At her birth, her father Riccardo Scicolone was married to another woman and refused to marry her mother Romilda, despite the fact that she was the mother of his two children (Sophia and her younger sister Maria Scicolone). She grew up in the slums of Pozzuoli during the second World War without any support from her father. When she was 14 she entered into a beauty contest where she placed as one of the finalists. It was there that Sophia caught the attention of film producer Carlo Ponti, some 22 years her senior, whom she eventually married.Miss Italia contest (under the name of Sofia Scicolone) where she was deemed "too provocative" to win. Instead she came away with the title of Miss Elegance.
Under the guidance of Ponti, Loren enrolled in acting classes and was soon playing bit parts in several films. At the time she was credited as "Sofia Lazzaro" because people joked her beauty could raise Lazzarus from the dead.
After starring in many Italian movies such as La favorita (The Favourite 1952) and Aida (1953), she embarked on a successful acting career in the United States, starting with her debut in The Pride and the Passion (1957) with Cary Grant. They were paired together a second time in the family-friendly romantic comedy Houseboat (1958), before Loren returned to Europe to star in La ciociara (Two Women 1960). The film was a period piece about a woman living in war-torn Italy who is raped while trying to protect her young daughter. Originally cast as the daughter, Sophia fought against type and was re-cast as the mother, proving herself as a genuine actress and displaying a lack of vanity. This performance received international acclaim and was honored with an Academy Award for Best Actress.
In the sixties and seventies, Loren continued to make films in both the US and Europe, starring opposite leading men such as Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, and Charlton Heston. Her notable American films included the classic epics El Cid (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), the spy adventure Arabesque (1966), the musical Man of La Mancha (1972), and the disaster film The Cassandra Crossing (1976). She gained a wider respect with her Italian movies like Matrimonio all'italiana (Marriage, Italian Style 1964)) and Una giornata particolare (A Special Day 1977). During these years she received a second Oscar nomination and won five Golden Globe Awards.
From the eighties onward, Loren's appearances on the big screen lessened as she spent more time with her husband and sons Carlo Ponti Jr. and Edoardo Ponti. After starring in a biopic based off her autobiography titled Sophia Loren: Her Own Story (1980) (TV), she ventured into other areas of business and became the first actress to launch her own fragrance and design of eye wear. In 1982 she voluntarily spent nineteen days in jail for tax evasion.
In 1991 Loren received an Honorary Academy Award for her contributions to world cinema, and was declared "one of the world's greatest treasures." Her return to the screen in Prêt-à-Porter (1994) was well-received, although the film as a whole was not. She followed this up with her biggest US box-office hit in decades, the comedy Grumpier Old Men (1995) in which she played a sexy divorcée who seduces Walter Matthau. After this she took another break from acting, occasionally appearing in small productions abroad such as Between Strangers (2002) and Lives of the Saints (2004) (TV). Still beautiful at 72, she posed scantily-clad for the 2007 Pirelli Calendar. That same year she lost her husband of 50 years, Carlo Ponti.
In this clip from the musical, Man of La Mancha, Loren argues with Peter O'Toole.
Awards & Nominations
- 1998 - honorary Golden Lion
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