maria Lúcia). However, she did not earn international attention until she starred as Dona Flor (Florípides) Guimarães in “Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos/Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands” (1976), a movie adaptation of a Jorge Amado novel that was directed and scripted by Bruno Bareto. Airing in the U.S. on June 21, 1978, the comedy was nominated for a 1979 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and Braga was handed a BAFTA Film nomination in the category of Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles for her portrayal of a woman with two lovers, her husband, who is alive, and her former husband, who is a ghost.
Meanwhile, on television, Braga created a reputation as one of Brazil's top soap opera stars in the 1970s. She became famous in 1975 thanks to her portrayal of Gabriela in the soap opera of the same name, based on Jorge Amando's novel “Gabriela, Cravo e Canela.” Other soap opera credits include “Irmãos Coragem” (1970, her debut), “Selva de Pedra” (1972), “Fogo Sobre Terra” (1974), “Saramandaia” (1976) and “Dancin’ Days” (1978).
After her success on “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands,” Braga starred in the Brazilian blockbuster movies “A Dama do Lotação/Lady on the Bus” (1978, starred as Solange) and “Eu Te Amo/I Love You” (1981, as Maria). She won a Golden Kikito for Best Actress at the 1981 Gramado Film Festival for her work in the latter. In 1983, Braga rejoined filmmaker Bruno Barreto for the big screen adaptation of Amado's “Gabriela, Cravo e Canela” for which the actress reprised the role she had made famous on Brazilian TV. The performance brought her further international fame.
Braga's rising popularity quickly put her on the radar of American film producers and in 1985, she made her English language debut with “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” a drama based on the Manuel Puig novel of the same name. The movie was directed by director Hector Babenco. Cast in three different characters, Sonia netted a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. The sultry beauty made her American TV debut a year later with a two episode role in NBC's “The Cosby Show,” in which she was cast as Anna Maria Westlake. It was followed by a supporting role on the HBO TV film biopic “The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains” (1987), which starred Val Kimer as Robert Elliot Burns and was directed by Daniel Mann. She returned to feature films in Robert Redford's “The Milagro Beanfield War” (1988) with Christopher Walken, Rubén Blades, James Gammonand and Melanie Griffith, and Paul Mazursky's “Moon Over Parador” (also 1988) with Richard Dreyfuss and former costar (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”) Raul Julia. Delivering a strong portrayal of an erratic garage owner named Madonna Mendez in the latter movie, she received her next Golden Globe nomination.
In 1990, Braga was reunited with Raul Julia to play German felons in “The Rookie,” a thriller helmed by and starring Clint Eastwood. She then starred with David Kaufman in the Lifetime television movie “The Last Prostitute” (1991) and portrayed Juana Morales on the Robert M. Young-directed film “Roosters” (1993), opposite Edward James Olmos. She next appeared as Regina de Catrvalho in “The Burning Season,” a 1994 HBO movie based on an Andrew Revkin's novel and directed by John Frankenheimer. The role brought her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV. The fact based film marked her forth collaboration with Raul Julia.
Following a starring role in the independent film “Two Deaths” (1995), from director Nicolas Roeg, Braga teamed up with James Garner, Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard, Ned Beatty and Randy Quaid for the CBS miniseries “Streets of Laredo” (1995), where she picked up a 1996 Lone Star Film & Television Award and a NCLR Bravo nomination for her scene stealing role of Maria Garza. The same year, she also appeared with Ben Kingsley and Frank Langella in the Emmy nominated TV film “Moses.”
After working in America for over a decade, Braga revisited Brazil to produce the film “Tieta do Agreste” (1996), where she also starred as a rich widow who returns to her roots. The comedy was directed by the renowned Carlos Diegues and adapted from a novel by Jorge Amado. She also acted with her real-life brother, Júlio Braga, in the soap opera “Força de Um Desejo” (1999). In between the projects, Braga costarred with Roy Scheider in the made-for-TV film “Money Play$” (Showtime, 1997), with Ann-Margret in the mid-season CBS drama series “Homestead/Four Corners” (1998) and with Lea Thompson in the NBC miniseries “A Will of Their Own” (1998).
Opening the new millennium, Braga took the role of the Queen of the Vampires in the direct-to-video “From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter” (2000), was cast as Irene Mancini in the Sundance-screened “Perfume” (2001), had a supporting role in the entertaining Brazilian/Portuguese produced film “Memórias Póstumas” (2001, won a Gramado Film Festival Award), costarred with Jennifer Lopez, James Caviezel, Jeremy Sisto and Terrence Howard in director Luis Mandoki's “Angel Eyes” (2001), and supported John Leguizamo and Isabella Rossellini in “Empire” (2002), a thriller written and directed by Franc Reyes. On TV, following a guest role in “Family Law” (2000), Braga had the recurring role of Maria, a woman who becomes romantically linked to Samantha (played by Kim Cattrall), in HBO’s “Sex and the City” (2001) and worked with long-time friend Chris Noth on the NBC miniseries “The Judge” (2001). She then landed the regular role of Berta Gonzalez on the PBS series “American Family” (2002), which starred Edward James Olmos. She received an Imagen nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Drama for her work on the show.
Braga continued to work on TV with guest appearances in “George Lopez” (2002), “Law & Order” (2003), “CSI: Miami” (2005) and “Ghost Whisperer” (2005). She also had a recurring role in five episodes of the ABC spy series “Alias” (2005). The busy actress kept her big screen presence by appearing in “Testosterone” (2003), “Amália Traïda” (2004), “Scene Stealers” (2004), Josh Evans' “Che Guevara” (2005) and Randall Miller's “Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School” (2005).
From 2006 to 2007, Braga played Tônia Werneck on the Brazilian TV series “Páginas da vida.” During this period, she also worked on the films “Sea of Dreams” (2006, directed by José Bojorquez), “Bordertown” (2006, directed and written by Gregory Nava and starring Antonio Banderas and Jennifer Lopez) and “The Hottest State” (2006, starred, directed and written by Ethan Hawke). She then appeared in the TV series “Donas de Casa Desesperadas” (2007).
Braga will play a mother in “An Invisible Sign of My Own,” a drama film directed by Marilyn Agrelo starring Jessica Alba, J.K. Simmons, Chris Messina, Sophie Nyweide and Bailee Madison. It is scheduled to be released in late 2009. She is also set to play Paquita in “Lope” (2010), which chronicles the life of Lope de Vega (played by Alberto Ammann), the Spanish playwright who dominated Spain's early Golden Age of theater.
Gramado Film Festival: Golden Kikito, Best Supporting Actress (Melhor Atriz Coadjuvante), “Memórias Póstumas,” 2001
Lone Star Film & Television: Best TV Supporting Actress, “Streets of Laredo,” 1996
Gramado Film Festival: Golden Kikito, Best Actress (Melhor Atriz), “Eu Te Amo,” 1981