Stories about Belonging
Gajic & Furlan Enterprises, Inc.
Autobiography, 592 pages
Mira Furlan’s well-written book Love Me More Than Anything in the World offers much more than familiar life-in-Hollywood reflections. Completed before her death in Los Angeles in 2021 from complications related to West Nile virus, Ms. Furlan’s autobiography chronicles her difficult 1991 decision to leave her home in her native Yugoslavia, where she was a theater, movie, and television star, and seek a safer life in America with her husband, director Goran Gajic. They were in danger because of their ethnicities, and Ms. Furlan had become an outspoken critic of the ethnic violence and warfare that was breaking out in various parts of Yugoslavia.
Over the next eleven years (a period known as “the Yugoslav Wars”), that long-troubled, unstable nation would splinter into several separate countries, and hundreds of thousands would die in a bloody patchwork of regional wars, ethnic “cleansing” campaigns, and other violent actions.
Many TV viewers remember Mira Furlan as “Ambassador Delenn” in the TV series Babylon 5. She also played “Danielle Rousseau” in Lost and had many other U.S. and international film roles. She was a singer and writer, as well.
Love Me More Than Anything in the World is structured as a letter to her American-born son and begins with her describing her and Goran’s complicated, Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian-Jewish-Catholic backgrounds and decisions to leave Yugoslavia. The book also covers growing up “in a harshly patriarchal Balkan society” where adolescence for the intelligent and pretty teenager was, in a word, a “horror” of restrictions, cautions, and battles with her mother over social freedoms. Life as a star of stage, screen, and television in Belgrade–and the political hazards that came with it–also is described. So are some of the “shit jobs” she and her husband endured in New York and elsewhere as emigres after leaving Yugoslavia. But Mira also recalls enlightening encounters with Al Pacino, Paul Newman, and some other big names while she was auditioning for movie and TV parts and working in productions. (Timeline note: In the 1980s, as a “visiting” foreign actress, she worked for a while in the U.S. in New York and in Hollywood on Babylon 5 before deciding to return to Yugoslavia, only to flee again a few years later and settle in Los Angeles.)
Fans of Babylon 5 and Lost will find some intriguing and disturbing details about those two series and encounter an array of memories–good and bad–related to Mira Furlan’s experiences on those shows. The supposed “glamor” of being a Hollywood actress is just a thin facade, she makes clear. And what happens behind that facade often can include real-life horror, abuse, stress, and indifference to human needs.
Her autobiography also raises some vital questions for America and the rest of the world. For example, why is authoritarianism once again on the rise? And why is there so little concern and care for the worn-down streams of political, religious, and ethnic refugees forced to flee their homelands with little more than hope for survival somewhere else?
“America has become a different country,” she wrote in her book, “a country ominously similar to the place we once left in horror and despair. There is no doubt anymore that the forces that chased us out of our own homes have won a global victory. We fought those forces once. Now we feel tired. We are exhausted by repetition.”
At the same time, there is hope, love, bright memories, friendships, and the strengthening bonds of family in this absorbing and intelligent book.. The wondrous powers of creativity also get chances to shine. But, underneath it all, fame is fleeting, and aging can take away many opportunities for continuing a career in entertainment. In the end, Mira Furlan makes clear, what really matters is that you feel loved and that you can share that love in a safe place where you also feel that you belong.
— Si Dunn