Mira Sorvino takes on role of Daisy in BBC production of 'The Great Gatsby'

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Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino, best known as the kind-hearted prostitute in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite, is to star as Daisy Buchanan in a major BBC adaptation of The Great Gatsby. The Hollywood actress will play opposite British actor Toby Stephens as Gatsby in the production of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic tale of doomed love and ambition.

It will be the second time Ms Sorvino, who picked up her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1995, has appeared in a major BBC production. That year, she starred in the series The Buccaneers.

She agreed to play Daisy, who she describes as "very, very fragile" after finishing Spike Lee's Summer of Sam. Sorvino said she jumped at the chance, as since Mighty Aphrodite, she was more usually offered "happy hookers".

"That's why Daisy was so nice, it followed Summer of Sam and couldn't have been further from the blue-collar Italian-American girl I play in that," she said.

Toby Stephens was picked from more than 100 actors, many of them American, to play Gatsby. The former Royal Shakespeare Company actor, son of Dame Maggie Smith, said the book was "a parable, a critique of the American values of Fitzgerald's time and, in many ways, of America now".

The film, to be broadcast on BBC1 next week, was shot in Montreal. The director, American Robert Markowitz, could not find a home that conveyed the grandeur of Gatsby's original mansion so this version uses eight houses, enhanced with computer graphics. The score is by award-winning composer Carl Davis.

Gatsby has been filmed twice before; once in 1949 and then in 1974, with Robert Redford as Gatsby and Mia Farrow as the object of his desire, but neither film was a huge success. Redford was so disappointed with his version he allegedly urged friends to stay away from the cinema.

Meanwhile, the BBC launched its £242m spring and summer season yesterday, with a tangible sense of satisfaction at its new, post-Birt ethos.

Unveiling 10 new dramas, five new comedy shows and 16 live football matches among more than 2,000 hours of original programming, BBC1 controller Peter Salmon said: "We have a new D.G., a new licence-fee settlement and a whole new TV world. There is a real and tangible sense of excitement and adventure at the BBC. Everything is possible."

The long-trodden paths of law and criminal investigation are given new twists with Paul McGann as Fish, a civil rights lawyer trying to balance life and work; Lorcan Cranitch and Patsy Palmer in McCready and Daughter; and Trevor Eve and Sue Johnston as forensic investigators in Waking the Dead.