For someone whose name has been synonymous with “glamour” for more than half a century, Italian actress Sophia Loren doesn’t remember herself as beautiful as a young girl growing up in Pozzuoli, a suburb of Naples. Her mother, however, was apparently drop-dead gorgeous.
“My mother was so beautiful, she looked so much like Greta Garbo, people would stop her in the street. It was incredible,” Loren said in a phone interview from her home in Geneva, Switzerland, promoting her appearance on Sunday at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas. “She was in a contest for a Greta Garbo lookalike, and she won.”
With her mother as inspiration, Loren — born Sofia Villani Scicolone — knew what she wanted to be when she grew up, something that was affirmed later in life after she had achieved fame and found an old book that she had used in grammar school, which her mother kept.
“On the first page I wrote ‘Sofia Scicolone is going to be an actress,’” she says. “Since I was a little girl I liked singing, I liked music, I liked going to the show. Every child does this, but for me it became something I really wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to start.”
Keep in mind that this ambition came during World War II. Pozzuoli was bombed by the Allies, and for a while her family lived in a shelter. But that didn’t stop her from following her dreams.
If you have a good soul, it will help you overcome all the bad things that happen in life.
“If you live in a little town like Pozzuoli, we go through bad things like war, but if you have a good soul it will help you overcome all the bad things that happen in life,” she says.
As she blossomed into her now legendary looks, she entered beauty pageants and took acting classes, and was eventually cast as an extra in the 1951 film Quo Vadis, which starred Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr and Peter Ustinov. Soon she caught the eye of casting directors and a legendary career was born.
Her accomplishments are many. Her shelves are filled with international film awards, including a Best Actress Oscar for Two Women (1960), one of many films she did with her longtime collaborator, director Vittorio De Sica. She also received an Oscar nomination for Marriage Italian Style (1964) and in 1991 received an honorary Academy Award as a treasure of world cinema.
In her career, she has performed with such leading men as Marcello Mastroianni, Charlton Heston, Peter Sellers, Clark Gable, Paul Newman and Gregory Peck. Her renowned beauty landed her the role of spokeswoman for numerous beauty products and fashion labels, most recently starring in a Dolce&Gabbana commercial the design house called a “beauty film” — at age 81.
But until now, Loren hasn’t done a tour in which she talks about her life and career. This question-and-answer tour is one of 12 stops in the United States, following the 2014 publication of her first memoir, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life (Atria, $28). The Dallas program will be moderated by Bill Harris of Entertainment Tonight.
This is something that was suggested years ago by her longtime husband, film producer Carlo Ponti Sr. (who died in 2007), whose advice she always respected.
“We worked together and we liked each other and respected each other,” Loren said about the secret to being married to someone in the same industry for so long. “We loved every moment of it.”
Of course, loving what you do is only one part of the secret to success. Talent and beauty are important, but it’s also about constantly learning about your craft and the willingness to sweat.
“If you love something, you want to stay with it, you have to be true to form and go on, but you have to work hard,” she said before ending the conversation with three “Ciaos.”
An Evening with Sophia Loren
- 7:30 p.m. Sunday
- Winspear Opera House
- 2403 Flora St., Dallas
- 214-880-0202; www.attpac.org