SOPHIA LOREN – A LIFE LIKE IN A MOVIE

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Behind her back, she has more than 100 brilliantly played roles and a career spanning across nearly six decades. She is a legend who has been recognised and the most beautiful Italian woman in the world of cinema and there is no role that she cannot play – from a poor girl to a crowned royalty and even a woman-vampire. Everything is in the realm of her powers and talent, because she is a hot alloy of artistic might, inimitable look and Italian temperament, all of them seemingly untouched by age. She is Sophia Loren! A woman that inspires awe and who has achieved everything one could possibly dream of, but she never calls her life a fairy tale. Today, we are presenting her in front of you for all that she is – bordering perfection!


 

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 The little Sophia in the big city

Even though Sophia Loren is an actress who has become the embodiment of the vivid Neapolitan woman, she was actually born in Rome. On the 20th of September 1934 in the Italian capital, a girl is born and her parents name her Sofia Villani Scicolone. Sophia’s father, however, Riccardo Scicolone, chooses her destiny even before she has taken her first breath by leaving her mother, Romilda Villani, during the pregnancy. Scicolone, eventually, recognises the newborn Sophia as his daughter, but refuses to marry her mother or take any responsibility whatsoever, which makes Romilda Villani go back to her parents in the fishing village of Pozzuoli, near Naples. Unfortunately, the conditions in the village are not particularly good and while living with her grandparents, the young Sophia is often starving, as a result of which she is rather thin and, as the locals call her, “unattractive”. A little after her 14th birthday, just like in a fairy tale and as if overnight, the fragile girl grows into a beautiful young lady with an imposing figure and perfect proportions. Her mother, seeing the beauty of her growing daughter, put her name forward for a beauty competition in Naples called The Queen of the Sea and Her 12 Princesses. The family, however, cannot afford a dress, which, according to the requirements of the competition, needs to be “long and magical”, so Sophia, just like a true Scarlett O’Hara, takes the curtains down from her grandmother’s house and… makes herself a dress. Her old black slippers are transformed into white shoes with the help of some white paint. With this outfit and mostly thanks to her beauty, the young Sophia becomes one of the 12 princesses, which gives her the opportunity to leave for Rome. The future lies ahead of Sophia, but it is in the big city and this is why her mother takes the hard decision to leave Pozzuoli and move to Rome, led by the idea that the young lady will become famous…


 

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The growing talent

Soon after their arrival in the Italian capital, 16-year-old Sophia attends another beauty contest, Miss Italia, where she becomes the second runner-up to the winner. It is precisely then that her beauty is noticed and she gets the chance to participate in advertising photoshoots as well as erotic films, which is far from the most attractive offer for a girl. The lack of money and the whole situation that the future actress is in force her to accept, but fate also turns out to be benevolent to her and she soon meets producer Carlo Ponti, who opens the doors of the world cinema for her. At the beginning, Sophia takes parts in low-budget comedies, where she appears with the pseudonym Sofia Lazzaro. As for Loren, she gets this family name in 1952 while shooting Woman of the Red Sea and the producer finds it that this family name sounds quite well in combination with her given name. Sophia Loren! The way we know her up to this very day.

Success after success

After her debut in the cinema, the leading role for the young actress is not late. Director Clemente Fracassi gives it to her in 1953 in his film based on Verdi’s theatre performance Aida. The production wins the praise of both film critics and the general public while Loren get offers for two more exciting roles in Two Nights with Cleopatra and Attila, starring Anthony Quinn. It is Attila that is Sophia Loren’s first film that becomes popular outside Italy. But her star in the cinema sky starts shining brightly after she takes part in the film of the great master Vittorio de Sica The Gold of Naples. And after this film, Loren starts getting invitations to huge film productions, starring popular actors such as Marcello Mastroianni, John Wayne, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, etc.

As her most sincere role, Loren herself points out the one in Two Women. There she needs to play a mother in the Second World War. Sofia doesn’t even do any type of research in order to play this role simply because she remembers quite vividly the bombings, the nights in the tunnels, the hunger, the difficulties and the fear. A lot, a lot of fear! In this film, Sofia Loren literally plays her own mother – a woman scared for her children, powerless to bear all the war’s terror. The world starts loving Loren namely for this role of hers. And for a good reason!

The awards for her talent are not late to arrive either. She receives the prize for best actress (in the film The Black Orchid) at the Venice Film Festival in 1958. She also becomes the first foreigner to win the Academy Honorary Award given to her by the American Film Academy, but she is not present at the ceremony as she doesn’t believe that she will be awarded. In 1994, on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood appears star N2000 bearing the name of Sophia Loren. Later that year the actress is awarded a Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival, and a year later, in 1995, she is given the honorary Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award. And so, with every year the invitations get more and more, the roles – bigger and bigger, the awards – more and more prestigious, and Sophia Loren’s talent – more and more unsurpassable.


 

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 Love like in a movie

Her participation in the beauty contest opens her way to the big screen but also introduces her to the love of her life. She is 15, he is 37. She is Sofia, and he – Carlo. Carlo Ponti, the well-known Italian cinema producer who has a wife and two children at the time. And then, with the first trembling of love, is when the numerous obstacles to their longed-for shared happiness start. The first and major problem is apparently the fact that Carlo already has a marriage and at the time one needs to ask the Vatican in order to get a permission for divorce. Of course, Ponti doesn’t get one, which makes him and the young Sophia leave for Mexico, trying to find a way to justify their love. In Mexico, Carlo Ponti divorces his current wife Giuliana and marries Loren. Or at least this is so until their return in Italy, where their marriage is not recognised as lawful. The two of them, however, continue to fight for their relationship and Ponti sends the young Loren in America while he is trying to find a way to legalise their love. And he finds it in France, where Carlo and Giuliana get French citizenship and finally manage to divorce. On the 9th of April 1966 Ponti and Loren are finally a family. In front of the world, because in front of themselves they have long been one!

From then on, they start living their fairy tale. Or almost a fairy tale, because the young wife’s desire to become a mother turns out not to be so easy to fulfil. After two spontaneous abortions and a series of examinations, it becomes clear that Sophia Loren has hormonal problems and she starts a long treatment. She manages to get pregnant at the age of 34 and so on the 29th of December 1968, in Geneva, she gives birth to her first son, Carlo Ponti Jr, and four years later, on the 6th of January 1973, to the second one, Edoardo Ponti.

All obstacles and problems, however, are worth it, because the love between Ponti and Loren is one of the longer, purest and most beautiful family stories known to the world of cinema. Throughout more than 50 years (until his death in 2007) he is not merely a husband, but a friend, a producer, a support and an inspiration. Carlo transforms Sophia into the woman whose image we know today. And Sophia… in his company she is dazzling just like any woman in love!


 

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The story continues to write itself…

After the death of her husband in 2007, we start seeing Sophia Loren less and less in front of the camera and she herself refuses not just one or two roles. Her last time to shoot is in a TV production called My House Is Full of Mirrors and, just like any of her fans would confirm, we are already missing her unmatched talent on the big screen. Luckily, at the beginning of this year we heard the news that Loren is about to star in a film by her son Edoardo Ponti. The legend’s role is that of a woman stuck to a wheelchair who takes care of the children of women with immoral occupations. The film is called Life before Us and we admit it – we can’t wait to see it on the big screen!


 

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It is not quite easy to define where exactly Sophia Loren’s charm lies. We might accept that at the beginning of her career this is certainly her beauty, but today, through time’s prism, we should also include her total dedication to the cinema, her love for her audiences, her love for art and her rigour in being an actress… Sophia Loren is probably the last true queen of the seventh art. And she is wearing her crown with dignity!



Text: Annie Georgieva

Photos: Instagram

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