Mimi Sagadin, Sundance And
Return To The Hiding Place
By Nathan Edmondson
Chicago-based actor Mimi Sagadin still couldn’t believe her luck when on January 18th, she found herself amongst the hubbub of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival walking down the red carpet to a private screening of Return to the Hiding Place, a film in which she stars alongside John Rhys-Davies of Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings fame. Based on a true story, Mimi plays the late Corrie ten Boom, a Christian woman living in the Netherlands whose family hid Jews from the Nazis during WWII. I had the privilege of talking with Mimi about this inspiring film, the serendipitous nature of her winning the role and how a woman who never thought she could be an actor became just that.
Separating itself from other Holocaust stories through its message of hope, Return to the Hiding Place, follows Hans Poley who, upon refusing to join the Nazi Party, found refuge in Corrie ten Boom’s home and joined a group of untrained, teenage resistance fighters aiming to aid and rescue targeted Dutch Jews. Throughout 2013, the film won 18 awards at film festivals across the country. After becoming the Bel Air Film Festival’s first Triple Crown winner by taking home the awards for Best Directing, Best Cinematography and Best Feature Film, the Bel Air Film Festival arranged the private screening of Return to the Hiding Place in Park City, UT to coincide with the Sundance Film Festival and further promote the film.
Mimi’s involvement in the film developed in a unique way. In the spring of 2010, she had been cast in a small, minor role in the world premiere of the play The Hiding Place, based on the novel co-written by Corrie ten Boom which told the story of her and her family’s experiences during WWII. A cast member of the play learned that a film, from a different character’s perspective, was being produced by Spencer Productions out of San Antonio and reached out to see if they’d be interested in setting up auditions with the cast of the play as they were already immersed in the material and had undergone dialect coaching. The film producers agreed casting ten actors from the play, including Mimi. Mimi expected to be cast in another minor role and was shocked when they offered her a leading role as Corrie ten Boom.
In preparation for the three weeks of shooting in Michigan and several days on location in the actual home of the ten Booms' in Holland, Mimi immersed herself in video and audio recordings of Corrie ten Boom to match the cadence and quality of her voice. Three weeks before shooting, she threw out her back. Instead of wallowing in her misfortune, she took it as guidance to slow down, ignore all outside distractions and double her focus on her part. Her preparation paid off. After seeing Mimi’s performance, Corrie ten Boom’s personal assistant Pam Rosewell Moore proclaimed, “I felt like I was with Corrie again.”
Although Mimi had always been drawn to acting, it never occurred to her that acting was something she could do. It wasn’t until she was in her late twenties while volunteering at a coffee house/theater venue that an actress friend confronted her asking, “Well, why can’t you act? Of course you can act.” Mimi, having never heard those words of encouragement before, soon enrolled in the Players Workshop at Second City. After a year of training, Mimi co-founded the ‘clean comedy,’ touring improv troupe ‘Mission IMPROVable.’ Her career progressed slowly at first as she balanced performing with raising her and her husband’s two children.
As her children became older and more independent, Mimi could dedicate more time to her craft branching out from improv into theater and film. She started applying for extra roles in motion pictures filming in the Chicago area. Stranger than Fiction, starring Will Farrell and Emma Thompson came to town and Mimi was cast as Ms. Thompson’s stand-in. Mimi was on set for the five weeks of filming to substitute for Ms. Thompson during the lighting and blocking setups of each scene. Additionally, she sat in during all the principal casts’ rehearsals with the director.
Having soaked up a tremendous amount of hands-on experience, Mimi left Stranger than Fiction motivated to audition for student films in an effort to build up her resume and eventually attract an agent. Landing an agent led to more opportunities to audition and work in commercials, industrials, films and on stage. Mimi has her own words of encouragement for those interested in a career in acting. Like Corrie ten Boom, Mimi is a woman of faith and believes that we’re made to pursue our passion. If acting is your passion, you are made to follow it; however, Mimi stresses the importance of having balance in one’s life. Acting falls third behind God and family. It also helps to have individuals in your life you can go to for guidance. For Mimi, her late mother was a great influence, and she’s blessed to still have her mother-in-law who at 85 years old remains a tremendous positive influence offering years of wisdom and advice.
Mimi was honored to be given the opportunity to portray Christian heroine Corrie ten Boom and dove into the challenge of playing a historical character. Although a certain amount of luck led to Mimi landing the role, her success is built upon years of hard work and a dedication to her craft that is fueled by her passion to perform and inspire an audience.
For information on the planned Theatrical release of Return to the Hiding Place, please visit their website at www.hide-movie.com
To learn more about Nathan Edmondson and Reel9 Productions, click here to visit his site.