Sofia Villani Scicolone, popularly known by her screen name Sophia Loren, is an Italian film star. Counted amongst the most beautiful and talented actresses to have ruled the world of cinema, Sophia hogged the limelight from the 1950s to the 1970s. Born to an unwed mother, she had a difficult childhood. Being an illegitimate child, she was subjected to extreme poverty for the first 15 years of her life. Aptly nicknamed 'little stick,' she was shy, ugly, and lean as a child. Little did she know that one day she would become a sex symbol in the US and Europe. Her fortune changed at the age of 15 when she was spotted by a producer, her future husband, in a beauty pageant. From there on, she went from being an unknown face to a Hollywood star. In no time, she garnered a huge fan following. Several prestigious awards are testimony to the fact that she was not just a pretty face but also a skilled actress. Unlike several of her contemporaries, whose personal lives were marred by controversies, Sophia Loren had a stable marriage with Carlo Ponti, a man 22 years her senior, and did not remarry after his death.
Childhood & Early Life
Sophia was born on September 20, 1934, in Rome, Kingdom of Italy. She was the first illegitimate child of Riccardo Scicolone and Romilda Villani, the second being her sister Maria.
Romilda was a struggling actress and received no support from Riccardo. Thus, the family lived in extreme poverty. They lived with her grandmother in Pozzuoli.
When Sophia was hit by shrapnel during ‘World War II,’ the family shifted to Naples, only to return after the war.
In order to pay their bills, they opened a pub where her mother would play the piano. Maria sang, while Sophia waited tables.
As a teenager, she entered the 1950 ‘Miss Italia’ beauty pageant and was one of the finalists. After this, she enrolled in acting classes and moved to Rome with her mother.
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Sophia's first role was in the film 'Quo Vadis' (1951) as an extra. After this, she started modeling for magazines and became known in Italy.
For her first starring role in 'Aida' (1953), she received critical acclaim. Her breakthrough movie was 'The Gold in Naples' (1954), directed by Vittorio De Sica.
From 1954 to 1957, she did many movies, including 'Too Bad She's Bad' (1954), 'Scandal in Sorrento' (1955), 'Lucky to Be a Woman' (1956), 'Boy on a Dolphin' (1957), 'Legend of the Lost' (1957), and 'The Pride and the Passion' (1957).
She became an international star when ‘Paramount Pictures’ signed a five-film deal with her in 1958. Some of the movies that were part of the deal were 'Desire Under the Elms' (1958), 'Houseboat' (1958), and 'Heller in Pink Tights' (1960).
She acted in Vittorio De Sica's movie 'Two Women' which released in 1961. The story was about a mother who tries to protect her daughter in war-ravaged Italy. She was to be cast for the role of the daughter, but instead chose the role of the mother. She received a lot of awards for her performance.
She appeared alongside several prominent actors in many movies in the US and Europe in the 1960s. She was at the peak of her career when she received a million dollars for the 1964 movie 'The Fall of the Roman Empire.'
Some movies that she did during the second half of the 1960s are 'Lady L' (1965) with Paul Newman, 'Arabesque' (1966) with Gregory Peck, and 'A Countess from Hong Kong' (1967) with Marlon Brando.
She focused on her family during the 1970s. After becoming a mother, she acted in fewer movies, mostly Italian films. In the year 1974, she acted in 'The Voyage' and 'Brief Encounter.'
'The Cassandra Crossing' released in 1976, starring her alongside Richard Harris and Martin Sheen. It became an international hit.
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The movie 'A Special Day' released in 1977. It was directed by Ettore Scola and starred Marcello Mastroianni alongside Sophia. The movie was a box-office hit and was nominated for 11 international awards.
In 1980, A. E. Hotchner wrote an internationally acclaimed biography titled 'Sophia Loren: Her Own Story.' Soon, the book's made-for-TV biopic released, where Sophia portrayed herself and her mother.
In 1981, she launched her own perfume and became the first celebrity to do so. Soon, a brand of eyewear followed.
She starred in Howard Deutch's 'Grumpier Old Men' which released in 1995 and co-starred Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, and Ann-Margret. It was a box-office success and one of her biggest hits in many years.
In 2009, Rob Marshall directed the film version of the Broadway musical 'Nine.' The film had Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, and Nicole Kidman in important roles. The cast was nominated for a ‘Screen Actors Guild Award.’
In 2013, she was seen in a short film titled ‘La Voce Umana.’
She appeared as herself in a television documentary series titled ‘Sophia Loren: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival’ in 2016.
She gave her finest performance in the film 'Two Women' which narrates the story of a mother trying her best to protect her daughter in war-torn Italy. The film had a lot of similarities with her personal life. Her portrayal of a helpless mother earned her critical acclaim and respect in the film fraternity.
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Awards & Achievements
For the movie 'Two Women,' Sophia Loren won a total of 22 international awards, including ‘Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award’ and ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Actress.’
In 1991, she received the ‘Academy Honorary Award’ for her contribution to world cinema.
In 1995, she was honored with the ‘Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award.’
For her contribution to cinema, she was awarded an ‘Honorable Prize’ at the 20th ‘Moscow International Film Festival’ in 1997. In 2001, she was honored with a ‘Special Grand Prix of the Americas Award’ at the ‘Montreal World Film Festival.’
Personal Life & Legacy
Sophia met Carlo Ponti, Sr. when she was 15 years old; Carlo was 37 years old at the time. They married on April 9, 1966, and had two sons, Carlo Jr. and Edoardo.
In 1999, she filed lawsuits against 76 adult websites for uploading altered nude photos of her.
Along with Penelope Cruz and Hillary Swank, Sophia posed for the 2007 ‘Pirelli Calendar.’
Sophia Loren's estimated net worth is $75 million.
According to this beautiful actress, “Sex-appeal is 50 percent what you've got and 50 percent what people think you've got."