Sophia Loren is one of the most beautiful actresses that’s ever graced the screen. The Italian beauty represents a different time in film history and although that period might have passed, she’s still going strong and even starred in a new movie in 2020 titled “The Life Ahead.” Now 87, Loren has proved that although “the body changes,” she’s still just as gorgeous as ever.
Born as Sofia Villani Scicolone on Sep. 20, 1934, in Clinica Regina Margherita, Rome, Italy, Loren’s father was a nobleman but refused to marry her mother, which left her and her sister to grow up poor. She said later that she only met with her father three times in her life — at the age of five, 17 and around the age of 32, while he was on his deathbed. While she forgave him for abandoning her mother, she stated that she never forgot about what happened.
Despite her glamorous adult life, Loren’s childhood was not easy. As a child, she lived through World War II and she even bears a scar from that time. A local harbor and munitions plant in her hometown was frequently attacked in raids by the Allied forces and during one attack, a 6-year-old Loren was hit in the chin by a piece of shrapnel, as she was running to shelter. But even as a child during the war, Loren had big dreams of glamour for her future ahead. In a 2020 interview with AARP, she said:
“When I was a child growing up during the war, my mind was always in the sky — I wanted to be an actress like Rita Hayworth! But I needed help.”
Sophia Loren (1955), (John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
The remainder of Loren’s childhood sadly did not change to a happy one. Loren’s mother had moved the family back to her hometown of Pozzuoli, near Naples, and they grew up living with many other relatives, according to Biography.com. She even shared a bedroom with eight people before the war ravaged her city and famine struck her region.
As a young girl, Loren had a sickly physique that made her classmates refer to her as “little stick,” which added to the struggles she had to endure. However, when she turned 14, she blossomed. She was no longer the frail child everyone at school talked about. She was beautiful, and she had started changing into the voluptuous woman that everyone would eventually admire.
“It became a pleasure just to stroll down the street,” Loren said of the time, according to Biography.com.
At the age of 15, further hints of Loren’s future bombshell status came to light. After she entered the 1950 Miss Italia beauty pageant, she was chosen as one of four to represent her state. Although she missed out on the grand Miss Italia title, she did receive the title of “Miss Elegance 1950.” Her future husband, Italian movie producer Carlo Ponti was one of the judges. Decades later she returned multiple times to judge the competition and crown the winner.
At that point, she still lived in Naples but soon after the Miss Italia pageant, Loren set off for Rome with her mother, with dreams of making it as an actress. In 1951, she landed her first role in the film “Quo Vadis.” It was a big deal to her although she was only an extra, and soon enough more roles came her way. During this time she also worked as a model for Italian publications.
Carlo Ponti, Sophia Loren (1958), (Keystone/Getty Images)
Her breakthrough came two years later when she appeared in 1953’s “Aida.” By the following year, she became a household name in Italy when she delivered an outstanding performance in “The Gold of Naples.” But her success wasn’t limited to her native Italy, and by the late ’50s, she’d become an international star thanks to a contract she made with Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures. During this period she starred opposite some of Hollywood’s most famous leading men including Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Anthony Perkins and more.
Loren was at the top of her career when in 1961 she even won the Academy Award for Best Actress for “Two Women,” a movie that mirrored her own childhood during WWII. In the film, Loren played a desperate mother who was trying to provide for her own daughter in a war-torn Rome. The film made Loren into an international celebrity and earned her the first of her two Academy Awards. She also became the first actress in history to win the award for a non-English-language film.
She continued to star in American, French and Italian films and established herself as one of the greatest international film stars of her generation. Other notable films that have contributed to her success are “Marriage Italian Style,” which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and “Countess from Hong Kong” in which she starred alongside Marlon Brando.
Years later Loren even made it to the American Film Institute’s list of the 50 greatest movie stars — she’s in 21st place, while Rita Hayworth is 19th. She felt validation for what she once only dreamed of, as she said:
“Now I am an actress, like Rita Hayworth, and it’s beautiful. It’s a dream.”
Sophia Loren (1965), (Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Loren went on to marry Carlo in 1966. Although she’d first met him in 1950 when he was 37 years old and she was just 16, they didn’t begin to date until years later. She remained married to him until he died on Jan. 10, 2007.
By the ’70s, Loren had returned to her native Italy and spent most of the decade appearing in acclaimed Italian movies. It was around this period that she and her husband had children — Carlo Ponti Jr. was born on Dec. 29, 1968, and Edoardo Ponti was born on Jan. 6, 1973. Although she worked in the film industry during this period, she chose to slow down her career and focus on raising her sons, however, she never stopped acting altogether.
Of course, the decision was quite difficult for Loren; however, she said that she has never regretted it. She also explained that people should learn to listen to their bodies at a certain point in life. She added that the moment she started having kids, she started encouraging herself through words to take care of them. She would say to herself:
“You have a family already, you have two children, you like to see them growing, you like to talk to them.”
Both Carlo Jr. and Edoardo followed their parents into the arts. While Carlo Jr. is an acclaimed orchestra conductor working in America, Edoardo became a writer and director. In fact, he was behind “The Life Ahead,” the movie Loren completed in 2020, which was their third project working together. During an interview with Hello! magazine, Loren spoke of how proud she is to be a mom. She told the publication:
“When I received prizes for what I have done in films it is nice. And when people congratulate me on my family, as they say, I have beautiful children. And like all mum’s I’m very proud.”
Carlo Ponti Jr., Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren, Carlo Ponti (1998), (Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
After Loren and Edoardo worked together on “The Life Ahead” in 2020, they spoke about the experience to various news outlets. In conversation with Deadline, Loren said: “I was always a big fan of the book by Romain Gary. When my son proposed the role to me, it was a dream come true. I jumped at the opportunity to make it.” In the film, she played the role of a foster parent and Holocaust survivor named Madame Rosa. She described the story as “rich” and added:
“… it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s poetic but it’s also a story that is very timely as it deals with the importance of being seen and heard. It is also such a moving story of friendship between two characters that on the surface everything separates: race, religion, culture and generation, and yet they are two sides of the same coin. I loved portraying Madame Rosa. She is tough, she is fragile, she is a survivor. In many ways she reminds me of my own mother.”
Meanwhile, Edoardo admitted that alongside her legendary acting talent, his mother also had to utilize undiscovered skills while filming, such as not blinking for a long time. He said in the same interview:
“I’m very, very proud of my mother because you know she’s a survivor. She’s a thoroughbred in the best sense of the word. She will never give up until she will get it right and she’ll reach that level of authenticity for the character … there’s a lot of the greatest hits of who she is in this movie.”
Carlo Ponti Jr., Sophia Loren, Edoardo Ponti (2011), (Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
Loren’s incredible life has been immortalized on screen in the films she’s made over the decades, but even as she nears 90, the actress still has a lot of life left in her. In 2020, she even shared her six life lessons in an interview with AARP. To begin with, she acts as her own cheerleader, boosting her own morale when she looks in the mirror. And it’s not about looks but rather what’s on the inside. She said:
“When I look in the mirror, I cheer for myself. I don’t ask, ‘Are you great?’ or ‘Are you beautiful?’ No! It’s how I feel inside, how secure I am, how happy I am. That’s what matters.”
Secondly, she makes sure she stays in touch with her family. Although she’s based in Geneva, Switzerland, Loren calls her two sons and speaks with them and her grandkids regularly. Thirdly, she savors the little things in life — including chocolate! Another important lesson is to refrain from thinking negative thoughts. She explained:
“If you are healthy and doing something you enjoy, then you cannot think, ‘God, tomorrow I’m going to die!’ No! You can do many wonderful things. I work, read, watch movies, go to church. And I breathe a lot.”
Another lesson is to let yourself age naturally. Loren said in the interview:
“Why change your body and be somebody else if you are happy inside? I never thought of that — never. I like what I have. I like me!”
Her last tip isn’t always the easiest but it is necessary — it’s to accept things that happen in life. She said:
“I was very sad when my husband died, because you can never get over this kind of feeling. Never. Each time you think about it, there’s a moment of the loneliness, which is very strong, but that’s life.”
Sophia Loren (2014), (Mike Marsland/WireImage)
In an interview with The Guardian in 2020, Loren spoke further about her incredible life. She said:
“Things don’t change too much … The body changes. The mind does not.”
Still just as beautiful as she was in her youth, the octogenarian even admitted to still sometimes having self-doubt, but she’s found a way to silence her inner critic. She explained:
“But then I say to myself: ‘Shut up. Be strong. Just keep going and try. Sometimes you make mistakes and sometimes you win.’ I made some mistakes … But still I won.”
“If life has taught me anything, it is to expect nothing and hope for everything. Expectations will always lead to disappointments. But to hope leads to expanding your dreams, and once you do that then everything is possible.”
The actress concluded her speech with another piece of advice for the film school’s student body:
“If I can help you in any way today, it is to trust that inner voice of yours even if at first you doubt it. Doubting doesn’t mean you are going in the wrong direction. Doubting sometimes means you are scared to go into a direction that might reflect the deepest sense of who you are.”
Loren has proven that she has the brains as well as the beauty, and even as she nears 90, neither of those attributes has changed.
Sophia Loren (2019), (Steve Granitz/WireImage)
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